It is an offence to drive or attempt to drive a motor vehicle whist unfit through drugs. A person is unfit if their ability to drive is impaired because of taking drugs. The impairment can be brought about from use of illegal drugs, legal highs and even prescription medication taken legitimately. It also includes any other substance that causes impairment to a person’s ability to drive.
The penalties for driving or attempting to drive whilst under the influence of drugs are similar to those of drink driving and include:
A fine of up to £5000; and
A minimum 12-month period of disqualification.
For serious contraventions of this offence a community-based disposal or imprisonment can also be imposed.
Drug Driving Charges
A charge for driving whilst under the influence of drugs will usually arise because the police have reason to believe that your driving was impaired as a direct result of consuming drugs. Drug driving can relate to both illegal drugs and legal drugs including prescription/over the counter medication.
This type of offence frequently comes to light following an accident or where the police have stopped someone because of the manner of driving. You cannot drive if you have taken a drug that impairs your ability to drive. You also cannot drive if you have over the specified limits of certain drugs in your system. If you are caught driving with either of these scenarios applying, you will be charged with drug driving.
Drug Driving Defences
A significant number of cases such as these are successfully defended on the grounds of procedural error. The police must always follow strict procedures, from the side of the road to all dealings with you at the police station.
There are two different types of drug driving charges, either driving whilst unfit to drive or driving with excess drugs in your system. The former charge is difficult for the police to prove as it will depend on the results of the field impairment test they conduct.
Alongside the defences above, these are other legal and technical defences which can work for your advantage, including: you were not driving the vehicle, were not on public land, you had not taken a drug which is covered by current legislation or a medical defence.
In some circumstances the defence may also present arguments that amount to what are called special reasons. If special reasons are successfully made out before the court the penalties may be reduced and disqualification may be avoided altogether. An example of special reasons in this type of case is where someone has been prescribed medication and is not aware of the effects this may have if taken with other medicines or a small amount of alcohol.
If you have been charged in relation to drug driving within the Highlands and Islands, contact our office for advice on your options in defending this charge.