Caught Out The Next Day – How Simpson Millar Helped A Drink Driver Get A Reduced Sentence


The Law Of… Mitigating Circumstances

A regular trip to his mother's house one Tuesday morning ended unexpectedly for one client, when he was stopped on suspicion of driving over the limit. Julie Robertson, a Drink Driving Solicitor at Simpson Millar, explains the circumstances and outcome of this particular case.

drink driving

A Law-Abiding Citizen

It was an August morning when our client left the home he shared with his partner in a sleepy village just outside York, and began the journey to the house of his 91 year old mother, a dementia sufferer who relied on his help.

FA (the client's initials) had almost completed the 12 mile trip when he noticed a police vehicle in his rear view mirror, directing him to pull over. Having been a law-abiding citizen all of his life, FA did as requested, unable to think of any reason why the police would show an interest in him.

He was in for a shock when the officer began to explain.

Home Alone

Rewind to the previous day and the client was home alone. With his partner staying overnight with relatives, FA decided to have a drink. Due to recurring spells of gout and a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, he was under doctor's orders to lose weight. As a result, FA only drank gin and Slimline tonic.

As he was on his own, he drank more than was usual for him before retiring to bed at around 10.30pm.

Arrested At The Roadside

The client's mother lived 12 miles away on the other side of York and a combination of her age and dementia meant she had difficulty looking after herself.

On the morning he was pulled over, FA was on his way there to take her to a chiropodist's appointment. He had awoken at 6.30am, drank coffee but neglected to have anything to eat. Feeling fine and having no misgivings about being fit to drive, FA set off.

En route, he stopped off for an hour at a swimming pool near to his destination, still having had nothing to eat. He stopped again at a local shop to buy his mother a sandwich for her lunch. This proved to be his last stop prior to the fateful meeting with North Yorkshire Police.

The officer who emerged from the police van informed FA that a member of the public had reported him – which later transpired to be the shopkeeper – and there was reason to believe he was driving either over the limit or unfit through drink.

Eager to cooperate, FA submitted to a breathalyser test, which he failed. He was arrested on suspicion of drink driving and taken in the van to York police station.

Two Further Specimens Of Breath

In a state of shock at having blown over the limit, further upset was headed FA's way when he gave two more specimens of breath at the station.

As is required of anybody who is suspected of drink driving, he was instructed to provide the samples using the evidential breath-alcohol analysis device. This is an instrument which provides a printout, which is admissible as evidence in court. Refusal to take the breath test is a chargeable offence, treated and penalised often in a more serious way than having failed one.

FA complied with the request, with the lower of the two readings being the one that would determine whether the police would have grounds to proceed with a prosecution.

His results were returned as 92 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit for England, Scotland and Wales is 35.

Following his breath test, the client was kept in a cell and routinely tested until the reading had dropped below the legal limit. He was subsequently charged with drink driving and bailed to appear at Magistrates' Court on a later date.

Aggravating Factors

Although FA was free to attend court without legal representation – where his inexperience would undoubtedly have been laid bare by the Prosecution – he chose to secure the services of Simpson Millar. Julie Robertson mounted his defence.

It came to light that there were a number of aggravating factors that the police were intending to use as part of the case against him.

These were:

  • The shopkeeper claimed he had smelled alcohol and that FA struggled to keep his balance
  • The arresting officer claimed FA had to lean on his car to stand upright
  • It was claimed that FA told police he had consumed 2 bottles of wine and a bottle of vodka the previous night.

The client denied all these claims.

Mitigating Circumstances

A breakthrough moment in FA's favour came when it emerged that the evidential breath-alcohol device used at the police station had returned errors. This alone would've put a substantial-sized dent in the Prosecution's case.

Unfortunately, FA didn't have the financial resources to take his case all the way to acquittal and was only interested in damage limitation. He therefore chose to plead 'guilty' to the charge of drink driving.

With this in mind, Simpson Millar set about compiling mitigating evidence to present the client's plea in a more positive light.

This included:

  • FA's previously good character
  • The impact the drink driving charge had had on FA's life
  • The potential effects of a substantial disqualification upon FA's elderly and dementia-afflicted mother
  • Obtaining character references.

When the time for the court hearing arrived, there was one further card waiting to be played.

A Deal, Mitigation And A More Lenient Sentence

We spoke with the Prosecutor prior to the case commencing. Following negotiation, an arrangement was reached that in return for the 'aggravating factors' not being read out in court, the defence would not mention the errors associated with the evidential breath analysis device, nor press an argument for the equipment being faulty.

The 'guilty' plea was put to the court and the case moved to sentencing.

Persuaded by the mitigation that was presented to it, particularly a character reference from the Salvation Army, and giving credit for FA's entering of a 'guilty' plea, the Magistrates' Court imposed a more lenient sentence than it would otherwise have done.

FA was disqualified from driving for 23 months; with a further 23 week reduction on condition he attended a drink drive rehabilitation course. In light of the plea and mitigation, the financial penalty incurred was also reduced from the statutory maximum fine of £5,000.

Had the client chosen to represent himself, these mitigating factors would not have seen the light of day. Additionally, the aggravating factors would have been presented to the court, giving it no alternative but to return a harsher sentence.

Fully aware of this, FA was more than delighted, concluding that:

"Everyone at Simpson Millar was extremely professional and helpful. I would not hesitate in recommending them."

If you have been accused of drink driving, don't settle for the maximum sentence. Contact one of our Motoring Offences team today.

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