Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Will Become a Criminal Offence

Following on from my blog earlier this year on this subject, I can now confirm that drug driving will become a criminal offence punishable by up to six months imprisonment, under a new law to be unveiled later this week.

The Government is acting to change the current law which requires the prosecution to prove that the driving was impaired by drugs for a successful conviction in court.   

The new law, which will be included in the Crime, Communications and Court Bill, will also cover the abuse of prescription drugs in addition to illegal drugs.

The new offence will be enforced by the introduction of  drug screening devices which it is anticipated will be available by the end of this year.

Similar to drink driving tests, a roadside device will be used to enable a police officer to make an arrest without a driver being required to perform a co-ordination test.

Police officers who suspect somebody of driving under the influence of drugs will perform a saliva test.  Those who fail this initial test will be arrested and screened by a second calibrated machine at a police station.

This machine will then provide evidence that can be used in a court prosecution. Police will no longer have to wait for a doctor to arrive to take a blood sample as currently happens.

Drivers who refuse to co-operate with the tests will be committing an offence similar to that of refusing to take a breath test.

It is anticipated that both the roadside and police station devices will be granted formal approval by the Home Office within approximately four months.

The devices will be designed to screen a number of drugs including cannabis, heroin, crack cocaine and also some prescriptions drugs. The machines will also be capable of being updated regularly to include new drugs.

Drivers found guilty of an offence will face a minimum 12 month driving ban and up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up £5,000.