Medical evidence and ‘drug driving’ under the new law coming into force in March 2015
The Drug Review of drink and drug driving law by Sir Peter North confirmed that there is a significant drug driving problem in Great Britain.
Currently, police have to show that drugs have impaired a motorist’s driving before a prosecution can proceed for drug driving. A series of roadside tests are administered to ascertain the driver’s capacity, followed later by blood analysis.
Under new law, coming into force in March 2015, it will automatically be an offence to drive a motor vehicle with certain drugs in the body, making it easier to prosecute ‘drug drivers’ in a similar way to drink driving.
At first glance, the new law may appear to be directed at young drivers who indulge in illegal drugs, but it will also catch drivers on prescribed drugs who are impaired! It is claimed that ‘abuse or misuse of therapeutic drugs or “medicines” can produce significant impairment and adverse effects.’
The interesting thing about the new law is that the level of drug required to be present in the driver’s system is very low.
In the context of medicines and therapeutic drugs, doctors will inevitably have a responsibility to advise their patients of the side effects of medication. The DVLA already issue advice to general practitioners about the possible effects of drugs, and doctors are advised to assume that the majority of their patients are drivers. It remains to be seen whether defendants charged under the new law will claim that they were not advised by their medical practitioner not to drive. It’s possible that a doctor could be called to give evidence on their behalf. Doctors would be wise to make a note of any advice given to patient about driving a motor vehicle, when they are prescribing drugs. It probably will not be sufficient for a doctor to say in evidence that he always advises a patient; a clear note that such advice was given will be, potentially, the only way to avoid a summons to attend the trial.
This is just one of the evidential issues that may be raised when the new law comes into force. If you are charged with an offence of drug driving and given a summons to attend any of the Magistrate’s Courts in Guildford, Staines, Redhill/Reigate, Aldershot or any other court in Surrey and Hampshire — don’t hesitate to give us a ring. We may be able to help.