Drug Driving Offences
There has been a huge recent increase in the number of police prosecutions against drivers alleged to be guilty of driving whilst unfit because of drug use.
Section 4 subsection 1 of The Road Traffic Act 1988 provides that a person who, when driving or attempting to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle on road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs is guilty of an offence. This can also apply to people who are under the influence of drugs whilst, although not actually driving the vehicle, are technically in charge of it. This covers situations where a person may be parked up in a stationary motor car whilst allegedly under the influence of drugs.
Common Scenarios for Drug Driving OffencesA common scenario which we very often end up dealing with is where a person has been driving a motor car and stopped by the police. When the police officer speaks to the driver of the motor car there may be certain factors, such as the smell of cannabis within a vehicle, which causes the police officer to suspect that the driver of the vehicle is unfit to drive because of the use of drugs.
Drug Driving Offence ConvictionIt is very important to note that before a person can convicted of the offence of drug driving, the police have to prove that the individuals ability to drive the car properly at the material time is being impaired.
Obviously the standard of driving will be relevant in the case like this. Before a person can be convicted of the offence of drug driving the Court will need to be satisfied from either the facts of the case, for example if the driver had collided with other vehicles or property etc. or drug imparement test had been carried out by a medical practitioner to show that the person could well have been impared.
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Drug Driving Offence ProsecutionIn relation to a drug driving prosecution, the police will take a blood or urine sample. This will then be sent for a drug analysis. A forensic scientist will examine the sample and provide a report to give an indication to what drugs are found within the blood or urine sample and what levels they are at. It is open to the forensic scientist to provide an opinion to whether or not the readings would normally cause a person to be impared because of drugs. In a drug driving prosecution, however, it is always possible to question the evidence of the forensic scientist because the effect of different drugs upon different people can vary widely.
If the prosecution are to successfully prosecute an individual for driving whilst unfit through drugs they will therefore not just need the forensic report regarding the blood/urine sample, but the police will also need additional evidence to support this. Certain police officers are qualified to carry out a roadside preliminary imparement test. There is only a limited number of officers who are qualified at this. A person may well find themselves arrested on suspicion of drug driving and taken back to the police station where a police doctor will carry out a series of drug imparement tests. These are standard tests and involve certain basic question and answers together with basic tests such as standing on one leg and other balance related tasks.
Experience tells us that even the most basic tasks which are required to be carried out within the confines of a police station when an individual can be experiencing a considerable degree of anxiety, can be very difficult to carry out.
Drug Driving Offence Defence
We have defended in a significant number of prosecutions in relation to drug driving offences with a high degree of success. The prosecution will regularly seek to convince a Court that simply because a person has traces of a drug within their system, then they must automatically be unfit to drive a motor vehicle. Experience tells us that this is not necessarily the case.
Even when faced with strong forensic evidence and even that from the police surgeon, when the evidence is tested in detail in the Magistrates Court it is still possible for a person to be acquitted of the offence of drug driving if the Court is not satisfied that the person was impared from properly driving the vehicle at the time in question.
Not all prosecution for drug driving arise from the use of well known drugs such as cocaine and cannabis. There are certain circumstances when an individual will have an adverse reaction to prescription drugs which could not have been foreseen. Very often this will lead to a police prosecution for driving whilst unfit through drugs. If the Court can be satisfied that the reaction was completely unforeseen and could not have been predicted by the individual, then it may be possible for that individual to avoid a driving disqualification as a result of the offence.
Drug Driving Offence Penalties
If a person is convicted of an offence of driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle whilst unfit through drugs, the Court must impose an obligatory driving disqualification of at least 12 months. It is also possible for the Court to impose a period of imprisonment of 6 months or alternatively a financial penalty.
If a person is found guilty of being in charge of a motor vehicle whilst unfit through drugs the Court then has the discretion as to whether or not to impose a driving ban. The Court can also consider the imposition of a financial penalty or a period of imprisonment not exceeding 3 months.
Contact us about Drug Driving OffencesFor more information regarding Drug Driving Offences then please contact us on 0800 032 5930 or email us at .
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