Although for many years it has been an offence to be driving or being in charge of a vehicle whilst under the influence of drink and drugs, there are now new offences in force for being over the specified limit, which can see a person convicted even where there is no concrete evidence of impaired ability to drive.

The new offences, as would be expected, cover many of the most common drugs which are unlawful to possess such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy but of more concern to many law abiding citizens is the fact that the new offences also take in a range of drugs which can be lawfully possessed having been prescribed by doctors or dentists or bought over the counter.

The police now have powers to use specialist devices to conduct preliminary roadside drug tests to see if a person has a concentration of a drug in his/her body which exceeds the specified limit. The tests are simple to administer and involve the police in using a device to take sample of saliva from the tongue of the driver. The device quickly returns a reading showing if one of the specified drugs is in the person’s system at a concentration above the specified limit. If one of the unlawful to possess drugs is found to be at over the specified limit, the person will be arrested on suspicion of drug driving (or, alternatively, of being in charge whilst over the specified limit) and will be taken to a police station for a urine or blood test to be carried out to get a more accurate reading.

Even those found at the roadside to be over the specified limit for drugs lawfully prescribed or bought over the counter may find themselves being arrested after a roadside test. If a charge follows a further urine or blood test, a medical defence can be used in court proceedings. The message to those driving on prescription medication is to get advice from your doctor or pharmacist about driving while under medication and to strictly follow the advice. Keep copies of prescriptions with you so that these can be shown to police officers if you are tested. Exceeding doses can mean that you will face conviction.

Those found guilty of being over the specified drug limits will be banned from driving for a minimum of 12 months could be a fined up to £5,000. Those substantially over the limit can, additionally, face terms of imprisonment of up to 6 months in length.

If you need any advice about these new offences, or if you find yourself facing a charge and a court appearance, please telephone Ghaz Iqbal on 0113 200 7443 or via email at

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