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 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.

 

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.

 

 

 

How the police test for drug driving

The Department for Transport has released figures from the Cheshire constabulary showing a 800% increase in arrests for drug driving.

The increased number of arrests is largely owing to the widespread use of so-called drugaliser devices which can detect drugs in a person’s system within as little as 8 minutes by analysing saliva. Previously, this preliminary indication was not available.

Under the old legislation, which is still in force today, a person would have to perform a series of impairment tests and would usually only be brought to the police station and face a blood test if they failed the impairment test .

The use of the drugaliser device is resulting in far more people being brought into custody following the identification of drugs in their system at the roadside.

On the 28th February 2016, the government announced that police forces have been given an additional £1 million to train officers, purchase drug screening equipment and pay for samples to be analysed

How does the roadside drug test work?

  • The drugaliser device works by analysing the driver’s saliva for the presence of drugs.
  • The device is placed into the driver’s mouth to obtain saliva cells.
  • The police officer then waits for the result.
  • The result will appear within 8 minutes.
  • If the device identifies drugs in the driver’s saliva then a positive result will appear as a line on the device, similar to a pregnancy test.
  • The roadside drug swabs can only currently test for cocaine and cannabis.

How are drugs other than cocaine and cannabis detected?

Until more comprehensive roadside testing devices are granted “type approval”, the police must rely on impairment tests to detect the possible presence of drugs other than cocaine and cannabis in a person’s system at the roadside. These tests include:

  • The Romberg test: which tests balance and judgement
  • The walk and turn test
  • The standing on one leg test
  • The finger to nose test
  • The pupil measure test: assessing the size of the pupils

Targeted approach to identifying drug drivers

The police are using a targeted approach based on statistics which show that young male drivers are more likely to drug drive.

To mark the one year anniversary of the new drug driving law coming into force, the government has launched an advertising campaign aimed at young male drivers.

If a police officer thinks that a driver is under the influence of drugs, they can ask them to take a roadside drugs test.  Alternatively, they can ask the driver to perform a police impairment test.

Failing or refusing the test will result in the person being arrested and taken to the police station where they will be asked to provide a blood test.   The driver would be prosecuted on the basis of a positive blood test rather than the preliminary indication provided by the roadside drugs test.

What are the drug driving limits and how long do drugs stay in your system?

Click here to view the drug driving limits.

Article written by expert drug driving solicitor, Alison Ashworth; Managing Director of Ashworth Motoring Law.

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

Ashworth Motoring Law are experts in defending drug driving offences. In fact, we have a 100% acquittal rate in defending drug driving offences. If you have been arrested for drug driving and would like specialist advice and representation by a drug driving expert, contact our free motoring law advice line on 0330 33 22 770 or email enquiries@ashworthmotoringlaw.co.uk.

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Roadside Drug Swab. Our drug driving solicitors defend drug driving offences

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The drug driving limits and how long drugs stay in your system

On 02 March 2015, it became an offence to drive with certain drugs in your system above specified limits.  The Section 5A Road Traffic Act Offence requires only the presence of the drug above the specified limit to provoke criminal proceedings against the driver. Under the new offence, it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove that there was anything wrong with the person’s manner of driving; just the presence of the drug above the limit is enough.

What are the drug driving limits?

The drug driving limits have been set with reference to the amount of the drug “per litre of blood”. No drug driving limits have been set for urine; therefore if the driver cannot provide a sample of blood, they cannot be convicted of driving with drugs in their system over the specified limit.

The drug driving limits per litre of blood for all substances, legal and illegal are as follows:

  • Benzoylecgonine (a cocaine metabolite) 50
  • Clonazepam 50
  • Cocaine 10
  • Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis) 2
  • Diazepam 550
  • Flunitrazepam 300
  • Ketamine 20
  • Lorazepam 100
  • Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) 1
  • Methadone 500
  • Methylamphetamine 10
  • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)10
  • 6-Monoacetylmorphine (Heroin) 5
  • Morphine 80
  • Oxazepam 300
  • Temazepam 1000

It’s important to remember that the above limits are specific to the newer Section 5A Drug Driving Offence, not the old Section 4 Driving whilst Unfit through Drugs Offence which is still in force.

Under the old offence, the driver need only provide a sample of blood or urine which identifies the presence of a drug in the person’s system regardless of the amount of the drug, providing there is a causal link between the presence of the drug and the person’s manner of driving.

What do the drug driving limits actually mean?

Many motorists are struggling to work out what the drug drive limits actually mean.

It’s impossible to say with any certainty how much of a drug can be consumed before reaching the specified limits.

However, the drug driving limits for illegal drugs have been set to practically zero tolerance levels. It is said that as little as one puff on a joint could be enough to put someone over the limit.

Whilst the drug driving limits are deemed to be zero tolerance limits, they have been set with reference to scientific guidance to allow for accidental consumption such as passive smoking of cannabis.

The drug driving limits for legal drugs have been set above normal therapeutic doses; therefore if the driver has taken their medication in accordance with usual prescribing instructions then they are unlikely to be over the limit. It they have been prescribed a dose which is above the specified limit, then a medical defence will be available to them provided the they have taken their medication in accordance with the prescribing instructions of their medical professional.

How long do illegal drugs stay in your system?

It’s impossible to say with any certainty how long you would need to wait after taking drugs before you’d be deemed under the limit again. There are far too many variables.

The length of time which is required for a drug to leave your system depends on lots of different factors. These factors include the strength and amount of drug taken, the timeframe during which the consumption of the drug took place, and whether the drug was mixed with anything else. Other unique individual characteristics also play a crucial factor such as your metabolic rate, height, weight and gender.

Although bodily absorption rates differ from person to person, it is possible to suggest rough guidelines as to how long illegal drugs typically remain detectable in a person’s system.

Of the illegal drugs covered by the offence, the typical number of days that traces of a drug will remain in your system for are as follows:

  • Cannabis: 2 – 3 days for one off use (potentially up to two months for chronic users)
  • Cocaine : 12 hours – 3 days
  • MDMA: 1 – 4 days
  • Heroin: 2 – 5 days
  • Ketamine: 2 – 4 days
  • LSD: 1 – 3 days
  • Crystal Meth: 1 – 4 days

However, the above guidelines relate to the length of time that traces of the drug would remain in your system for. The guidelines do not necessarily relate to the amount of time that the drug would remain in your system at a level above the specified limit.  In instances such as cannabis for example, the specified limit under the offence relates only to the active delta-9 ingredient, which remains detectable in a person’s system for far less time than the cannabis metabolite.

If you’ve taken an illegal drug then it’s best to wait a significant period of time before getting back behind the wheel of a car.

What happens if I’m caught with an illegal drug in my system above the specified limit?

If you provide a blood sample which identifies the presence of one of the controlled drugs above the specified limit, then you will be charged with drug driving and summonsed to attend Court.

The Courts take drug driving offences very seriously, and a conviction would have long lasting consequences.

If you plead guilty, or if you are found guilty, you would face:

  1. A minimum 12 month disqualification from driving
  2. A fine of up to £5,000
  3. Possibly up to 6 months in prison or community service
  4. A criminal record
  5. Problems travelling to certain Countries like the USA
  6. The drug driving conviction would appear on your driving licence for 11 years
  7. Significant increases on your motor insurance premiums

A conviction for drug driving could have a serious impact on your future career options. Employers of professional drivers would want to look at your driving record and will see that you have a conviction for drug driving. Certain professional bodies will require you to disclose the conviction, and could stop you from practicing in your field.

Can a drug driving offence be defended?

If you have already been accused of drug driving, then all is not lost. There are many defences to a drug driving allegation. So much so that we have a 100% acquittal rate in defending drug driving offences. If you have been arrested for drug driving and would like to speak to an expert drug driving solicitor, call our free advice line on 0330 33 22 770 for free initial legal advice. We are always happy to discuss your case and can often identify potential defences within minutes. Lines are open round the clock so get in touch whenever’s best for you.

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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