GQS Solicitors

Drug Drive

A new drug driving offence was introduced in 2015. This made it an offence to drive a vehicle on a road or public place whilst over a prescribed limit. The Government intended to come down hard on drug drivers and therefore introduced a ‘zero tolerance’ approach. However, by understanding the law fully, and taking advantage of inaccuracies in police procedures, GQS Solicitors  have continued to avoid convictions for clients charged with drug driving.

If you are currently waiting for the results of your blood test, it is important that you call us immediately. There are steps that can be taken now to place pressure upon the police. M.A.J. Law have had a number of cases dropped prior to first court hearings (even if the results are over the limit).

The drug driving penalty will result in a ban of 12 – 36 months, community service or even up to 6 months in prison

Following the introduction of the new laws, there have been practical problems for the police and CPS. Many police forces still do not have the required drug kits for roadside use and many police officers have never been trained to conduct the correct procedures. The outcome is the creation of a serious offence that isn’t being correctly enforced, investigated or prosecuted. 


Drug Driving Defences

1] The medical defence

This defence applies where:

  • A person has taken a drug that is prescribed or supplied for medical or dental purposes
  • A person has taken a drug in accordance with any directions given by the person who prescribed it
  • The accused person’s possession of the drug was not unlawful under section 5(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The obligation falls on the defence to establish an ‘evidential basis’, such as a prescription or statement from a doctor. It is then for the CPS to prove, beyond doubt, that the defence do not have a legitimate medical reason. This is extremely difficult, particularly where documentary evidence, or expert evidence, is presented by the defence.

Other defences

GQS Solicitors has developed a number of defence strategies and technical legal arguments to win drug driving cases. Our complex defences usually relate to the four key defence areas;


PROCEDURE

The starting point when defending a drug driving blood case is to consider whether the police officer conducted the correct evidential procedure. If he didn’t – the case goes no further.

The most important procedural documents are the MGDDB, MGDDE and MGDDF. These are guides that were first introduced to generalise police procedures and to help prevent officers from obtaining unreliable and unlawful evidential blood & urine samples. 

MGDDB Document

This document outlines the procedure when obtaining an evidential blood or urine sample at the police station, including the important legal requirements that must be given to you. The MGDDB document is outdated and particularly complicated, requiring an officer to consider issues such as consent, sample continuity, reliability and storage (all of which he’s unlikely to have been trained on).

MGDDE Document

Your evidential sample of blood or urine will be sent to an independent laboratory for analysis. The results returned from the laboratory could form the basis of the prosecution’s case against you. It is therefore crucial that the results are accurate and reliable. The MGDDE document allows an officer to document supplementary information about the drug consumed, the timings of consumption and any symptoms you might be suffering from. A failure by an officer to complete this booklet, or some parts of it, may prevent the lab from carrying out ‘secondary checks’ for reliability purposes.

MGDDF Document

Arguably the most important piece of evidence, this booklet contains the Field Impairment Test (FIT). The FIT is a test designed to assess the level of impairment in an individual (usually a driver). The test contains a number of sections aimed at assessing the extent of the impairment. The test includes;

  • An examination of your pupils
  • Romberg test (Stand still, tilt head back, count 30 seconds)
  • The walk & turn test (walk in a straight line & count steps out loud)
  • One leg stand
  • The finger to nose test

Following the introduction of the new drug driving offence on the 15th March 2015, many officers now believe that the FIT is no longer required (as under the new offence it is not essential to prove impairment). However, what they fail to realise is that if the original drug driving allegation fails, they have no evidence to then prove the ‘lesser’ offence of driving whilst unfit through drugs (as it’s then necessary to prove impairment). Please also note that you don’t actually have to take part in this test if you don’t want to…


1] CONSENT

By law, you must provide your ‘clear and unconditional’ consent to the taking of the blood sample. An officer should not place improper pressure on you to provide a specimen of blood if you do not want to. The option will always be yours.

If you provided a sample of blood, the medical practitioner should fill out a consent form known as an ‘HO/RT/5 Certificate’. This certificate establishes legal consent. What the CPS often fail to realise is that this certificate is ‘time sensitive’ by virtue of Section 16 RTOA 1988. This means that if it is not served on the defence seven days before the trial, it is automatically rendered inadmissible – meaning it can no longer establish consent. Even if the CPS do serve it within the required time-frames, but the defence reject it not less than three days prior to the trial, it is excluded. The CPS are still obliged to prove consent to the criminal standard so the only alternative is to bring the medical practitioner to court to provide live evidence. You can guess how many medical practitioners attend court with three days notice… No practitioner, no case to answer.


2] CONTINUITY

Continuity is more important than you think.

In any case involving exhibits or ‘real’ evidence, the continuity chain must be recorded. Lack of continuity can be fatal to a prosecution. This is even more important in cases involving forensic samples, such as blood and urine. This is because of the risk of contamination and the effect of adverse storage conditions. The prosecution will often argue that the existence of a unique barcode on the Streamlined Forensic Report that matches the barcode on the vial is sufficient to establish continuity. This is wrong.

Let’s assume that blood was taken from you by a medical practitioner at a police station. You’re informed by the police that your results will be returned in approximately 6 weeks. If you’re over, you’ll be charged. If you’re under, there will be no further action.

6 weeks later the police inform you that your sample was analysed and tested positive for an illegal drug. You’re going to be charged and bailed to court. Can you trust what the police have told you?


The Post Driving Consumption Defence

What are the Drug Driving Limits? 

An immediate problem for anyone charged with drug driving is the fact that the above limits are largely meaningless (unless you happen to be a chemist, doctor or pharmacologist). If you take any of the above prescription drugs, just how many tablets can you take before being over the limit?

Unlike drink driving offences, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to work out what the new drug driving limits actually mean, making much easier to break the law. Please remember that you can still be found guilty even if you did not intend to be over the limit.

Impairment – Driving whilst unfit through drugs

Even if you avoid a drug driving ban, this does not necessarily mean that you are completely off the hook. If the CPS are still satisfied that they can prove ‘impairment’, they may charge you with an offence under Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which could result in a minimum 12 month disqualification. However, as mentioned above, if the police failed to carry out a Field Impairment Test (FIT), they will have to convince the court that you were impaired due to other ‘circumstances’ (such as a collision, your appearance, an officer’s opinion), this can be difficult is defended correctly.

If you have been accused of drug driving it is crucial that you contact GQS Solicitors immediately. We may be able to take steps to prevent the CPS from charging you with additional offences, or even charging you at all.

Unlike drink driving offences, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to work out what the new drug driving limits actually mean, making it much easier to break the law. Please remember that you can still be found guilty even if you did not intend to be over the limit. We may be able to take advantage of these confusing limits to help win your case.

 

The legal drug driving limits are as follows:

Illegal DrugLegal Limit (Blood)
Benzoylecgonine50µg/L
Cocaine10µg/L
Delta – 9 -Tetrahydrocannibinol (Cannabis)2µg/L
Ketamine20µg/L
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide1µg/L
Methylamphetamine10µg/L
MDMA10µg/L
6 – Monoacetylmorphine (Heroin)10µg/L


(‘µg/L’ means ‘micrograms per litre of blood)


Prescription DrugLegal Limit (Blood)
Amphetamine250µg/L
Clonazepam10µg/L
Diazepam2µg/L
Flunitrazepam20µg/L
Lorazepam1µg/L
Methadone10µg/L
Morphine10µg/L
Oxazepam10µg/L
Temazepam1,000µg/L


In drug driving cases the legal limits are relatively meaningless. This is because guidance issued by the Magistrates’ Courts Sentencing Council in November 2016 advised all magistrates to impose a 12 month driving disqualification for a first time offender, even if the result was two or three times the legal limit. If the offender has a previous drink or drug driving conviction within the last ten-years, the minimum disqualification will be three years. If the magistrates feel as though the circumstances are more serious because of aggravating factors (such as a collision, poor driving etc…) then this will increase the disqualification period.


Drug Driving & Cocaine

(benzoylmethylecgonine)

Illegal DrugLegal Limit
Cocaine10µg%


Cocaine is a powerful and highly addictive controlled substance. Depending on how it is administered, cocaine can be a rapidly acting drug.

Will cocaine affect your driving?

The effects of cocaine on driving will depend on;

  • how much is taken,
  • the person’s tolerance to the drug, and
  • the use of any other drugs, including alcohol.

The stimulant effects of cocaine last for only a short period of time following which the after-effects commence. It has been reported that one-off use of cocaine by tired individuals can produce an improvement in attention for a short period of time with subsequent improvement in performance of simple tasks. As the tasks become more complex, however, this improvement may not occur.

The after-effects of cocaine use include;

  • Poor concentration and coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Lapses of attention and ignoring stimuli such as traffic light changes
  • Visual impairment, primarily caused by an increased sensitivity to light

A study of motorists driving under the influence of cocaine found that, although they displayed symptoms of cocaine use, nearly half performed normally on field sobriety tests.

How long does cocaine stay in your system?

Cocaine will remain in your system for up to three days following use – or even longer in frequent users. Cocaine levels peak in the blood an average of 30 minutes after ingestion.

Any given drug’s presence in your system is often measured by its ‘half-life’. This is the period of time required for the amount of drug in your system to be reduced by one-half.

The half-life of cocaine is 1 hour. If you took 50mg of cocaine at 8:00pm, by 9:00pm there would be 25mg remaining in your system. By 10pm, there would be 12.5mg in your system, and so on… The quantity of the drug will reduce by 50% over each ‘half-life’ period.

So, how much cocaine before you’re over the limit?

Cocaine appears in blood after about 20 minutes, reaching a maximum concentration in 30 to 50 minutes.

Intranasal administration (through your nose) of a 32mg dose of cocaine (an average ‘line’) would produce a blood concentration of between 40-80 micrograms within 40 minutes (the legal limit being 10 micrograms). Your body would eliminate 50% of this within one hour.

If, for example, you consumed a 32mg line of cocaine at 8:00pm, your blood concentration will peak at 60 micrograms in 40 minutes. Within one hour, your body will have eliminated half the amount, meaning your blood content at 9:00pm would be 30 micrograms. By 10:00pm, it would be 15 micrograms. By 11:00pm you’d be under the limit for cocaine.


Drug Driving & Cannabis

(Tetrahydrocannabinol)


DrugLegal Limit (Blood)
Delta – 9 -Tetrahydrocannibinol (Cannabis)2µg/L


Cannabis is a high potency plant that contains a chemical compound known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is one of the oldest psychoactive substances used by man. When you smoke or ingest cannabis, THC travels into the bloodstream and eventually binds to cannabinoid receptors throughout your body. Smoking or ingesting too much THC in a short period of time can intensify and alter its effects.

Evidence used by the government’s Expert Panel on Drug Driving has indicated that actual impairment after ingesting THC subsides after two and a half hours. The roadside test is likely to catch out cannabis smokers up to 24 hours after use, well after the effects have worn off. In fact, a study conducted by Dr E. J. Cone showed that a single ‘puff’ on a cannabis joint produced an average immediate blood THC Concentration of 18 micrograms (9 times the legal limit).

When the Government considered setting prescribed limits, they instructed a panel of experts to suggest an appropriate limit. The Government stressed its intention for the new limit to be ‘zero tolerance’. After many months of research, the experts advised a limit of 5 micrograms. Over twice the limit finally imposed by the Government.

How much cannabis before you’re over the limit?

An average sized joint could cause a peak concentration of 120 micrograms in just 8 minutes. The legal limit is 2 micrograms.

Any given drug’s presence in your system is often measured by its ‘half-life’. This is the period of time required for the amount of drug in your system to be reduced by one-half.

Most drugs have a relatively straightforward ‘half-life’, making it simple to determine elimination rates. Nearly 100 metabolites have been identified for THC, all of which have different ‘half-lifes’. The true elimination half-life of THC is difficult to calculate. The speed at which THC leaves your system will depend on the following factors;

  • The strength and type of cannabis
  • Your height and weight
  • Your metabolic rate
  • Any medication you take

Smoking cannabis is the quickest way to absorb the THC. THC will reach a peak concentration within 3 – 10 minutes after the onset of smoking. A single cannabis cigarette containing about 25 milligrams of THC will cause an average peak concentration of 84.3 – 162 micrograms (the legal limit being 2 micrograms).

How long do I need to wait before driving?

As above, a single cannabis cigarette will cause an average peak concentration of 120 micrograms within 8 minutes. This will then drop rapidly over the following 4 – 6 hours, with a blood concentration of 2 micrograms expected to be reached within 7 – 12 hours.*

Please note that there are no ‘accepted standards’ for measuring the elimination rate of THC. The above information is based upon multiple studies and scientific findings.

Cannabis Defences

The prescribed limits for drug driving are 400,000 times lower than that for drink driving. This is because drugs exist within our bodies in minute quantities. This presents practical problems for laboratories when trying to produce accurate results. We do not intend to ‘spill our trade secrets’ on this page, but we’re quite happy to outline the four key aspects of a cannabis drug driving defence.

  • Method of Analysis

    The most common method of analysis for THC is Gas-Chromotography Mass-Spectometry (GC-MS). This is considered the ‘gold standard’ in commercial drug testing. GC-MS is a specialised analytical method that, until recently, wasn’t offered by many laboratories due to its complex (and expensive) ‘two-stage’ analytical process. It enables scientists to identify and quantify individual metabolites within a blood sample.

    Despite this method being one of the most accurate ‘large scale’ analytical methods, the laboratory are still required to deduct 30% from the measured result to allow for ‘normal analytical variation’. If this method of analysis is as accurate as the experts say, there would be no requirement to reduce the result by one third. This indicates the potential for unreliable results.  If the laboratory has failed to deduct this amount, you could be wrongly (and unfairly) charged with drug driving.

  • Quality Control and Quality Assurance Procedures

    Laboratories wishing to undertake drug testing of this type are required to attain a specific accreditation by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). Part of this validation process requires laboratories to frequently measure their analytical performance in terms of accuracy and precision (due to the huge margin for error with drug analysis).

    M.A.J. Law has recently received information that a leading UK laboratory has failed a number of quality control and assurance tests. It has been confirmed that a large amount of results were incorrectly calculated due to a ‘data anomaly’. The same laboratory has since had its accreditation withdrawn.

  • Calibration & Standard Deviation

    Laboratories are required to calibrate testing instruments at the beginning of each day. This process involves analysing a number of solutions (calibrants) each containing a different known drug concentration. The results of the calibration test are then plotted to produce a calibration graph. These results must fall within a validated range (the ‘standard deviation’) recommended by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).

  • False Positives

    No analytical method is 100% accurate. False positives do occur.

    Positive results may be obtained by consumption of non-psychoactive substances, such as Hemp Seed Oil and some forms of Vitamin B. Some illnesses can also cause reactions in the body that may produce similar metabolites to THC. M.A.J. Law has found the most common cause of false possible results to arise out of human error. Labelling errors, inadequate training, staff fatigue and boredom are also capable of producing a false positive result.

Passive Smoking – Cannabis

Secondhand exposure to cannabis smoke can produce positive drug tests. A variety of studies over recent years have documented the extent of secondhand cannabis smoke exposure and the likelihood of producing positive drug tests. A study conducted by Edward J. Cone found that blood concentration levels of THC could rise to 7 micrograms even after a short period of exposure to secondhand cannabis in a non-ventilated environment (the legal limit being 2 micrograms). These results could increase if the person inhaling the passive smoke was a ‘non-smoker’ of cannabis.

It is important to note that passive-smoking of cannabis is not a defence. It could only amount to a ‘special reason’. This is because cannabis would be present in your system above the prescribed limit of 2 micrograms (you’re therefore ‘guilty’ of driving whilst over the prescribed limit – assuming no other defences apply). If argued successfully, it could result in you avoiding a ban. If you would like more information about passive-smoking in excess specified drug cases, please call to speak to a member of our team.


Drug Driving & Benzoylecgonine

(active metabolite of cocaine)


Illegal DrugLegal Limit
Benzoylecgonine50µg%


Cocaine is metabolised by our bodies very quickly. The rate of metabolism depends upon the concentration of the drug. There are three main routes by which cocaine gets ‘bio-transformed’ (broken-down);


    • Esterases
    • De-methylation
    • Ecgonine

The method that’s important to us is ‘De-methylation‘. This is the process whereby cocaine is metabolised into Benzoylecgonine  (the primary active metabolite of cocaine). Around 40% of cocaine is metabolised into benzoylecgonine.

How long does Benzoylecgonine stay in your system?

Cocaine is eliminated from your blood within 4 – 6 hours, whereas  benzoylecgonine can be present for up to 6 days after administration.

Benzoylecgonine is detectable in your blood within 30 minutes of cocaine consumption. This amount will then rise gradually over the next 2 – 3 hours. So, if you were to ‘sniff’ a 35mg line of cocaine at 10:00pm, Benzoylecgonine would be detectable by 10:30pm. By 01:30am, this will have rose to 130 micrograms (the legal limit is 50 micrograms).

Benzoylecgonine Defences

The prescribed limits for drug driving are 400,000 times lower than that for drink driving. This is because drugs exist within our bodies in minute quantities. This presents practical problems for laboratories when trying to produce accurate results. We do not intend to ‘spill our trade secrets’ on this page, but we’re quite happy to outline the four key aspects of a drug driving defence.

  • Method of Analysis

    The most common method of analysis for Benzoylecgonine is Gas-Chromotography Mass-Spectometry (GC-MS). This is considered the ‘gold standard’ in commercial drug testing. GC-MS is a specialised analytical method that, until recently, wasn’t offered by many laboratories due to its complex (and expensive) ‘two-stage’ analytical process. It enables scientists to identify and quantify individual metabolites within a blood sample.

    Despite this method being one of the most accurate ‘large scale’ analytical methods, the laboratory are still required to deduct 30% from the measured result to allow for ‘normal analytical variation’. If this method of analysis is as accurate as the experts say, there would be no requirement to reduce the result by one third. This indicates the potential for unreliable results.  If the laboratory has failed to deduct this amount, you could be wrongly (and unfairly) charged with drug driving.

  • Quality Control and Quality Assurance Procedures

    Laboratories wishing to undertake drug testing of this type are required to attain a specific accreditation by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). Part of this validation process requires laboratories to frequently measure their analytical performance in terms of accuracy and precision (due to the huge margin for error with drug analysis).

    M.A.J. Law has recently received information that a leading UK laboratory has failed a number of quality control and assurance tests. It has been confirmed that a large amount of results were incorrectly calculated due to a ‘data anomaly’. The same laboratory has since had its accreditation withdrawn.

  • Calibration & Standard Deviation

    Laboratories are required to calibrate testing instruments at the beginning of each day. This process involves analysing a number of solutions (calibrants) each containing a different known drug concentration. The results of the calibration test are then plotted to produce a calibration graph. These results must fall within a validated range (the ‘standard deviation’) recommended by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).

  • False Positives

    No analytical method is 100% accurate. False positives do occur.

    Benzoylecgonine is a ‘fingerprint metabolite’. This means that no other drug or prescription medicine produces exactly the same metabolite. However, some medicines produce metabolites that are similar in structure. Laboratories who don’t enforce a strict quality control procedure could mistakenly detect what thy believe to be benzoylecgonine, when in fact it’s nothing more than a prescription medicine.



Drug Driving & MDMA

(methylenedioxyphenethylamine / ecstasy)

Illegal DrugLegal Limit
MDMA10µg%


MDMA is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception. It is most commonly used orally in the form of a tablet, but it can also be snorted or smoked. This recreational drug has no medical uses. MDMA increases the activity of three brain chemicals:

  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Serotonin

How long does MDMA stay in your system?

When taken by mouth, effects start after 30 minutes and usually last about 3–5 hours. MDMA reaches peak concentrations in the blood within 3 hours after administration. It is then slowly metabolized and eliminated.

The rate at which MDMA is metabolised is measured by its ‘half-life’. This is the period of time required for the amount of drug in your system to be reduced by one-half.

The elimination half-life of MDMA is approximately seven hours. So, if you took 100mg of MDMA at 12:00am, by 7:00am there would be 50mg remaining in your system. By 2pm, there would be 12.5mg in your system, and so on… The quantity of the drug will reduce by 50% over each ‘half-life’ period.

Elimination of MDMA from the body is moderately slow. In fact, it takes about 5 half-lives (i.e. about 35 hours or 1.5 days) for over 95% of the drug to be cleared from the body.

How much MDMA before you’re over the limit?

The typical dosage range of MDMA for recreational use varies from 50 mg to 150 mg.

If you consumed 100 mg of MDMA, your blood concentration would peak at 150 micrograms within 3 hours (the legal limit is 10 micrograms). The concentration in your blood would then begin to decrease by half over each 7 hour period. The legal limit for MDMA is 10 micrograms. This quantity is nothing more than a trace in your system and would have, in our view, no impairing effects whatsoever on your ability to drive.

MDMA Defences

GQS Solicitors has a 100% record in successfully defending drug driving allegations. Our success is partly due to our in-depth knowledge of pharmacokinetics & pharmacodynamics. We work closely with some of the country’s leading forensic toxicologists, pharmacologists and physicians.

If you have been charged with drug driving (or are currently on police bail), it is crucial that you contact us immediately

Drug Driving & Prescription Medication

Prescribed limits don’t just exist for illegal drugs, they exist for prescription medication too. If a blood reading above the prescribed limit has been provided, the police will charge you with drug driving. If convicted, the minimum disqualification period is 12 months.

If you’re taking medication as prescribed by your doctor, you should be safe to carry on driving as normal.

Drug Driving Medication Defences

The government is unable to provide any guidance on what the new drug driving limits actually mean. There are too many variables.

A  medical defence is available for those drivers who have been taking medication as directed by their doctor but are found to be over the drug driving limit.

However, the burden to establish this defence is placed upon the defence. This means that we must present some evidence that the drug is being used as advised (such as a prescription, leaflet etc…). Once we have discharged this evidential burden, it then falls on the CPS to disprove our defence ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’.

What if you’re blood result is higher than expected?

There is always the possibility that your results are above the limit, despite you taking the ‘correct’ dose of medication.

Any given drug’s presence in your system is often measured by its ‘half-life’. This is the period of time required for the amount of drug in your system to be reduced by one-half. Most drugs, whether illegal or not, will have been completely eliminated after 24 hours. But what if the drug remains in your system for longer than usual, putting you at risk of being caught drug driving?

Urine, like other body fluids, can be either acidic or alkaline. Interestingly, the Ph-level of your urine can affect the length of time is takes to excrete a substance. Alkaline urine can double the amount of time it takes for a drug to leave your system.

What makes my urine alkaline?

  • A diet rich in fruit & vegetables
  • Kidney disease
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Drugs such as Prozac, acetazolamide, sodium bicarbonate and potassium citrate
  • Urinary Tract Infections


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