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New drug-driving limits to be introduced this month

Police Scotland’s preparations for the new roadside drug-driving test has been welcomed by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf. According to Mr Yousaf, the new drug-drive limits, which will be introduced on 21 October 2019, means Scotland is ‘far ahead of anywhere else in the UK’.

What are the existing laws surrounding drug-driving in Scotland?

Currently, it is an offence to be in charge of a motor vehicle if you are unfit to drive through the use of drink or drugs. The penalties for the crime – reserved to Westminster – is a driving ban of at least 12 months, up to six months in prison and a maximum fine of £5,000. As it stands, police carry out a roadside ‘field impairment test’ if they suspect a motorist of drug-driving. Should the individual fail the test, they can be arrested and taken to a police station where a doctor must certify the motorist is impaired to the extent that they cannot drive in a fit state.

In Scotland, there are currently no prescribed limits for controlled drugs. The ability to provide specified limits for drugs is devolved, and therefore the Scottish Ministers have been left to decide whether there should be limits and, if so, what the levels are and for what types of drugs.

What will happen when the new laws are introduced?

Removing the need to prove a motorist was driving in an impaired manner, police will now carry out mouth swab testing for anyone suspected of drug-driving, who has been involved in an accident or who has been stopped for a road traffic offence.

There will be a ‘near zero-tolerance’ approach to the eight drugs that are most associated with illegal use in Scotland:

  1. benzoylecgonine;
  2. cocaine;
  3. delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol;
  4. ketamine;
  5. lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD);
  6. methylamphetamine;
  7. methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA); and
  8. 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM – heroin and diamorphine).

The Government has confirmed the reason for limits to be ‘almost zero’ is to allow for minor accidental exposure to certain drugs.

Drugs associated with medical use – such as diazepam, methadone, and oxazepam – will have limits based on impairment and road safety. The new drug-driving offence will operate alongside the current legislation and carry the same maximum penalties.

Under the new offence, anyone taking medication in line with their prescription can claim the medical defence. However, it should be noted that motorists can still be prosecuted under the current impairment offence if they are demonstrating they are impaired to the extent they are unfit to be behind the wheel. If the prescription indicates that they should not drive while taking medication, the motorist will be unable to claim the medical defence.

Head of road policing at Police Scotland, Chief Superintendent Stewart Carle, said the mouth swab kits formed part of a broader crackdown on drug crime across Scotland:

“We hope this will reduce the demand for those drugs and thereby have a wider benefit to our communities.

Drug dealing is a big problem in Scotland – we know that and we’re trying to tackle it. At the moment, we catch around 200 drug-drivers every year. This new power is going to allow us to do roadside screening and I would expect to detect a lot more.”

 Mr Yousaf concluded:

“Alongside our stringent drink-driving limits, these new curbs will ensure Scotland’s law enforcement agencies have the most robust powers in the UK to tackle impaired and unsafe driving in order to keep people safe.”

Contact our Road Traffic Defence Lawyers Greenock & Paisley, Scotland

If you have been charged with driving while under the influence of drugs, or any other road traffic offence, do not delay and speak with a specialist member of our team today via the online enquiry form. 

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  • Paisley 01418896458Existing Clients: 0141 889 6458
  • Greenock 01475888286Existing Clients: 01475 888 286