At the beginning of December, police forces across England and Wales will enforce a crack-down on an offence which is often undetected but nonetheless very prevalent, drink driving. Police forces have also announced they will run “intelligence-led” operations to crack down on drink driving over the Christmas period. During last year’s Christmas campaign, the police stopped over 100,000 vehicles, with 5,698 breath tests that were failed or refused. If you are arrested on suspicion of being under the influence this festive period it’s vital you speak to our drink driving solicitors. The consequences of a conviction can be devastating and can affect livelihoods, relationships and earnings.
What is the law regarding drink driving?
You do not have to be driving your vehicle to be arrested. You can be arrested for being “drunk in charge of a motor vehicle”. What the law considers to be ‘in charge’ of a motor vehicle can be difficult to determine. You do not necessarily have to be inside the vehicle or even in possession of the keys!
Drink driving limits
It is impossible to say the exactly how many drinks put you over the limit as it is different for each person. You will be asked to provide a sample, usually breath by the road or blood or urine at the police station. The limits are:
Level of alcohol
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Micrograms per 100ml of breath
Milligrammes per 100ml of blood
Milligrammes per 100ml of uring
You can also be arrested for “Failing to provide a specimen”.
Drunk in charge of a motor vehicle
In most of these cases, people are arrested because someone is sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle. From this point on, as with any alcohol related offence it is vital to follow the police procedures to avoid additional charges.
The burden of defence falls with the defendants. It takes a skilled solicitor to make the court understand there was no likelihood of the defendant driving whilst over the limit. Scientific evidence is often relied upon to demonstrate this to the court.
“Drunk in charge of a motor vehicle” can lead to a prison sentence. The penalties are often reliant on your level of alcohol and include:
- Fine up to £2,500
- Community Order
- Up to 3 months in prison
- Disqualification or 10 points on your licence
Driving with excess alcohol
If you drive, or attempt to drive, a vehicle whilst over the limit you can receive a prison sentence. Most cases are straightforward but some can be challenging and complex. For example, if the driver consumed alcohol after they drove. Scientific evidence can be called upon to help the defendant.
The penalties for “Driving with excess alcohol” depend on your level of alcohol and include:
- Fine up to £5,000
- Community Order
- Up to 6 months in prison
- Disqualification for at least 12 months. For a second offence within 10 years it’s a minimum of 3 years disqualification.
You may be offered the opportunity to attend a driver’s rehabilitation programme. This will reduce your sentence by up to 25% but you will have to pay for the course and complete it by a date set by the court.
It is possible in certain circumstances to avoid disqualification if there are ‘special reasons’. These special reasons can be applied by the court if it is morally unfair to disqualify the driver. It takes a skilled solicitor to convince the court that it should be applied. They are not a defence and you will still be charged but the punishments will be less severe.
Some arguments for special reasons include:
- Driving in an emergency of situation
- Attempting to escape a serious threat of violence
- Driving a short distance
- Drinks spiked/laced with alcohol or additional alcohol
You may also be able to avoid disqualification on the grounds of ‘exceptional hardship’. Most of us rely on our ability to drive to earn a living and support our family. The loss of a driving licence can have significant consequences on employment and family stability.
It is possible to persuade a court not to disqualify you from driving, or to reduce the period, on the ground of exceptional hardship. However, it does take a skilled solicitor supported by evidence. Examples of exceptional hardship include:
- Loss of your employment
- Loss of your business
- Impact upon your employees
- Loss of your home
- Use of your motor vehicle to care for the elderly or disabled
- Impact upon your family or other dependant third party
Defences for Driving with excess alcohol
Sometimes you can be wrongly accused of driving with excess alcohol. In these cases the defence is often one of the following:
- You were not the driver
- Concerns over the way in which the police conducted the investigation, such as incorrectly applying the specimen procedure either at the roadside or the police station, or some other defect in the way in which the police approached the arrest and period of detention
- Alternatively, there many be concerns over the reliability of the specimen device used either at the roadside or at the police station to obtain a specimen of breath
- There may also be concerns about the reliability and validity of the results of samples other than breath, such as urine or blood, and concerns over the way in which the samples were stored in order to produce reliable results.
Drink driving solicitor specialists
Our solicitors are experts at defending people accused of alcohol related driving offences. We take a forensic approach to each case, analysing your circumstances and situation to provide you with the best defence. We regularly help our clients avoid disqualification on the grounds of special reasons or exceptional hardship to make sure they experiences as little disruption to their lives as possible.