Drug testing following arrest
The police are allowed to test you for specified Class A drugs in the following circumstances:
- You have been arrested or charged with a ‘trigger offence;’ or,
- When a police inspector, or higher rank, has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the offence was linked to the use of a specified Class A drug, and authorises the taking of a sample.
Specified Class A drugs are heroin or cocaine (including crack cocaine).
You must be 18 years or over if the police want to drug test you at the time of your arrest, and you must be 14-years-old or over if they want to test you at the time you are charged.
The police must tell you that you are required to give a sample.
Trigger offences are generally offences involving stealing, fraud or drugs, and include:
- Theft and attempted theft.
- Robbery and attempted robbery.
- Burglary and attempted burglary.
- Aggravated Burglary.
- Handling stolen goods and attempting to do so.
- Taking a conveyance without owner's consent/authority (TWOC).
- Aggravated TWOC.
- Going equipped for burglary or theft.
- Fraud and attempted fraud by false representation, failing to disclose information, or by abuse of position.
- Possession of articles for use in frauds.
- Making or supplying articles for use in frauds.
- Begging and persistent begging.
- Possession of a specified Class A controlled drug.
- Production or supply of a specified Class A controlled drug.
- Possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply where that drug is a specified Class A controlled drug.
Method of testing and refusal of test
Saliva swabs are taken to check if heroin, cocaine or crack cocaine have been taken. Alternatively, a urine sample may be taken.
The police cannot use force to take any sample for the purpose of drug testing. However, not giving a sample for testing is a separate offence punishable by a prison sentence of up to three months and/or a fine of up to £2,500.
If you refuse to provide a sample without a good reason, you should be told by the police officer that you could be prosecuted.
Disagreeing with a test
The effects of a positive drug test
If you test positive for heroin or cocaine you can be made to attend an initial assessment with a drugs worker to see if you tend to use Class A drugs, are likely to again and are suitable for treatment . You may also have to attend a follow up assessment if the drug worker thinks this is needed. Attendance is mandatory even if you are released without any further action in respect of the original offence you were arrested for. If the police advise you to attend an assessment and/or a follow up assessment they must tell you that if you fail to attend without good cause it is a separate offence for which you can be prosecuted.
Failure to attend the inital assessment or follow up assessment (if required), or failure to remain for the duration of the assessments is punishable by a prison sentence of up to three months and/or a fine of up to £2,500.
A positive test result will also be passed on to the court and must be taken into account when the court makes a decision on bail. If the Court decides to give you bail, it will be a condition of your bail to go to that appointment and any follow up meetings. If you do not agree to this you will not be given bail and will be kept in prison until the next hearing.
Drug testing young people
Testing on arrest cannot be carried out on those under 18-years-old.
Testing upon charge can be carried out on those aged 14 years and above. Young people should not be tested without the presence of an ‘appropriate adult’.
An appropriate adult can be any of the following:
- A parent or guardian, or if the young person is in the care of the local authority, a representative;
- A social worker of a local authority social service department;
- If none of the above is available, then any responsible person aged 18 years or over, who is not a police officer or a person employed by the police, including a specalist appropropriate adult who is either either paid or voluntary.
Remember: If you have been arrested, you should always exercise your right to have a solicitor present. You will not have to pay for legal representation at the police station.