Drunk In Charge - I Knew I Was Drunk But...


Didn't think you could get charged for drink driving if the vehicle isn't moving? Think again. If you're sat in your vehicle over the limit, even if the car is parked and the engine is off, you could get in trouble for being 'drunk in charge'.

Drunk In Charge - I Knew I Was Drunk But...

This is something that causes a great deal of bother for many unsuspecting motorists, who are all of a sudden facing a drink driving charge without realising that they were doing anything wrong.

What is Being Drunk in Charge?

Being drunk in charge of a vehicle is different to drink driving, in that you don't actually have to be driving. It's enough to show that you were over the drink driving limit, and depending on the facts, that you had an intention to drive your car.

The punishments for being drunk in charge are typically lower than that for drink driving, but can include receiving a fine of up to £2,500, a driving ban or an endorsement of 10 penalty points (which could also result in a ban if you already have 3 points and risk "totting up").

Lots of motorists come to us at Simpson Millar LLP facing prosecution for being drunk in charge of their vehicle. Julie Robertson, our Head of Motoring Offences, is on hand to look at some common scenarios that land unwitting motorists in hot water.

I drank at a friend's house and knew I was over the limit, so rather than driving home I decided to stay the night. There were no free beds at the house so I chose to sleep in the car.

Even if you are in the car with the engine turned off, if the keys are on you and you're over the limit you could face a charge for being drunk in charge of the vehicle.

The offence of being drunk in charge relies on intention, therefore, whether or not you intended to drive when you decided to open the car and get in. With the right help and a well-presented defence, you could show that you were not planning to drive until you had slept it off and the alcohol had completely left your system.

People in this situation should be wary as if you were planning to set off straight away the next morning, the levels of alcohol in your blood could still be high enough to result in a drink driving offence being committed.

I had been drinking but I'd left my coat in the car, I unlocked the car and got in to reach my coat from the passenger foot well. Can I be prosecuted just for unlocking the car to retrieve something when I'm over the limit?

If a police officer sees you get in the car with the keys in your hand, you could face being breathalysed and charged with being drunk in charge, even if you're only intending to retrieve something from the car.

Again, the best course of action would be to get advice from a solicitor to make sure that it's properly presented that your intention was just to collect an item from the vehicle.

What Should I Do if I'm Facing A Charge?

If it's alleged that you were drunk in charge of your vehicle, you'll need to use the defence that you had no intention of driving whilst the alcohol in your body was above the legal limit. The law on being drunk in charge and drink driving is complex, and you'll need the right support if you hope to put forward a successful defence. Even if you decide to plead guilty, it is hard to persuade a Court to impose the penalty point sentence instead of a ban without a persuasive lawyer and good mitigation.

Whether or not you intend to plead guilty, it's vital that you get expert help from a specialist motoring offences solicitor. Our motoring offences team are experienced in helping to achieve the best possible outcome for our clients.

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