Driving with a concentration of a specified controlled drug - defences

Several drug driving offences already exist - for example, section 4(1) RTA 1988 The prosecution must prove unfitness to drive through drugs - which isn't always as easy as it sounds. A new strict liability offence comes into force on 2nd March 2015

Driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with concentration of specified controlled drug above specified limit

This is an offence contrary to section 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988. The specified controlled drugs include some prescription medications as well as some classified drugs; see below for the list.

There are several statutory defences in the new legislation:

- the specified controlled drug had been prescribed or supplied to D for medical or dental purposes,

- D took the drug in accordance with any directions given by the person by whom the drug was prescribed or supplied, and with any accompanying instructions (so far as consistent with any such directions) given by the manufacturer or distributor of the drug, and

- D’s possession of the drug immediately before taking it was not unlawful under section 5(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (restriction of possession of controlled drugs) because of an exemption in regulations made under section 7 of that Act (authorisation of activities otherwise unlawful under foregoing provisions).

- It is a defence to the 'in charge' offence to prove that at the time D is alleged to have committed the offence, the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of D driving the vehicle whilst the proportion of the specified controlled drug in D’s blood (or urine) remained likely to exceed the specified limit for that drug.

The 5A(1)(a) offence is summary only. Disqualification is mandatory for at least 12 months but if special reasons apply then 3-11 penalty points are applicable. The 5A(1)(b) 'in charge' offence has an obligatory endorsement but a discretionary disqualification with 10 penalty points where the driver is not given a discretionary disqualification.

The specified controlled drugs and limits (in microgrammes per litre of blood) are as follows:

Benzoylecgonine - 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 - 10
6-Monoacetylmorphine - 5
Morphine - 80
Oxazepam 300
Temazepam 1000
Amphetamin - 250