New Roadside Drug Testing in Scotland

The police in Scotland can now carry out roadside drug tests, allowing them to detect whether a driver has cannabis or cocaine in their system. Drug drive limits have also been introduced.

Roadside drug testing

As of 21 October, 2019, Police Scotland have been equipped with mouth swabs called DrugWipes. Dubbed ‘drugalysers’, the swabs indicate within minutes whether someone has recently taken cocaine or cannabis. However, they cannot detect other types of drugs, such as heroin, LSD or ketamine.

Who can be tested?

The roadside test can be performed on any motorist if –

  • The police suspect the driver of being under the influence of drugs
  • The driver is involved in a collision
  • The driver is stopped for a road traffic offence

How does the test work?

The mouth swab is performed at the roadside. If a blue line appears, the driver has tested positive for either cannabis or cocaine. He/she will then be arrested and taken to the station for a blood test. This will confirm whether the mouth swab was accurate.

Even if the test is negative, a motorist can still be taken to the police station for an assessment, if the police believe he/she is driving under the influence of drugs. The roadside mouth swabs can only detect cannabis and cocaine. Other prescription or illegal drugs can only be detected with a blood test.

How much can I have in my system?

The new legislation also sets limits for the amount of drugs you can have in your system. There is a zero-tolerance approach for cannabis, cocaine and heroin, amongst others. This means you cannot have any of these drugs in your system and drive. If you do, you will be arrested and charged with drug driving.

Prescription drugs have a limit assigned to them. This means you can have a certain amount in your system and drive. According to the Scottish Government, the limits are based on ‘impairment and road safety’.

How are the new laws different?

Until now, police in Scotland have not had any immediate roadside drug testing abilities. Instead, a motorist suspected of driving under the influence of drugs would be asked to perform a roadside field impairment test. If this confirmed the police officers’ suspicions, the motorist would be arrested and taken to the police station. He/she would be assessed by a doctor, and if the doctor believed the motorist was unfit to drive, a blood test would be carried out.

This practice remains the same if police suspect a motorist of being under the influence of drugs other than cocaine and cannabis.

Police in England and Wales have had drug-driving limits and roadside testing since 2015. Scotland has been criticised for the delay in introducing these measures. Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf says Scotland is now “far ahead of anywhere else in the UK”.

Penalties for drug driving

The penalties for drug driving include –

  • A minimum 12 month driving ban
  • 3 to 11 penalty points in the event a ban is not imposed
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • A fine of up to £5,000

Causing death by dangerous driving while under the influence of drugs can result in a minimum two year driving ban and a maximum 14 year prison sentence.

Drug driving solicitors

The introduction of roadside drug tests is likely to increase the number drug driving charges. If this has happened to you, please contact us at Donnachie Law for experienced, professional legal advice.

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