Drink Driving

Drink driving has become one of the most serious offence for all drivers and carries automatic disqualification. Repeat offenders risk imprisonment. Specialist advice is always recommended, particularly if there is a dispute on the level of alcohol consumed or the method in which the Police have obtained their evidence. Our team has amassed extensive knowledge of defending such cases and is able to give you frank and professional advice. We do not condone drink driving but we do appreciate that many motorists simply do not understand how the law works or is enforced. Whilst ignorance is no defence, it can make a difference.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is drink driving?

Drink driving is legally defined as driving, attempting to drive or being in charge of a motor vehicle on the public highway or a public place, whilst under the influence of alcohol exceeding the prescribed limit.

What is the prescribed limit?

The current limit 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.

How is drink driving tested?

You can be asked to supply a breath test if a Police Officer thinks you have exceeded the limit (e.g. due to the standard of your driving) or you have committed any other motoring offence, have been involved in an accident or the Police can smell alcohol on your breath. A roadside breath test can then be administered and if you fail (ie the test is positive) you will be arrested and taken to the Police station where you will be asked to provide a further 2 specimens of breath for analysis using approved equipment. The lower reading is the one that will be used.

The Police had no reason to stop me. Are random breath tests allowed?

Although the Police cannot carry out a random breath test, they are perfectly entitled to stop a driver without explanation. If at that stage, an issue arises that gives the Officer suspicion that the driver has been drinking, a breath test can be demanded. Normally, a driver will be asked if he has been drinking. If the response is "Yes" the test is justified. If the response is "No", the Officer is lawfully entitled to require the driver to take a breath test if the Officer suspects that alcohol has been consumed. It is important to note that the Officer does not have to prove that suspicion to be correct.

Can I give a blood or urine sample instead of a breath test?

No, failing to supply a specimen of breath is in itself an offence without reasonable excuse. Being too drunk to complete the test is not a reasonable excuse. A medical condition maybe a justified reason, depending on the condition.

What if the reading is borderline?

If the lowest reading is 39 microgrammes or below, you should be released with a warning. Between 40 and 50 microgrammes you should then be given the option of blood/urine tests. Whichever option is taken, is for the Police to decide. A urine sample is on the basis of 2 samples within 1 hour. A blood sample must be taken by a Police surgeon. You can demand 2 blood samples are taken which can be useful in defending the charge.

What if I am still over the limit?

You will be charged, cautioned and bailed to attend Court.

If I am found guilty, what are the likely penalties?

Failing to provide a roadside breath test
Discretionary disqualification
4 penalty points and fine up to £1,000.00

Driving/attempting to drive with excess alcohol
12 month mandatory disqualification for first offence or
3 years for second offence within 10 years
Fine of up to £5,000.00 and/or 6 months imprisonment

Being in charge of a vehicle with excess alcohol
10 penalty points and discretionary disqualification
Fine of up to £2,500.00 and/or 3 months imprisonment

After driving/attempting to drive, refusing to provide samples for analysis
Mandatory 12 month disqualification for the first offence
3 years for second offence within 10 years
Fine of up to £5,000.00 and/or 6 months imprisonment

After being in charge and refusing to provide samples for analysis
10 Penalty points and/or discretionary disqualification
Fine of up to £2,500.00 and/or 3 months imprisonment

Can I get the sentence reduced?

The Court does have the opportunity to consider sending a convicted motorist on a rehabilitation course. The benefits to the driver is that it entitles a reduction of 25% of the disqualification period. A mandatory 12 month ban would therefore be reduced to 9 months. If you agree to attend the course (which you have to pay for) you will be contacted by the course organiser and advised of the sessions that you need to attend. The course will normally last between 16 and 30 hours and will deal with 8–20 motorists in each session. It is designed to demonstrate the effects of drink driving etc and will include seminars, discussion assessment, particularly dealing with driving ability and behaviour. You cannot demand to be sent on the course; it is at the discretion of the Court.

What does "being in charge" mean?

If you are not driving a vehicle, but are in the vehicle on the public highway/public place, you can be deemed as "in charge" of the vehicle, even if you do not have the keys for the vehicle.

Can I refuse to give a sample until my solicitor arrives?

No, the Police must obtain the evidence as quickly as possible to establish the amount of alcohol before it is broken down by your metabolism.

What happens if I fail the roadside breath test but pass at the Police station?

In theory, you should be allowed to leave. However, in some circumstances, a forensic scientist can be instructed to "back calculate" the level at the time of the incident. This is normally only used in serious incidents/accidents.

What if the identity of the driver is unclear?

If there is more than one person in the vehicle and no one admits to driving, the Police can breathalyse any occupant who they have reasonable cause to believe to be the driver or in charge of the vehicle.

What if I am actually the passenger?

If you fail to identify the driver, and the Police cannot establish his identity, you can be prosecuted for being "in charge" of the vehicle, as detailed above.