The offence of drug driving is outlined under Section 5A of The Road Traffic Act 1988, this section of legislation makes it a criminal offence to drive when the proportion of illegal and some prescription drugs in a person’s blood is over a specified limit. The offence was first introduced in 2015, prior to this there was only the offence of being unfit to drive through drugs which needed an element of impairment to be present, in order for a person to be successfully prosecuted. The change in the law however meant that no evidence of impairment is required for a conviction, thereby bringing the offence of drug driving in line with that of drink driving, which is governed by Section 5 of The Road Traffic Act 1988.
For the police to prosecute a person they must follow a strict set of guidelines, beginning with the stopping of a person whom they have reasonable suspicion to believe is driving whilst over the limit of a drug governed by the legislation. Upon stopping said person the police must then carry out a roadside swab test which involves the taking of a specimen of saliva. This is then used to indicate the presence of drugs within a person’s system. The police must take a suspected drug driver to the police station for a specimen of blood to be obtained, this forms the evidential procedure in drug driving matters. A specimen of blood can only be taken by a nurse or registered health care professional, an individual must also consent to providing such a specimen and the police must complete the MGDDB procedure. This stipulates that the specimen must be shaken once taken and a suspect offered their own sample of blood to have tested. Should this procedure not be followed correctly then it can lead to acquittals at trial in the Magistrates’ Court.
Upon a specimen of blood being taken it must be stored in a refrigerator at the police station before being transported to a laboratory for testing. It often takes many weeks if not months for the police to obtain a result regarding a specimen of blood. Due to drug driving being a summary offence meaning it is only triable in the Magistrates’ Court the police have six months to lay a charge.
Should a person be charged and subsequently appear before the Magistrates’ Court and be convicted, then they would receive a minimum driving disqualification of 12 months, a fine and Court costs. Obviously, this is dependent on the level of drugs found in a persons system, the more drugs the more severe a sentence that the Court will give. It is also worth noting that for any individual who has a related conviction within the last ten years then a minimum driving disqualification of 36 months will be imposed. Related offences are previous drug or drink driving convictions and failing to provide a specimen for analysis.