Drug Driving Penalties

New drug driving laws came into force on 2nd March 2015 which make it illegal to drive, attempt to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place while having a specified controlled drug in a persons system while the proportion of that drug exceeds the maximum prescribed legal limit for that particular drug.

What are the penalties upon conviction of a drug driving offence?

Unlike drink driving where Magistrates' have sentencing guidelines they refer too when sentencing offenders, there are currently no Magistrates Sentencing Guidelines for the new drug driving offences.

The Sentencing Council who publish Magistrates Sentencing Guidelines have yet to create guidelines for the new drug driving offences due to insufficient reliable data. However, in due course, the Sentencing Council will produce sentencing guidelines for the new drug driving offences.

In the mean time, the Sentencing Council have produced guidance which does not carry the same authority as official sentencing guidelines, however it can be used to help sentencers determine an appropriate sentence.


Sentencing Guidance for Drug Driving Offences

Driving or Attempting to Drive

Sentencing Council guidance on sentencing offenders for driving or attempting to drive with a specified controlled drug in their system which exceeds the maximum legal prescribed limit of that particular drug.

Driving or attempting to drive with specified controlled drug over maximum legal prescribed limit (S.5A(1)(a)(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988)

Triable only summarily:

Maximum Penalty: Unlimited Fine and/or 6 months imprisonment

  • Must endorse and disqualify for at least 12 months
  • Must disqualify for at least 2 years if offender has had two more more disqualifications for periods of 56 days or more in preceding 3 years
  • Must disqualify for at least 3 years if offender has been convicted of a relevant offence in the preceding 10 years
  • If there is a delay in sentencing after being convicted, consider interim disqualification

Where an offence of driving or attempting to drive has been committed and there a no factors that increase the seriousness of the offence, the court should consider a starting point of:

  • Band C Fine; AND
  • A disqualification between 12 - 22 months

Where factors are present that increase the seriousness of the offence, the court should consider increasing the sentence in line with the level of seriousness.

The community penalty order threshold is likely to be reached where there is evidence of one of more factors that increase the seriousness of the offence and one or more aggravating factors. In this case the court should consider imposing a disqualification of between 29 and 36 months.

Factors that increase the seriousness of the offence

  • Evidence of more than one specified drug or alcohol in the body
  • Evidence of an unacceptable standard of driving
  • Driving or attempting to drive an LGV, HGV or PSV
  • Driving or attempting to drive a vehicle for hire or reward

Aggravating Factors

  • Previous conviction(s) depending on their relevance to the current offence and the time that has elapsed since previous conviction(s)
  • Location where offence was committed e.g. near a school
  • Carrying passengers
  • High level of traffic or pedestrians in the vicinity
  • Poor road or weather conditions

Mitigating Factors

  • No previous convictions or relevant recent convictions
  • Offenders remorse
  • Good character of offender and/or exemplary conduct
  • Age of offender and/or lack of maturity where it affects the responsibility of the offender
  • Mental disorder or learning difficulty
  • Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives
  • Short distance driven
  • Genuine emergency established

In Charge of a Vehicle

In charge of a vehicle with a specified controlled drug over maximum legal prescribed limit (S.5A(1)(b)(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988)

Triable only summarily

Maximum Penalty: Level 4 Fine and/or 3 months imprisonment

Must endorse and may disqualify. If no disqualification, impose 10 penalty points.

Where there are no factors that increase the seriousness of the offence, the court should consider a starting point of a Band B Fine and endorsing offenders driving licence with 10 penalty points.

The community penalty order threshold is likely to be crossed where there are one or more factors that increase the seriousness of the offence and one or more aggravating factors present. In this case the court should consider imposing a driving disqualification.

Where there is evidence of one or more factors that increase the seriousness of the offence and a greater number of aggravating factors, the court may consider imposing a short custodial sentence of up to 12 weeks and also consider imposing a period of disqualification.

Factors that increase the seriousness of the offence

  • Evidence of another specified drug or alcohol present in the body
  • Evidence of an unacceptable level of driving
  • In charge of an LGV, HGV or PSV
  • In charge of a vehicle driven for hire or reward

Aggravating Factors

  • Previous conviction(s) depending on their relevance to the current offence and the time that has elapsed since previous conviction(s)
  • Location e.g. near a school
  • Carrying passengers
  • High level of traffic or pedestrians in the vicinity
  • Poor road or weather conditions

Mitigating Factors

  • No previous convictions or no relevant recent convictions
  • Remorse shown by offender
  • Good character and/or exemplary conduct
  • Age, and/or lack of maturity where it affects the responsibility of the offender
  • Mental disorder or learning disability
  • Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives
  • Very short distance driven
  • Genuine emergency established

In time when official sentencing guidelines are created, it is likely they will be similar to those of drink driving Magistrates' Sentencing Guidelines in so far as penalties are likely to increase in line with the quantity of specified controlled drugs in a persons body, the higher the quantity, the more severe the penalty.

Drug driving courses are also likely to become available to convicted drug drivers whereby upon completing a combined drink / drug driving course an offender can benefit from a reduction in the period of disqualification imposed, just like convicted drink drivers.

New pilot courses were introduced in Oct 2016 which saw convicted drink drivers who attended rehabilitation courses not only educated about drink driving but drug driving also. Once the pilot courses have run until March 2017 a consultation will take place to decide whether or not to adopt the combined drink & drug driving courses and offer them to convicted drug drivers alongside convicted drink drivers. You can read more about the pilot courses here.

Drugdriving.org.uk

Drug Driving .org.uk
Drug Driving & The Law
The roadside swab identifies drug drivers on the spot! Its like a breathalyser for drugs!

Dont Take Drugs & Drive!!