What sentence can a drug driver expect?

Firstly, there are two drug driving offences:

Section 4 Road Traffic Act 1998  Driving whilst under the influence of drugs.

Section 5a Road Traffic Act 1988 – Driving with a proportion of a controlled drug over the specified limit.

Sentence for people who are found guilty of driving whilst under the influence of drugs:

Someone who is found guilty of driving whilst under the influence of drugs would be sentenced with reference to the level of impairment found in the driver.

Minimum sentence for driving whilst unfit through drugs:

At the lowest end of the spectrum, a person with a moderate level of impairment where their offence contains no aggravating features can expect to receive the following sentence (as a starting point):

  • A 12 – 16-month period of disqualification
  • A band C fine (between 125 -175% of the person’s relevant weekly income)

Maximum sentence for driving whilst unfit through drugs:

At the highest end of the spectrum, a person with a high level of impairment where their offence contains one or more aggravating features can expect to receive the following sentence (as a starting point):

  • A 29 – 36-month period of disqualification
  • 12 weeks in prison and/or a fine of up to £5000

(The maximum sentence for a person who is convicted of an offence in the Magistrates’ Court is 6 months)

The following is a non-exhaustive list of the potential aggravating features relating to this offence:

  • Driving a LGV, HGV, PSV at the time when the offence was committed
  • Poor road or weather conditions
  • Carrying passengers
  • Driving for hire or reward
  • Evidence of unacceptable standard of driving
  • Involved in accident
  • Location e.g. near school
  • High level of traffic or pedestrians in the vicinity

For those who have committed either one of the following offences within the last ten years, the starting point for the disqualification, regardless of the level of impairment increases to 36 months:

  • Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs),]
  • Driving or attempting to drive while unfit through drink or drugs
  • Driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol
  • Failing to provide a specimen
  • Failing to allow a specimen to be subjected to laboratory test

The full sentencing guidelines for driving whilst under the influence of drugs can be found here:

Sentence for people who are found guilty of driving with a proportion of a controlled drug above the specified limit:

Whilst a great deal is known about the expected sentence for driving whilst under the influence of drugs, precious little is known about the expected sentence for driving with a proportion of a controlled drug over the specified limit. The reason for this is that sentencing guidelines have not yet been produced for this offence.

This places us lawyers in a difficult position when it comes to advising our clients about what sentence they can expect to receive in the event of a conviction.

All that is currently known is the minimum and maximum sentences:

Minimum sentence for driving with excess drugs:

  • A 12-month period of disqualification
  • An unlimited level fine

Maximum sentence for driving with excess drugs:

  • A period of disqualification which is currently uncapped
  • A prison sentence and/or an unlimited level fine

(The maximum sentence for a person who is convicted of an offence in the Magistrates’ Court is 6 months)

The trouble with knowing how to sentence someone for the new offence is that guilt for the offence is not determined by reference to any level of impairment as with the old Section 4 Road Traffic Act 1988 Offence. The government’s own experts who provided guidance regarding the proposed limits of the offence even suggested limits which were significantly higher than the very low specified limits which were set. With this in mind, its likely that a person who provided a specimen which is just under the limit  would experience no impairment whatsoever.

It could be tempting for Judges and Magistrates to sentence offenders in a similar fashion to those who commit a drink driving offence, which is an offence which also does not require any level of impairment to prove guilt for the offence. With reference to the sentencing guidelines for drink driving, we can see that the sentence for a drink driver would increase with reference to the amount of alcohol in their system.

  • A first time offender who is just over the legal limit would face a 12 – 16 month ban.
  • A first time offender who is twice the legal limit would face a 17 – 22 month ban
  • A first time offender who is three times the legal limit would face a 23 – 28 month ban and community service
  • A first time offender who is four times the legal limit would face a 29 – 36 month ban and prison sentence.

However the problem with this approach is that the same logic that applies to the drink driving sentences does not apply to drug driving under the specified limit offence:

Someone who is twice the drink driving limit is likely to be showing some signs of intoxication and would be a danger to other road users. Someone who is four times the drink drive limit would almost certainly display serious signs of intoxication and would clearly put other road users at risk by being on the road.

On the other hand, someone who is twice or even four times the drug driving limit might not display or experience any signs of impairment whatsoever.  Sentencing by reference to the existing guidelines for drink driving is therefore manifestly unfair.

Undoubtedly, the task of setting sentencing guidelines for the section 5a drug driving offence is a daunting one. However, until those guidelines are produced, lawyers and their clients will remain uncertain about the potential sentence that could be imposed for an offence which the driver probably didn’t even realise they were committing in the first place.

Article written by Managing Director and Expert Motoring Lawyer, Alison Ashworth.

Alison Ashworth; Expert motoring lawyer and Director of www.ashworthmotoringlaw.co.uk

FOUND THIS INFORMATION USEFUL? SHARE IT WITH A FRIEND

Why we do what we do:

At Ashworth motoring law we are dedicated to keeping drivers on the road. We believe that no driver’s licence should be placed in jeopardy due to a lack of legal or technical knowledge. That’s why we’re always striving to deliver relevant, current content to keep you up to date with issues that could affect your freedom to drive.

We know the devastating impact that a disqualification from driving could have on a person’s life, career and family. It’s from that understanding that we fight to save the driving licences of motorists throughout the Country, to ensure that no person is disqualified where a valid defence or judicial discretion is available.

If you’ve been unlucky enough to be accused of drug driving or any other motoring offence and need to keep your driving licence, you can call one of our team of Expert Motoring Lawyers at any time on 0330 33 22 770 or email enquiries@ashworthmotoringlaw.co.uk. Our specialist driving offence solicitors will listen to the details of your case and let you know instantly if your licence could be saved.

Sentence for drug driving

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s