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Drink Driving & Excess Alcohol

Drink Driving is one of the most common yet most serious driving offences. It carries a mandatory ban if convicted unless you are able to put forward a successful special reasons argument. Also see below on some of the defences available for drink driving.

The current legal limit in England is:

35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath;
80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood;
107 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine.

Even if you can’t defend the allegation, it is important to know how to put forward good mitigation to the court as this can affect the length of the ban imposed and whether any more serious other penalties are ordered.

Whether your court hearing is in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire or another Magistrates’ Court, Pragma Law can provide you with advice on drink driving.

Driving offences involving alcohol

There are several offences which can result through a combination of vehicles and alcohol. Unfortunately, they just don’t mix. Below is the list of possible driving offences:

  • Driving or attempting to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle while unfit to drive through drink or drugs;
  • Being in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle while unfit to drive through drink or drugs;
  • Driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in the person’s breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit;
  • Being in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or public place after consuming alcohol so that the proportion of it in the person’s breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit;
  • Without reasonable excuse, failing to co-operate with a preliminary test;
  • Without reasonable excuse, failing to supply specimens of breath, blood or urine for analysis;
  • Without reasonable excuse, failing to allow specimen of blood to be subjected to a laboratory test;

When can the police require me to give a breath sample?

The courts have stated that, provided there is no malpractice, caprice or opprobrious behaviour on the part of the police, there is no restriction on them being able to stop motorists for the purpose of ascertaining whether the drivers have alcohol in their bodies and on the subsequent requirement of a breath test;

What this really means is that the police can stop motorists at random, but they cannot require breath tests at random. There must be something which gives rise to reasonable suspicion that the driver has been drinking. In practice, the police usually invariably say that it was the smell of alcohol on the motorist’s breath which gave rise to that suspicion.

What are the penalties for drink driving?

At the bottom end of the scale they range from a one year mandatory ban (provided it’s the first offence of this type in the last ten years, otherwise it’s a mandatory minimum three year ban). At the top end, you risk a prison sentence and a lengthy ban.

What if I don’t provide a breath sample?

If you fail without reasonable excuse to provide a breath sample, you are guilty of an offence. If you fail to provide at the roadside, you face 4 penalty points being endorsed on your licence. If you fail to provide at the police station, you risk similar penalties to those which would have been imposed had you provided a sample which was above the limit. Of course they won’t know what your real limit is, but if you appear intoxicated, the police will be sure to make a note of this on the documentation, and the prosecutor is likely to mention their comments at court.

If you want to put forward a defence that you couldn’t give the sample, you will need to be able to back this up with medical evidence. The court won’t just take your word for it.

Can I choose to take a blood or urine test instead?

No, this option was removed in April 2015. It was previously available as an option for those who blew a reading of between 40 and 50.

Can I challenge the accuracy of the test?

Yes potentially but if you’re asking us to try and ascertain whether the police have made a mistake somewhere or to provide evidence that the intoxilyzer is inaccurate, then we may or may not find anything. It’s important that you realise that many hours could be spent going through the evidence with a fine tooth comb, and there may, or may not be anything to find.

The prosecution don’t have a duty to disclose all the evidence prior to you entering a plea, which means that at the very least, a not guilty plea has to be entered in order for the case against you to be disclosed. If you plead guilty at the earliest opportunity, you usually receive one third discount on your financial penalty and if you subsequently change your plea to guilty at a later time, you’ll have lost some of your credit.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t plead not guilty if you believe you’re innocent, but it is important that you make an informed decision and are aware of the implications. We’ll do our best for you whatever you decide to do, and we promise to provide honest advice at all times.

Are there any other defences to drink driving?

If you have a possible defence to drink driving, we’ll find it.

The prosecution have to prove that you either drove or attempted to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit.

Therefore, if the police didn’t actually see you drive or attempt to drive a vehicle, you may have a defence. This can depend on whether there are other witnesses and the strength of their evidence.

If you’ve consumed alcohol after driving the vehicle but before you were breathalysed, then again, you should have a defence. An expert witness would be required to provide a ‘back calculation’ to demonstrate that the later drinking is what put you over the limit.

There are also a number of more ‘technical defences’ such as, if the police fail to give you the statutory warning, but these types of defences are usually more risky. This shouldn’t stop you from relying on them if the police have genuinely made a mistake.

Medical reasons for being over the limit are not generally considered defences. These fall under the category of Special Reasons. This means that you are technically guilty, but there are circumstances which the court should be aware of which can give them discretion over the sentence imposed.

If you believe that you have a defence to drink driving, or that special reasons may apply, you really should discuss this with a solicitor before taking it any further.

Can I put forward an Exceptional Hardship argument to avoid a ban?

Exceptional Hardship can only be argued to avoid a totting disqualification. That is when a person is going to reach 12 points or more within a three year period and faces a minimum six month ban. It cannot be used to prevent a ban from being imposed where the disqualification is obligatory for the offence itself such as drink driving.

For free advice, speak to a solicitor on our local rate number 0330 1330 081 or, if you prefer, fill out our Contact Form and we'll call you back: usually the same day and often within the hour. You can also email us here.