Not Guilty! Another driver acquitted of drug driving!

We are thrilled to release our latest client testimonial from a driver who was acquitted of drug driving earlier this month.

Drug Driving – Not Guilty/Acquitted

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“Back in May 2015 I was arrested for supposedly drug driving. I knew straight away that this needed defending and a search for solicitors began. I came across Alison and her success rate was second to none, it would have been stupid not to instruct her as my solicitor. That first phone call was so daunting but straight away she put me at ease and when I told her the circumstances around my arrest, she was 100% in my corner and suggested that a number of errors and mistakes would have been made to do with my arrest alone. Moving on a few months and a couple of court dates (unfortunately the incompetence of the CPS meant that the courts honoured a couple of adjournments) we finally got the result that we were waiting for. The representation that Alison provides in court is only the best. From the barrister to the support from AML employees, you really do feel looked after. It’s that personable touch that got me through this ordeal, knowing that you were believed in right the way through when at times it felt like it would be easier throwing the towel in. Alison and her team were always confident that the case was a strong one, even when I began doubting it myself. They really do lift you up and take you through the process side by side. I was acquitted of all charges and found not guilty and it’s all because Alison is such a great solicitor. Her knowledge in this field really is second to none, I would have no issues in recommending Alison to anyone who may need her help. Straight away you will feel like a weight has been lifted. That’s what she did for me, took that burden off me and told me it’ll be alright. And it is… I will forever be thankful to Alison and her team, they have no idea”

When asked what they liked most about our services, our client wrote:

“Both Alison & Colette are so personable, friendly and approachable it’s hard not to completely trust them. They work so hard and are so knowledgeable in their field, you really do get the great result that you hope for. No question is a silly one and no panicked email or phone call is an inconvenience. There is no judgement and you instantly feel reassured.”

Anonymous motorist who was acquitted of drug driving from Chester

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If you have been accused of committing a motoring offence such as drug driving and would like to discuss your case in confidence with a specialist motoring law solicitor call 0330 33 22 770 or email admin@ashworthmotoringlaw.co.uk. Our expert solicitors will listen to the details of your case and let you know instantly if your licence could be saved.

Watch Ashworth Motoring Law’s Alison Ashworth on BBC Inside Out

Our Managing Director and Expert Drug Driving Lawyer, Alison Ashworth featured on last night’s Inside Out Programme discussing the very low limits that were set by the 2015 Drug Driving (Specified Limit) Offence.

Click the following link to view the programme

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07xrwlb/inside-out-south-east-03102016

Alison is featured in a number of clips from 22.40 onwards and stresses the small amounts of drugs in a person’s system that can be used to charge a driver with an offence. She also highlights a fundamental flaw in the legislation; namely the Prosecution’s inability to rely on a urine sample to secure a conviction.

alison-ashworth-bbc-inside-out-interview-on-drug-driving-defences

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 have been accused of committing a drug driving offence and would like to discuss your case in confidence with a specialist drug driving solicitor call 0330 33 22 770 or email enquiries@ashworthmotoringlaw.co.uk. Our expert solicitors will listen to the details of your case and let you know instantly if your licence could be saved.

 

Managing Director Alison Ashworth to appear on BBC’s Inside Out programme

Drug Driving Expert and Managing Director of Ashworth Motoring Law, Alison Ashworth is to be filmed for BBC’s Inside Out Programme tomorrow, 01 September 2016.

Alison Ashworth has spoken out many times in the media to discuss the ‘new’ drug driving offence, appearing on ITV News, BBC 5 Live and in the Guardian and is keen to stress the very low limits which have been set by the controversial law.

The programme is scheduled to be aired in Autumn.

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

 

If you have been accused of a drug driving offence and would like to discuss your case in confidence with Alison Ashworth, please send an email with your contact details to enquiries@ashworthmotoringlaw.co.uk.

 

 

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

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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

 

What is the cocaine drug driving limit?

It is an offence to drive with cocaine or its metabolite; benzoylecgoninein your system at a level which is above the specified limit, regardless of whether your manner of driving is effected.

How Cocaine affects driving:

Taking cocaine can make a person feel more alert, and produce an increase in focus and attention. You’d be forgiven for thinking that using cocaine might actually improve driving ability. However studies have shown that cocaine use increases the likelihood of having a road traffic accident. It’s not difficult to understand why when you consider the additional risk taking and impulsive behaviours that the drug provokes.

Furthermore, once the euphoric “high” of the drug has worn off and the drug metabolises into benzoylecgonine, users can typically encounter a definitive ‘comedown’ lasting around 24 hours in which they can experience exhaustion, depression and anxiety. All of which can affect driving ability.

What is the cocaine drug driving limit?

cocaine drug driving defences

 

 

 

 

The current limit for cocaine in a ‘drug driving’ context has been set at 10 migrogrammes per litre of blood.

The current limit for the cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine, has been set at 50 microgrammes per litre of blood.

What does this mean in practice? How much cocaine would it take to reach the drug driving limit?

A typical ‘line’ contains between 35 mg to 100 mg of cocaine. However this depends on a variety of factors including what the drug has been adulterated (cut) with. For example, some quantities of cocaine have been found to contain a level of purity of less than 5% whilst the ‘street’ average is usually around 50% pure cocaine. For this reason, it is difficult to say how much a person would need to take before they reach the limit; however common sense would say that the answer is “not very much at all”. The limits  have been set in such a way as to allow only for “accidental” exposure. Also, you would need to take into consideration individual characteristics such as the body’s metabolic rate (the rate at which a person’s body breaks down the substance), height and gender etc. The answer of how much cocaine would it take to reach the drug driving limit would therefore differ from person to person.

Is the cocaine drug driving limit unfair?

When the government was considering setting the cocaine drug driving limit, it enlisted a panel of advisers ranging from specialists in pharmacokinetics (the science of what the body does to a drug), pharmacology and psychopharmacology, forensic toxicology, misuse of drugs, clinical practice, mental health, addiction science and transport safety. After considering all of the options, and the evidence relating to the point at which a user would become at risk of a road traffic accident or impaired driving, the recommended cocaine limit for driving that they came to was 80 micrograms of cocaine per litre of blood and 500 micrograms of benzoylecgonine per litre of blood; much higher than the limits that are in place today. The actual limits are set at only 10mg for cocaine and 50mg for the metabolite.

With particular reference to the fact that the panel of experts recommended a limit of 500mg for benzoylecgonine, the metabolite so as to exclude prosecution for cocaine consumption that occurred several days ago, it will be left in the mind of the reader to determine whether the drug driving limits are unfair. It is also with noting that this trend continues throughout all of the illicit substances listed under the new offence.

What is the sentence for driving whilst over the cocaine drug driving limit?

Pleading guilty to a charge of driving with a proportion of cocaine in the body above the specified limit will result in a mandatory disqualification for at least 12 months. An unlimited level fine. A possible prison sentence of up to six months. A criminal record. The offence would also appear on the person’s driving licence for 11 years.

Are there any defences to driving whilst over the cocaine drug driving limit?

Sadly, despite a driver’s licence, career and whole life being on the line following a conviction for this offence, we know that the police, prosecution and forensic laboratories often make mistakes during the investigation and prosecution process for this offence. For that reason there are in fact many potential defences for a charge of drug driving. So much so that our managing director and high court advocate Alison Ashworth has never lost a case that she has taken on. We would therefore encourage any driver who has been accused of this offence to contact our confidential advice line on 0330 33 22 770 for free initial advice on whether their particular case can be defended.

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.

What is the cannabis drug driving limit?

Since the new “specified limit” drug driving offence came into force in March 2015, we’ve received a significant number of calls from worried motorists who are unsure of how much cannabis they are allowed to smoke, or how long they need to wait before getting behind the wheel of a car.

The drug driving limit for Cannabis:

The drug drive limit for THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) has been set at 2ng.

There is no current limit set for carboxy- THC (the cannabis metabolite).

How much weed can I smoke before reaching the cannabis drug driving limit?

cannabis drug driving limit, how much can you smoke

The UK drug driving limits have been set extremely low, at an almost zero tolerance level. The limits are so low that experts have suggested that one single puff on a joint would be enough to put you over the limit.

When the Government  considered setting the limit, it invited the views of a panel of experts to consult on what the limit should be. The experts suggested that the limit should by 5ng; over twice the limit that was eventually set.

With the extremely low limit in mind, we would recommend avoiding smoking cannabis if you know that you are going to be driving. There is no ‘safe’ limit; it would be impossible to try and set one. Even if the drug driving limit were higher, it would be impossible to say how much weed could be smoked before getting behind the wheel of a car: There are too many external differentials such as:

  • The strength and type of cannabis
  • The time taken to smoke the joint
  • Your height and weight
  • The rate at which your own body breaks down substances (your metabolic rate)
  • Whether you have any underlying medical conditions.

The list could go on and on.

How long do I need to wait after smoking a joint before driving?

There’s been much debate over how long you should wait after smoking cannabis before driving.

A great deal depends on how much you’ve smoked, how strong the cannabis is and how frequently you tend to smoke it. THC can be stored in fat cells; therefore it can typically take longer to leave the body than many other drugs.

Some sources suggest that the active THC is clear of the system in significant amounts within as little as two and a half hours, and other sources such as the NHS suggest that it can take up to two months for a heavy user of cannabis to display results that are free of THC. The question is whether the THC displayed in the results would be over the prescribed low limit of 2ng?

Under the older “Section 4 Road Traffic Act 1988 Driving whilst impaired through drugs” offence, cannabis users were able to rely on their own judgement to determine whether they were fit to drive. They could only be prosecuted if their manner of driving was impaired and the impairment was linked to evidence of a drug in their system.

Under the newest “Section 5A Road Traffic Act 1988 Specified limit drug driving offence” it’s a complete guessing game. The police can now charge you with drug driving even if you drove perfectly normally and showed no signs of drug use. All that they need to Prosecute is a positive specimen of blood which is over the specified limit.

Since the police no longer need to prove any impairment to charge you with a drug driving offence, it is absolutely vital that you leave as long as you can before driving if you have smoked cannabis.

We’ve represented many drivers who had only smoked a very small amount of cannabis the night before and were pulled over by the police for something very minor and later charged for drug driving.  Therefore we can add from the benefit of our experience that it really does not take a large quantity of cannabis to reach the low limits which are currently in place, and people are still showing signs of the drug in their system over the specified limit long after the effects have worn off.

Frustratingly, this leaves cannabis users in a situation where you might get behind the wheel of a car completely oblivious to whether you are committing a criminal offence or not. It seems the only way to be 100% sure that you avoid prosecution is to either never smoke cannabis or never drive a car. This vague non-solution seems to highlight the real purpose of the drug driving law – to clamp down on those who take drugs, not necessarily to tackle the effects of drug driving, since the law is not concerned whether your driving caused even the remotest danger to the public or to yourself.

What happens if I plead guilty to Drug Driving?

A conviction for drug driving could ruin your whole life. It’s a minimum 12 month disqualification from driving, a fine of up to £5000 and for the worst offenders, up to 6 months in prison. In the absence of formal sentencing guidelines to assist the Court in sentencing those who plead guilty or are found guilty, the Courts have already shown a willingness to send people to prison for committing this offence.

The offence would go down on your record as a criminal conviction and would appear on your driving licence as a drug driving offence for eleven years.

A drug driving conviction can cause problems travelling to countries such as America, and would need to be declared to certain future employers, particularly in professions such as medicine and the law.

A conviction for drug driving would also lead to significant future insurance premiums once you eventually got back on the road

Can a drug driving offence be defended?

At Ashworth Motoring law we are specialists in defending drug driving allegations, so much so that we have a 100% record in securing acquittals. Defences tend to centre on issues concerning the reliability of the Prosecution evidence (we are finding that there are serious issues concerning the way that many samples have been analysed) and concerning the procedure. For practical reasons we cannot list all potential defences in this article but would urge anyone who is considering defending a drug driving allegation to contact our helpline on 0330 33 22 770 for free initial advice from one of our expert drug driving solicitors.

 

STILL no Sentencing Guidelines for Drug Driving!

Expert opinion by Specialist Drug Driving Lawyer, Alison Ashworth – Managing Director of Ashworth Motoring Law.

Over one year since the new “specified limit” drug driving law was introduced and there are STILL no sentencing guidelines in place to regulate the way that offenders are punished.

Sentencing guidelines (such as the attached with reference to drink driving) are used by Judges and Magistrates to help them decide what sentence to impose when a person either pleads guilty or is found guilty of an offence.

Prior to the introduction of the new offence, I contacted the sentencing council to ask when the guidelines for the new drug driving offence would be put in place. I was told to expect them in at least 2016.

Having seen reports of significantly different sentencing approaches between different Courts as I predicted in this BBC radio interview that I gave on the day that the new law came into force, I recently contacted the sentencing council again to find out how soon the guidelines were likely to be released.  I was told that their two year plan does not include work on this guideline but that it is anticipated that it will be added to the work plan in the future. The sentencing council added that as with any relatively new piece of legislation there is the need to allow a certain period of time to pass before producing guidelines as the production of a guideline relies on research and evidence.

The concern that I have is that Judges and Magistrates are, in the meantime tempted to sentence offenders in a similar manner to guidelines which are available. Take the drink drive limit for example. Our drink driving limits are amongst the highest in Europe. A person who is three times over the limit is likely to be showing some pretty significant signs of intoxication, and their manner of driving along with the level of risk that they pose to themselves and to the public is likely to be significantly effected.

Now let’s look at the drug driving limits. The drug driving limits have been set so low that even one puff on a joint could be enough to put someone over the limit, despite them feeling no effects from the drug, and their manner of driving being perfectly normal. In fact the Governments own panel of experts suggested that a person would be technically fit to drive with twice the current level of THC (cannabis) in their system, although the Government chose to disregard the expert panel’s advice and pursue the current, almost zero tolerance limits for every single illicit drug listed under the legislation.

There have in fact been reports of individuals who have been caught 25 and 50 times over the drug driving limit yet showing no obvious signs of having taken a drug with perfectly normal standards of driving.  If the same level of consumption was extended to alcohol, the person would most likely be either in hospital or dead. If they somehow managed to survive, then they would be facing the most serious sentencing category of the guidelines and would be facing a prison sentence because the level of impairment is so intrinsically linked to the amount of alcohol consumed .

There is a significant risk that motorists are being unduly punished with tangibly greater severity than is warranted, indeed the Courts have displayed a willingness to send drivers to prison for committing the new specified limit drug driving offence.

Whilst I do not condone drug driving, or drug taking, I do, as a defence lawyer have a passion for fighting against injustice and ensuring that my clients are treated fairly by the Courts. Although the overwhelming majority of my clients choose to plead not guilty to this offence after an initial investigation into the merits of their defence, I do have a duty to advise those who wish to plead guilty on the likely sentence that they could face. In the absence of the guidelines, and with the differing approaches which are being taken by the Courts, this continues to be a difficult task.

Is it fair to sentence a young cannabis user who was twice the legal limit for THC (cannabis) and who was not even remotely effected by the small amount that he took in the same way as a drink driver who was twice the limit and barely able to stand up? I certainly don’t think so.

When the guidelines are eventually produced, I would like to see a strong link between the expected level of impairment and the amount of substance in a person’s system, although by then it might be too late for the many who are left unrepresented in Court facing the lucky dip that appears to be the current sentencing approach in the meantime.

Article written by Expert Motoring Lawyer, Alison Ashworth; Managing Director of Ashworth Motoring Law Ltd.

Ashworth Motoring Law are experts in defending drug driving offences. If you have been charged with drug driving and would like to speak to a specialist drug driving solicitor about your case, call 0330 33 22 770 for free initial advice.  

Free legal advice for drug driving offences from the specialist drug driving solicitors at Ashworth Motoring Law

Ashworth Motoring Law on the Radio

Expert Drug Driving Solicitor, Alison Ashworth of Ashworth Motoring Law will be going live on Chorley FM today at 12:00pm to discuss the Drug Driving Law, and considering why there has been such an increase in the number of arrests for this controversial offence.

If you are still unclear about the Drug Driving Offence which was brought into force one year ago this month and would like to know more, then tune in to Chorley FM  this afternoon or call 0330 33 22 770 any time for free initial advice.

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The specialist driving offence solicitors at Ashworth Motoring Law defend all types of Motoring Offences including Drug Driving, Drink Driving, Failure to Provide a Specimen and Speeding. Call our free helpline to find out whether your case is one of the many that can be successfully defended.

Free legal advice for drug driving offences from the specialist drug driving solicitors at Ashworth Motoring Law

Listen again to our live radio interview on drug driving

Missed our latest interview about the law on Drug Driving?

You can listen again here:

In this interview, we explain why there’s been an 800% increase in drug driving arrests and highlight the low drug driving limits which were set for illegal substances under the Drug Driving Law which was introduced in March 2015.

If you would like more information about drug driving, or would like to speak to a specialist drug driving solicitor about your case, call 0330 33 22 770 or email enquiries@ashworthmotoringlaw.co.uk for free initial advice. Our drug driving experts regularly defend drug driving offences, in fact we have a 100% success rate in securing acquittals for this offence.

 

 

 

One Year on, the legal System is STILL not ready for the Drug Driving law, Major problems remain

One year on – Major problems with the drug driving law

Critical analysis of the Section 5A Road Traffic Act Drug Driving (Specified Limit) Offence by Expert Motoring Law Solicitor, Alison Ashworth.

One year after the Section 5A Road Traffic Act Drug Driving Law was introduced, new figures released by the Department for Transport suggest a 800% increase in drug driving arrests in the Cheshire region alone.

As a specialist Motoring Lawyer who deals predominantly in defending flawed motoring prosecutions I had a number of concerns about the new drug driving law, and identified a number of issues with it prior to its introduction. I concluded that the legal system was not ready for the new law. One year on this still seems to be the case. In fact, the last year has thrown up a whole set of new legal issues concerning this controversial legislation.

Misleading figures

Firstly, I am somewhat sceptical about the figures which have been provided by the Department for Transport. The headline figure makes reference to the number of arrests for drug driving. What I would like to know is the number of people who were arrested but not charged? My sources within the drug testing industry suggest that there is a high potential for roadside drug testing device to provide a ‘false positive’ result. It seems that the devices are set to pick up the cannabis metabolite which remains in a person’s system far longer than the active Delta 9 THC cannabis which is covered by the legislation. A person can only be charged on the basis of the active Delta 9 THC in their system, NOT the metabolite. There may well have been an increase in the number of arrests, but I’d bet there’s also an equally huge increase in the number of innocent drivers who are pulled over, arrested, taken to a police station, detained for the purpose of taking a blood sample and then ultimately released once the analysis highlights an absence of the active Delta 9 THC in their bodies.

The cannabis and cocaine-alyser

Still, the devices which the police are using to test for drugs at the roadside can only test for cocaine and cannabis. Abusers of prescription medications and users of any of the other illegal drugs can therefore drive away scot-free after passing the roadside test, or be taken to the police station if they display significant signs of impairment as per the original Section 4 Road Traffic Act Driving whilst Impaired through Drugs Offence.

Lack of equipment

In a number of cases, the equipment simply hasn’t been there at the roadside as planned. Some drivers have faced long waits for equipment to be delivered to the relevant location, or they have been taken to the police station for the purpose of taking the test. Police forces have now been given an additional £1 million to purchase drug screening equipment, train officers and pay for samples to be analysed.

Lack of labs who can analyse the blood sample for drugs

The new drug driving law was enacted before there were sufficient labs available to independently analyse the driver’s sample. When the law came into force, there was only one lab in the whole country which could test samples for the full spectrum of drugs covered by the offence.  The other labs were authorised only to test for cannabis and cocaine. All defendants who provide a blood sample for analysis at the police station are entitled to have their own sample independently analysed. With only one lab in the Country testing for the additional drugs, if the Prosecution’s sample was analysed by this lab, there was nowhere else to independently analyse the defendant sample. Defendants were being robbed of a crucial right. This was a huge injustice. Even now, the options available to defendants to have their own samples independently analysed are desperately scant, and in my view this lack of choice remains wholly unacceptable.

You cannot be convicted of the Section 5A Drug Driving Offence if you cannot provide a blood sample

This is perhaps this most ridiculous issue with the new drug driving law. You cannot be convicted, or even charged with Section 5A Drug Driving if you cannot provide a blood sample. The drug driving limits make reference to the amount of substance in blood alone. There is not yet an approved method of testing urine for the very specific drug amounts covered by the legislation. The polices’ own forms direct officers to take no further action if the person is unable to provide a blood sample. However, having won a case where this was an active issue, I know that the police are likely to, instead, consider the old Section 4 driving whilst impaired route of identifying evidence of impairment. Under the old Section 4 impaired driving route there is no relevant drug driving limit, therefore it is permissible to rely on the results of urine analysis. All that is required under the old offence is the presence of a drug in the system and a causal link between the presence of the drug and the person’s driving.

What the drug driving limits actually mean

There is still a fundamental lack of guidance about the drug driving limits themselves.

Whilst drug driving limits have been provided, a lack of information from the Government has left drivers completely bewildered as to what amount of drugs would result in exceeding the limit. Also, drugs can remain in a person’s system much longer than alcohol, often long after the effects have worn off.  However the risk of being caught drug driving “the morning after” consuming drugs is far less publicised than the dangers of “morning after drink driving”. Almost all of the Section 5a Road Traffic Act Drug Driving enquiries which I deal with involve drivers who have been charged with the offence despite taking a drug many hours before.

Flawed procedure

As with the more established motoring offences such as drink driving, or driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs, there are in many instances of grave failings by the police when investigating this latest offence. Failings that are so severe that they result in the case being thrown out of Court.

The Section 5A drug driving offence is still a mess

Bearing in mind that one single puff on a joint is said to be enough to put someone over the drug driving limit, and a conviction for this offence would result in a minimum 12 month driving ban, fine, possible prison sentence and a criminal record, my view is that there are still significant failings with the Section 5A Drug Driving (Specified Limit) Offence.  Of course, we need drug driving laws to protect the public from drugged drivers who are a danger to the public, but when a conviction for this offence could destroy a person’s whole life, more should be done to ensure that those who are suspected of committing the offence are treated fairly, and greater attention needs to be placed on raising awareness of the low levels of drugs in the body that can put a person over the specified limit in the first place.

Article written by Drug Driving Expert, Alison Ashworth; Managing Director of Ashworth Motoring Law.

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

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If you’ve been arrested for drug driving and would like expert advice and representation, call our motoring law advice line on 0330 33 22 770 for free initial advice from a specialist drug driving solicitor. Ashworth Motoring Law are experts in defending drug driving offences, in fact our Managing Director Alison Ashworth has a 100% success rate in securing acquittals in drug driving cases.

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