What To Do If You Are Caught Drink Driving


The Law Of… Drinking And Driving

What do you do if you have been caught drink driving? What happens if it is alleged you are over the limit? Julie Robertson, Head of Motoring Offences at Simpson Millar, provides a step by step guide to a drink driving charge.

drink driver with car keys

If you have been accused of drink driving or refusing to provide a sample, you will be facing criminal prosecution. Once charged you will be provided with a date on which to attend court, where the outcome of your case will be decided.

The severity of a drink drive charge cannot be understated, as it can put both your livelihood and freedom at risk. Therefore, expert legal advice from a professional motoring offence solicitor should always be your first port of call.

I Have Been Caught Drink Driving, What Should I Do?

Here's what you should be aware of if charged with drink driving:

Caught Drink Driving – At The Roadside

  • If a police officer asks or directs you to pull over when driving, you must comply with the request as soon as it is safe to do so. Failing to stop is an offence in itself, for which you could face an additional charge.
  • A police officer must have reasonable cause to pull you over, meaning that they have to have a reason to suspect you have committed a traffic offence. Once you have stopped they must then have reasonable cause to suspect that you are driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • A breathalyser test can only be requested by a police officer. If they are not in uniform they must provide their warrant card as evidence of who they are. Only a uniformed officer can administer a breath test, except in circumstances where an accident has occurred.
  • It is an offence to refuse or fail to provide a sample of breath to a uniformed police officer. If you do, you will be arrested and taken to the police station.
  • Although failing to provide a specimen is a serious offence that could see you heavily fined and banned, a court will take into account and even accept a valid reason for not doing so. A 'reasonable excuse' for not providing a specimen of breath could be a physical or mental condition that prevents you doing so. An independent motoring offences solicitor would be able to advise you on this.
  • If you provide a breath sample and the breathalyser returns a positive result, you will be arrested and taken to the police station.

Caught Drink Driving – At The Police Station

  • If you have been arrested for drink driving, you will be taken to a police station where you will be required to provide two more samples of breath. These will be taken by an evidential breath testing device, which, unlike the breathalyser police carry in their cars, provides a printout admissible as evidence in court.
  • Failing to provide two specimens of breath is a criminal offence. As with the roadside breath test, it is possible to mount a defence if you have a 'reasonable excuse' for not submitting to breath analysis (see above).
  • A urine or blood sample may be requested if you refuse/are unable to give a specimen of breath; if there is a problem with the evidential breath testing device; or if there are questions regarding the reliability of the breath testing device's results.
  • Refusing to provide a blood or urine sample when requested is a criminal offence. Once again, with the right legal advice, it is possible to have a 'reasonable excuse' for not providing a sample accepted by the court (see above).
  • If you return different readings on your breath analysis test at the police station, the police have to accept the lower of the two.
  • The legal drink drive limit is 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath. If your lowest reading is 35 or below you cannot be charged with drink driving and, as long as you are not being held on suspicion of any other offence, the police must release you.
  • If you have given a blood or urine sample it will need to be sent away for analysis. You will be bailed without charge and expected to return to the station at a later date, when the results will be available.
  • If the evidential breath reading is above 35 micrograms – or 80 or 107 milligrammes per 100 millimetres of blood or urine respectively – the police will charge you with drink driving.
  • If you have been charged with drink driving you will bailed to appear at Magistrate's Court at a later date. As this is a criminal charge, you must attend in person. Failure to do so will result in a warrant for your arrest and offences under the Bail Act 1976, which carry a term of imprisonment.

The Court will not adjourn for you to obtain legal advice. Therefore, it is vital to instruct a motoring offence solicitor who specialises in defending alcohol related driving offences to advise you on whether the Prosecution are able to prove the alleged offence.

Caught Drink Driving – At The Magistrate's Court

  • To increase your chances of avoiding a ban or imprisonment, it is important to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity after being charged. A specialist drink driving solicitor will have the expertise to provide you with the guidance and insights that you may otherwise miss were you to attend court without legal representation or with a non-specialist solicitor, untrained in spotting errors and flaws in police procedure.
  • Your first court appearance will be a plea hearing, where you will have the opportunity to enter a plea of either 'not guilty' or 'guilty'. If pleading not guilty, a trial date will be set, whereupon you will be required to return to court in order to advance your defence.
  • Although a court hearing can be a stressful experience, it will give you the opportunity to put forward your side of events. With proper legal representation this can mean the difference between a ban, a fine or an acquittal.
  • A solicitor who specialises in drink driving and motoring offences will look beyond the black and white details of a case and seek to identify inconsistencies or discrepancies, such as in witness statements or procedural conduct, which can be levered to your advantage. These will be presented in court, strengthening your case.
  • A verdict will be reached, based upon the evidence provided by both parties. If a 'not guilty' plea is accepted you will be free to go, with no further action and no impact upon your driving record.
  • If, on the day, the court's judgement goes against you, you will be sentenced in accordance with the sentencing guidelines issued to Magistrates. Again, a motoring offence solicitor is better trained than a non-specialist lawyer in obtaining a better than guideline sentence.

What Are the Penalties If Found Guilty Of Drink Driving?

If you are found guilty of drink driving, the possible sentences depend upon the charge.

Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for evidential analysis:

  • A prison sentence of 6 months maximum
  • An unlimited fine
  • A minimum 1 year driving ban (3 years if second conviction in 10 years).

Being In charge of a vehicle while above legal limit or unfit through drink:

  • A prison sentence of 3 months maximum
  • A maximum fine of £2,500
  • 10 penalty points or a driving ban.

Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink:

  • A prison sentence of 6 months maximum
  • An unlimited fine
  • A minimum 1 year driving ban (3 years if second conviction in 10 years).

The strength of the case and mitigating circumstances your solicitor argues in your favour will determine whether there is any leniency in the sentencing.

Obtaining Legal Advice

The importance of obtaining sound and independent legal advice at the earliest opportunity following a drink driving charge cannot be emphasised enough. You should ensure your solicitor has both a firm grounding and proven experience in defending drink driving charges.

Simpson Millar's Motoring Offence team specialises in finding fault where others may miss it. Practised in the finer points of drink drive law, our solicitors have the knowledge and expertise required to capitalise on the technicalities and loopholes that can see your case thrown out of court or sentencing significantly reduced.

With a string of successful acquittals and lesser penalties behind them, our Motoring Offence Department can offer you specialist advice and informed representation.

We offer a friendly, professional service and we will never judge you. If you have been caught drink driving, we are here to help.

If you have been charged with drink driving, time is of the essence. Delay no further, contact Simpson Millar today.

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