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MILsMany members will have seen the news regarding a change in the law from 02 March 2015.

It has been illegal to drive a vehicle whilst impaired due to the influence of drugs for some time. However, unlike alcohol there have been no prescriptive limits or testing available. This has made it more difficult to enforce.

From 02 March 2015, changes to the Road Traffic Act 1988[1] and the coming into force of The Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014, have listed prescribed limits to the active elements of 8 illegal and 8 prescription drugs that can be present in a driver’s bloodstream.

Controlled Drugs

As with drink driving, a defendant will be guilty of an offence where the level of the drugs concerned exceeds the limit set. We have broken down these drugs into illegal drugs and prescription drugs below, showing the limits allowed:

Illegal Drugs

Controlled drug Limit (microgrammes per litre of blood)
Benzoylecgonine 50
Cocaine 10
Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol 2
Ketamine 20
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide 1
Methylamphetamine 10
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine 10
6-Monoacetylmorphine 5

Prescription Drugs

Controlled drug Limit (microgrammes per litre of blood)
Clonazepam 50
Diazepam 550
Flunitrazepam 300
Lorazepam 100
Methadone 500
Morphine 80
Oxazepam 300
Temazepam 1000


There are two offences :-

  1. Driving or attempting to drive a vehicle on a road or other public place and there is in a defendant’s body a specified controlled drug; and
  2. Being in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place and there is in a defendant’s body a specified controlled drug.

Being ‘in charge’ of a vehicle is not defined in the statute. However, the concept has been present in relation to drink driving offences for some time. As such there is a body of case law that can be used to interpret it.

Being In Charge

This is a flexible test, but there are 2 broad categories :-

  1. The defendant is the legal owner or lawful possessor or had recently driven the vehicle, e.g. asleep in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition;
  2. Where the defendant is not the above, but was sitting in it or otherwise involved with it.

This will be considered on a case by case basis, but it should be noted that there is no requirement for the prosecution to prove that there was any intention to drive the vehicle.


Where the level of drugs in a defendant’s blood is above the prescribed limits, and the drug is one of the 8 prescription drugs, there is a defence if the defendant can be show that :-

  1. The drug has been prescribed or supplied for medical or dental purposes; and
  2. The drug has been taken in accordance with the Dr’s or Manufacturer’s directions.

What does this mean for your business?

All offences relate to driving the vehicle or being in control of a vehicle, as such there should be no criminal liability solely as a result of being the owner of the vehicle or employer of the driver.

Owners of the vehicles will still be required to account for their vehicles and employers will still remain liable for the actions of employees whilst employed.

What should I do now?

As this is a general guide only, any motor trader who is looking for more specific advice on this matter, or assistance should ask us for more detail. We would advise that all members review their record keeping to ensure they can account for their vehicles at all times. We would also advise that members review their drink/drugs policies and ensure, where appropriate, any policies are updated to include the new drug driving offences. Members should circulate a memo regarding company policy to all employees and a record of this should be kept in employee records.

It should be noted that this does not apply to Northern Ireland and has not yet been introduced in Scotland.



Paul Carroll


Motor Industry Legal Services

[1] Section 5A Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Crime and Courts Act 2013)

Posted by Sue Robinson on 06/03/2015