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Will a Drug Driving Conviction Appear on My Criminal Record?

Although the dangers and consequences of drink driving have now become deeply ingrained in the minds of the public, drug driving is still not as well understood. This is despite the fact that drug driving offences are on the rise, reaching record highs of over 20,000 cases in 2021.

Thanks to laws tackling dangerous driving and driving under the influence of alcohol, deaths related to drink driving fell by 88% between 1979 and 2015. Therefore, to address the growing epidemic of drug driving, the UK government adopted stricter laws relating to this offence in 2015, creating a zero-tolerance approach.

As a result, you could now face harsh penalties for driving under the influence of drugs, including a fine, a criminal record and in the most serious cases, a prison sentence. In this article, we’ll discuss drug driving laws and how they could affect you if you’re convicted of driving in excess of the limit. We’ll also walk through your options if you end up in court, including possible defence strategies and how to get in touch with experienced drug driving solicitors.

Penalty for Drug Driving

If you’re unfit to drive due to taking legal or illegal drugs or you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood (even if your driving isn’t impaired), then you can expect to face a range of penalties if you’re caught behind the wheel. These include:

  • An unlimited fine
  • A minimum 1-year driving ban
  • A criminal record
  • A maximum prison sentence of 6 months

The Magistrates will take several factors into account when passing sentence such as repeat offences, erratic driving, risk of injury to others, and damage to other vehicles or property.
If there are no factors increasing seriousness of the offence and no previous convictions, the normal sentence for drug driving is a 12-18 month disqualification and a fine. If you plead guilty to the offence at the first hearing then you can expect a ⅓ reduction in the fine imposed and a lower amount to pay in prosecution costs.

These are the main drug driving sentencing guidelines, but there also other consequences you could face, such as:

  • Higher car insurance costs
  • An endorsement on your driving licence lasting 11 years
  • Trouble travelling to countries like the USA

Other Offences Related to Drug Driving

Even if you aren’t actually caught driving whilst over the prescribed limit, you could still face drug driving penalties. For example, if you’re inside a car with the keys but you’re either unfit to drive through drug use or over the legal limit for a particular drug, you could be charged with a DG90 or DG40 offence – being in charge of a vehicle whilst unfit or whilst over the prescribed limit.

For both of these offences, the penalties include a driving ban or 10 points on your driving licence, a fine of approximately 75-125% of your weekly income.These will appear on your criminal record and remain on your driving licence for 4 years from the date of offence or 4 years from the date of conviction if you’re disqualified from driving.

The most serious drug driving offence is DG60, which is causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs. If convicted, you’ll be banned from driving for at least 2 years and will most likely face a prison sentence. Before 28th June 2022, the maximum prison sentence for a DG60 offence was 14 years, but now the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.

Drug Driving Laws: Illegal Drugs

As mentioned earlier, you could still be convicted for drug driving by having certain levels of illegal drugs in your system, even if your driving isn’t affected. This is because the UK government has adopted a zero-tolerance approach to the use of any illegal drugs before or while driving.

However, to rule out the defence of accidental exposure, there are very low legal limits for each drug. Often, the specified limit for a drug is so low that you could be over the limit by using a very small amount. Therefore, if you plan on driving, you should never consume any illegal drugs beforehand. This also applies to the hours and days leading up to you driving, as drugs can remain in your system for a long time even after you feel sober again.

Drug Driving Laws: Legal Drugs

If you take legal prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines, you could still be convicted and face a penalty for drug driving if you’re deemed unfit to drive. Certain controlled drugs can also impair your driving when you’re taking the correct dosage, so you should always ask your doctor for advice on whether you should drive if you’re given new prescription medicines. For over-the-counter medicines, you should always read the label.

Like illegal drugs, there are legal limits for specified controlled drugs, although these limits are much higher and reflect common dosages. For example, the legal limit for methadone is 500 micrograms per litre of blood and the limit for temazepam is 1,000 micrograms per litre of blood. If you exceed these limits and don’t have a prescription, you could face drug driving charges.

People who have been prescribed higher dosages of prescription drugs could potentially face legal issues if they exceed a specified controlled drug limit. They must then prove that their driving wasn’t affected, the drug had been prescribed for medical or dental purposes and they were taking it in accordance with the guidance of the person who prescribed the drug. It’s a wise idea to keep your prescription slip with you while driving if you’re taking a high dosage of a controlled drug.

Drug Driving Test

A police officer can pull you over while driving and perform a drug driving test if they suspect you’re on drugs or if they see you commit a motoring offence. In addition to performing a field impairment assessment, which can involve asking you to walk in a straight line or stand on one leg, they will most likely use a roadside drug kit to collect a saliva sample.

If traces of drugs are found in the sample, the police officer can then take you to a police station and ask you to provide a blood specimen.If you do not provide a blood specimen it is likely that you will be charged with failure to provide a specimen without reasonable excuse, which also carries mandatory disqualification of at least 12 months.

Possible Defences in Court

If you were taking prescription drugs whilst driving, you could provide evidence that you have a valid prescription and you were following the guidance of your doctor. This is a statutory defence to the charge if proven.

There are also valid defences if you’re charged with failure to provide a specimen at the police station. Reasonable excuses for not providing a blood or urine sample include:

  • Having a diagnosed medical condition such as anxiety, an injury or a neurological condition;
  • Having a medically diagnosed severe phobia of needles;
  • The police not following the correct procedures when requiring a specimen (e.g., neglecting to inform you that failure to provide a specimen is an offence).

Drug Driving Solicitors

With the strict drug driving laws in the UK, it’s understandable that many people are terrified of gaining a criminal record and potentially facing other penalties if they’re charged with drug driving. At Drug Driving Solicitors, we recognise this anxiety and are highly experienced at allaying our clients’ fears.

A specialist drug driving solicitor can help you identify mitigating factors in your case and build a solid defence strategy. With this steadfast legal support, your penalties could be minimised or your charges could be dropped.

This is why it’s extremely important to immediately contact a driving offence solicitor if you find yourself facing drug driving charges. Your legal representation will be able to guide you throughout the process to ensure the best outcome possible in your circumstances.

Driving While High Consequences UK

With the introduction of the new drug driving law in 2015, the penalty for drug driving is now just as severe as that for drink driving. This means that people committing drug offences, or even just taking higher-than-average dosages of medicinal drugs, are now at risk of facing tougher penalties, including an unlimited fine, a prison sentence, a driving ban and a conviction on their criminal record.

If you’ve been charged with a drug driving offence, contact Drug Driving Solicitors today to seek legal guidance and representation. Over the past 10 years, we’ve saved over 1,500 drivers from disqualification or penalty points due to motoring offences, so you’ll know you’re in capable hands.