In line with the introduction of new drug driving laws on 2nd March 2015, police can now carry out roadside drug testing for the presence of cocaine and cannabis. The new “drugalyser” can test a sample of saliva and takes around eight minutes for a test to be completed. Police will also be able to test for other drugs including prescription drugs back at the police station. Improved roadside drug testing kits will be developed in the future, and these will enable the police to test for a greater range of substances.
What is the law?
Laws already existed in the UK, which made it an offence to drive while a person’s driving standards were impaired by the taking of certain drugs. However, the new laws mean that there is no longer any onus to prove impairment; police only need to show that drugs were present in a person’s system, and that the level of drugs was such that it was above the legal limit. Penalties include a fine, a potential prison sentence and a minimum 12 months’ disqualification from driving.
Erratic driving, causing an accident, or a smell of cannabis coming from an individual are some examples which might lead to the use of the roadside testing kit by the police.
How does it work?
If the sample of saliva indicates a positive reading, then the driver will usually be arrested and taken to the station for an evidential test. At the moment, the initial roadside test itself is not enough to successfully achieve a conviction; hence the need for a more accurate, evidential test.
Evidential tests require the taking of blood. A sample in excess of the prescribed limit will usually result in the individual being charged to appear in court. It is worth noting that tests carried out at the station will test for 17 different drugs, and not only illegal drugs like cannabis and cocaine. Some prescription drugs are also covered by these tests, and while the limits are set subjectively higher than with illegal drugs, if you test positive, and are not able to argue a medical defence in court, then you face the same penalties as you would for driving while under the influence of cannabis.
What happens if you are found guilty?
Drug driving is treated as a serious offence, and it carries similarly serious penalties. A guilty verdict means that you will be disqualified from driving, and you are likely to face considerable fines, as well as the possibility of a prison sentence. An experienced drug driving lawyer may be able to help fight your case, put forward a medical defence for certain types of drugs, or show that the tests were not carried out properly. This could help you avoid a possible penalty and ensure that you keep your licence. Experienced Forster Dean motoring solicitors can examine your case and help build a defence or ensure that you have effective legal representation for your hearing.