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Police Roadside Drug Test – What You Need to Know

Driving while under the influence of drugs is not only dangerous for you but can also result in devastating consequences for other drivers on the road. The UK has started doing roadside drug testing in an effort to reduce the enormous damage caused by drug driving. If you are facing drug driving charges having received a police roadside drug test, you need to know as much as possible about the penalties you may be facing as well as ways to potentially overturn or reduce the charges if you feel like you have been treated unfairly.

This article will cover what roadside drug testing entails, how it works, why it’s important, and the penalties for those who fail the test or refuse to take it.

drug driving arrest


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What does the UK Roadside Drug Test Entail?

If you are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs your vehicle may be pulled over or otherwise apprehended by the police. They will then administer a roadside test which entails taking a saliva sample to look for the presence of cannabis and cocaine.

There are various reasons why you police may suspect you are under the influence of drugs such as the smell of drugs, the presence of drug paraphernalia in your vehicle or any other signs that you may be under the influence. To decide whether to administer the saliva test, the police may do other steps in their field impairment assessment such as asking you to walk in a straight line.

What Happens if You Fail the Roadside Test?

If you fail the roadside drug test, then it is likely that you will be arrested and a blood or urine sample will be taken for further analysis. If your impairment due to drugs has been proven by one of these samples, you may then face serious penalties.

It is illegal to be under the influence of drugs to any degree when operating a vehicle. It doesn’t matter if you have only taken small amounts of drugs that you don’t believe have affected your driving; any drugs in your system can potentially be a crime if they are deemed to impair your ability to drive.

In addition to this, if the police have reason to believe other crimes were committed during the incident they can hold you in custody while investigating those offences. This may include possession, possession with intent to supply, dangerous driving, causing injury or death by dangerous driving, driving under the influence of alcohol, or any other offence you are suspected of.

What Happens if You Refuse to Take the Roadside Test?

As with a roadside breathalyser test for alcohol, you can only refuse to take a saliva test for drugs if you have a reasonable excuse. If you refuse, you will also likely be arrested and taken to the police station where you will be asked to give a blood or urine sample. If you then refuse to take any of the tests, this is an offence itself and you could be facing a £2,500 fine and up to three months in prison.

It is important to know that any evidence gathered during the incident can still be used against you in court even if you refuse to take the tests. The police can still use other signs such as erratic driving behaviour or possession of drugs found in your vehicle when asking for a conviction. You may think that refusing to take the test means there will be no conclusive evidence, but the fact that you refuse to take it can be used as evidence that you are trying to hide something.

What Happens if You Pass the Roadside Test?

If you have been pulled over by the police and passed a roadside drug test, it does not mean you are free to go. The police may still decide to administer a blood or urine sample at their station for further testing if they feel there is enough suspicion that you were driving under the influence of drugs.

Can You Avoid Taking the Test?

It is sometimes possible to avoid the roadside drug test if you have a reasonable excuse. This may include a physical disability that makes it impossible for you to give a saliva sample or an underlying medical condition that would be worsened by taking the test. If you are able to provide a doctor’s note or evidence of this, then the police may decide to let you go or they may decide to take you to the police station for an alternative test which you are able to complete.

Which Drugs Can Lead to a Drug Driving Charge?

Almost any drug can lead to a charge of driving under the influence if it is believed you are impaired by them. This includes medicinal drugs such as codeine, diazepam and morphine which may be prescribed for various conditions or illegal drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin.

Why is Driving Under the Influence of Drugs so Dangerous?

Driving under the influence of drugs is dangerous for many reasons. Taking illegal substances can affect your ability to drive safely whether it be due to reduced concentration levels or other side effects such as paranoia which may mean that you should not be driving at all. Even if you take legal drugs such as prescription painkillers or anti-anxiety medications, the side effects can also cause danger when driving. These include drowsiness and loss of concentration which may lead to serious accidents.

drug driving in court


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Penalties for Drug Driving in the UK

If you are found guilty of drug driving, this can carry the same penalties as drink driving. For example, if you have no previous convictions and it is your first offence for drug or alcohol-impaired driving, then you could be facing disqualification, a fine, or points on your licence.

The Road Safety Act introduced a penalty point system for being “unfit to drive through drink or drugs” from March 2015 onwards, meaning that those caught driving under the influence of drugs will lose their licence if they accumulate 12 points within a three year period.

This penalty point system is in addition to having your driving license revoked for at least six months and up to a maximum of one year, as well as being subject to an unlimited fine or imprisonment.

However, multiple offences or more serious ones will come with harsher consequences such as longer prison sentences or higher fines. In particular, incidents in which somebody has been killed or injured as a result of drug driving could see you receive a long custodial prison sentence, an unlimited fine, and a potential lifetime driving ban.

What Should You Do if Stopped for Drug Driving?

If you are stopped by the police, it is important to know what you should do and say in order to protect yourself from conviction. If arrested during a traffic stop, then these are some things that could help your case:

  • Ask politely for clarification about why the police have pulled you over – They may suspect something else besides drug driving or may just want to ask you if you witnessed a nearby incident.
  • Be cooperative and polite – The police officer will make a decision on whether they feel there is enough evidence to suspect you are impaired by drugs based on your behaviour. If you refuse to engage, argue with the police, swear at them, or become aggressive then it could be used as evidence of drug use which could see charges pressed against you.
  • Do not admit fault for anything that happened before being stopped – For example, if you smoked cannabis earlier but were not under its influence while driving.
  • Do not say anything which may incriminate you – This could mean anything from admitting you have taken drugs, to accepting that you were driving dangerously.

Hire an Experienced Lawyer

If all of this fails and you are ultimately charged with drug driving, it is absolutely crucial that you hire an experienced lawyer to represent you. They will be able to explain what sort of punishment you are facing and how best to fight your case. If you made a mistake while under the influence of drugs or believe that there were mitigating circumstances involved in your arrest such as mistakes by the police during their investigation, then make sure you tell your lawyer about this.

An experienced motoring lawyer can provide many benefits in a drug driving case. They can help you win your case by using the right evidence and building a compelling argument for why you should not be found guilty. They can also challenge any flaws in police procedure or search procedures that led to incriminating evidence being gathered against you. This may include lying to you about your rights or not explaining to you what the roadside test entails.

In addition, an experienced lawyer will know how best to represent your interests in court so that you are given all possible leniency based on mitigating circumstances surrounding your arrest.

When choosing a lawyer, make sure you ask them about their experience and track record in cases similar to yours so you can choose the right legal team to represent you.

drug driving lawyer


Contact Caddick Davies Solicitors today

Send us a message or call us on 0333 443 2366 for friendly advice


What Factors Will Be Considered During Sentencing?

If you plead guilty or are found guilty of driving under the influence of drugs, there are various factors that the court will take into account when deciding on the appropriate sentence. Your lawyer will assess which of these factors could apply to you and will argue them in your favour. Mitigating factors may include:

  • Whether you were driving dangerously
  • Whether anyone was injured or killed
  • Damage caused to other vehicles or property
  • Previous convictions for other drug or driving offences
  • Whether you pled guilty
  • Whether you were cooperative when arrested
  • The amount and type of drugs in your system
  • Signs of remorse
  • Previous problems with addiction
  • Attempts to address a drug problem or addiction
  • A medical prescription for the drugs taken

All of these could have a major impact on the ultimate sentence you receive. Particularly for first-time offenders or those with only a small amount of less serious drugs in their system, mitigating factors could result in a sizeable reduction in sentencing.

The Problem of Drug Driving in the UK

To get a full understanding of the extent of drug driving in the UK, the best thing is to look at pre-pandemic statistics when road use was at normal levels because this will give a more accurate depiction of the issue. In 2019 alone, 12,391 people were convicted of drug driving offences. This is a huge increase from just two years previously when the number was around 6,000.

Drug driving is becoming a bigger issue year on year, and there are now more people who test positive for cocaine and cannabis while driving than alcohol. These two drugs are the most commonly tested with more than two-thirds of people testing positive for cannabis and one quarter for cocaine.

Another serious issue is the effect that the mixture of drugs and alcohol can have on drivers. Many drugs intensify the effects of alcohol and vice versa. This means that some drivers may pass a breathalyser test for alcohol levels but are still seriously impaired. If the police don’t also administer a drug test, they may be allowed to continue which could have potentially deadly consequences.

Final Thoughts

If you are stopped by the police and instructed to take a police roadside drug test then it is important to know what could be in store for you if you fail the test or refuse to take it. The penalties for drug driving offences can be severe, especially if somebody was injured or killed as a result. If you are facing a drug driving charge, get in touch with our lawyers at Caddick Davies and we will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

Motoring Lawyer at Caddick Davies Solicitors
Caddick Davies is recognised as one of England and Wales’ leading motoring law firms, offering specialist Speeding Solicitors, Drink Driving Solicitors & Dangerous Driving Solicitors.We provide advice and representation on all motoring offences including speeding, the avoidance of disqualification on penalty points or “totting up” (exceptional hardship), driving without due care and attention (careless driving), dangerous driving, drink driving, as well as a range of services related to medical revocation of a driving licence.
Neil Davies

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