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Drink Driving Offences

The offence of drink driving is committed if:

a person drives or attempts to drive a vehicle on a road or other public place after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit he is guilty of an offence”

If convicted of the of the offence of Drink Driving, the Court will impose a mandatory disqualification for a minimum period of 12 months. We can request on your behalf that the Court make the offer to you to complete what is known as the Drink Driver Rehabilitation Court which, if completed in the time frame set down by the Court, will reduce your disqualification by 25%.

With our vast experience in respect of these cases, we will discuss your case with you and advise you with regard to all aspects of it and will provide you with a full evaluation of your case as to any defence(s) available and provide you with advice on the realistic prospects of the same.

We will also advise as to the procedural requirements of obtaining a breath, blood or urine sample from you as the process requires strict adherence to procedure by those conducting it. If we consider that there is a procedural issue with your case then it may be that the case against you cannot be proven.

Our objective is to put you first and if we do not consider that there is a defence available to you, then we will advise you as to the most appropriate way forward in seeking to obtain the most favourable outcome with regard to your case. If you plead guilty to the offence then we can assist you by providing representation so that mitigation can be advanced to the Court on your behalf.

There are instances when the allegation of drinking and driving can be dealt with in such a way that if you can prove and satisfy the Court that there were special reasons as to why you were driving whilst over the limit, then the Court may decide not to disqualify you or impose a reduced disqualification. This is known as a putting forward a Special Reasons argument.

It is important to bear in mind that a Special Reason is NOT a defence to the allegation of Drink Driving. The main examples of Special Reasons Arguments are –

  • Your drinks were laced without your knowledge and you didn’t realise that you were over the legal limit.
  • You had to drive because it was an emergency and you had no other choice.
  • You only drove a very short distance and you didn’t put any other drivers / pedestrians at risk

Defences for Drinking and Driving Allegations;

  • Showing that you were not driving.
  • Denying that you were driving on a road or in a public place.
  • Arguing that you consumed the alcohol that took you over the legal limit after you stopped driving (otherwise known as a hip flask defence).
  • Denying that you were over the limit and arguing that the police evidence is unreliable.

Breath Readings

  • The legal drink driving alcohol limit is 35 milligrams per 100 millilitres of breath

Below are the sentencing guidelines in respect of this offence.

Excess Alcohol (drive/attempt to drive) (Revised 2017)

Road Traffic Act 1988, s.5(1)(a)

Effective from: 24 April 2017

Triable only summarily
Maximum: Unlimited fine and/or 6 months
Offence range: Band B fine – 26 weeks’ custody

Level of alcohol Starting point Range Disqualification Disqualification if 2nd offence in 10 years
Breath (μg) Blood (mg) Urine (mg)  
120–150 and above 276–345 and above 367–459 and above 12 weeks’ custody High level community order – 26 weeks’ custody 29 – 36 months      (Extend if imposing immediate custody) 36 – 60 months
90 – 119  207–275 275– 366 Medium level community order Low level community order – High level community order 23 – 28 months 36 – 52 months
60 – 89 138–206 184–274 Band C Fine

 

Band C Fine – Low level community order 17 – 22 months 36 – 46 months
36 – 59  81–137 108–183 Band C Fine Band B Fine – Band C fine 12 – 16 months 36 – 40 months

 

 

Drunk in Charge of a Motor Vehicle

It is an offence to be in control of a motor vehicle whilst over the prescribed limit for alcohol.

The penalties for this offence are contained in the table below.

Quite often, there is uncertainty as to whether a person is in control of a vehicle. As a result of this, we have dealt with cases where it has transpired that the police have incorrectly charging someone with this offence. Simply being sat in your vehicle does not mean that you are in control of it. As such, the court will consider the following circumstances;

  • How far you were from the vehicle;
  • What you were doing at the relevant time;
  • Whether you had the ignition key;
  • Whether there is evidence that you were about to drive the vehicle

 

Excess Alcohol (in charge) (Revised 2017)

Road Traffic Act 1988, s.5(1)(b)

Level of alcohol Starting point Range Disqualification/Points
Breath (μg) Blood (mg) Urine (mg)
120–150 and above 276–345 and above 367–459 and above Medium level community order Low level community order – 6 weeks’ custody Disqualify 6 – 12 months

(Extend if imposing immediate custody)

90 –119 207– 275 275–366 Band C fine Band C Fine – Medium level community order Consider disqualification up to 6 months OR 10 points
60 – 89 138– 206 184-274 Band B fine Band B fine – Band C fine Consider disqualification     OR 10 points
36-59 81 – 137 108 –183 Band B fine Band A fine – Band B fine 10 points

 

If it is alleged that you were “in charge” of a motor vehicle whilst the proportion of alcohol in your breath/blood/urine was above the prescribed limit or you were “unfit”, then you will have a defence if you can show that there was no likelihood of you driving your vehicle whilst you remained in excess of the prescribed limit or unfit.

A situation where this defence could arise is where a person might decide to sleep in their car after being on a night out for example. As strange as it sounds, we have dealt with these types of cases over the years. If a situation like this happens, it can be advanced that whilst you may have been in charge of your vehicle, you should not be convicted of the offence if you can show that you would not have driven the vehicle whilst still over the limit.

In order to prove this defence, expert evidence will be required. This will be to consider this issue of your breath/blood/urine reading and the rate at which you would have eliminated the alcohol, so as to demonstrate at what point that you would have been in a fit state to drive after you had consumed your last alcoholic drink.

A similar offence to this is that of Being In Charge of a Motor Vehicle Whilst Unfit through Drink or Drugs.

In Charge of a Motor Vehicle Whilst Unfit through Drink or Drugs.

Unfit through drink or drugs (in charge) (Revised 2017)

Road Traffic Act, 1988, s.4(2)

Level of seriousness Starting Point Range Disqualification/points
Category 1 High level community order Medium level community order – 12 weeks’ custody Consider disqualification (extend if imposing immediate custody) OR 10 points
Category 2 Band C fine Band B fine – Medium level community order Consider disqualification OR 10 points
Category 3 Band B fine Band B fine 10 points

 

Driving Whilst Unfit – Drink or Drugs

Under section 4(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 it is an offence for a person to drive or attempt to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place whilst unfit to drive through drink.

 

Unfit through drink or drugs (drive/ attempt to drive) (Revised 2017)

Road Traffic Act 1988, s.4(1)

 

Category 1 12 weeks’ custody High level community order – 26 weeks’ custody 29 – 36 months

(Extend if imposing immediate custody)

36 – 60 months

(Extend if imposing immediate custody

Category 2 Medium level community order Low level community order – High level community order 17 – 28 months 36 – 52 months
Category 3 Band C fine Band B fine – Low level community order 12 – 16 months 36 – 40 months

 

This offence will be committed where the prosecution prove that a person was “unfit” at the time of driving owing to their consumption of drink or drugs. In order to prove that a person is “unfit” the prosecution will be required to produce evidence of impairment –

  • You were unsteady on your feet
  • Your speech was slurred
  • You smelt of intoxicants
  • Your eyes were glazed
  • You provided a positive breath sample / roadside drug saliva test
  • Your driving was erratic
  • You failed a Field Impairment Test

 

Beyond evidence of “unfitness”, the prosecution will also be required to prove that this “unfitness” was the consequence of the consumption of alcohol or drugs.

It should be noted that reference to “drugs” is not a reference solely to illicit street drugs, but also refers to medications which are prescribed. This could include drugs such as Valium and diazepam, which may be prescribed for a number of medical conditions, but which could also cause driver impairment.

If you have been charged with or are under investigation in respect of any of the above offences, then please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your case further.

Our motor law solicitor team cover all areas including Liverpool, Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire, Clwyd. We specialise in all motor offences including drink driving offences, drug driving offences, speeding offences, penalty point, failing to stop offences, using your mobile phone while driving offences. Contact us for a free initial telephone advice session with an experienced motor solicitor on 07398169441 or email motorlaw@levinslaw.co.uk