by Claire Quinlan
Probably due to pressure from the British Medical Association, Scotland intends to introduce drug-driving limits and roadside testing in 2019.
The Scottish government has been criticised for being ‘behind the curve’ and not dealing with drivers that take drugs in the same way England and Wales did two years ago.
This is despite the country’s move to cut the drink-drive limit in 2014 from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml of blood, something that our government has consistently resisted.
To recap, it is already illegal to drive while impaired by drugs and this offence will continue to operate, but specific limits will be introduced in order to allow prosecutions where different drug types above specified levels are detected.
The new offence will mean evidence of impaired driving will not be required, with the police able to investigate and prosecute on the basis of a driver being above the specified limit.
As is the case south of the border, roadside kits currently only detect cannabis and cocaine via a mouth swab, but a test carried out at a station will discern between 17 different drugs, including ecstasy, LSD and heroin.
However, not all of them are illegal.
Various prescription drugs are covered by these tests and although the limits are set higher than with illegal drugs, if you test positive and are not able to argue a medical defence in court, then you face the same penalties as you would for driving while under the influence of cannabis.
The penalties in England and Wales include a fine of up to £5,000, a potential prison sentence and a minimum 12 months’ disqualification from driving.
After roadside drugalysers were introduced in 2015, police in England and Wales arrested 8,000 people for the offence in the first year.
In South Yorkshire, drug driving-related arrests increased from 13 to 456 – a 3,400% increase in one year, which provides some indication of what the police in Scotland could be facing in a couple of years’ time.
If you require any advice in relation to drug driving please call our specialist motoring solicitors for advice on 0800 046 3066