Failing/Refusal to Provide a Specimen

Failing or refusing to provide a specimen when asked by a police officer may be a choice you are making on principle but that choice has wide ranging consequences. Knowing where you stand and how to defend your actions is often a complex legal procedure and so you will require expert legal advice.

Failing to Provide a Specimen

If it is alleged that you have failed to provide a specimen of breath, urine or blood for analysis, it is essential that you have someone representing you that has a detailed legal understanding of the situation. Often, cases like this can be more complex than they seem and require a solicitor to investigate.

Where a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a motorist has driven their vehicle whilst over the limit, they may ask them to provide a specimen of breath at the roadside using a breathalyser machine.

If you don't provide a sample or you fail to do so, you can be arrested and taken to a police station where further tests will be required. These tests could be anything from a further breathalyser, taking a sample of blood or a sample of urine.

If you can provide a sample and it proves to be positive, then you will be charged with driving with excess alcohol/ driving over the limit. If you still fail to provide a specimen for analysis, then you will be charged with failing to provide a specimen.

Failing to provide a specimen can be split into two offences:

  • Failing to provide a specimen of breath at the roadside and
  • Failing to provide a specimen for evidence, most likely at the police station

There may be a situation where you've refused to provide a sample when asked and you were charged with failing to provide a specimen. In instances like this, if you used tactics or behaviour in an attempt to delay providing a sample, that may be used to strengthen the prosecution against you.

The penalties

The penalties for failing to provide a specimen are split into 2 categories, at the roadside and when you get to the police station.

If you fail to provide a specimen at the roadside, you will receive 4 points on your driving licence. You could be fined up to £1000 and disqualification is discretionary.

Failing to provide an evidential specimen at the police station depends on whether the court believes that you wilfully and deliberately did not provide a specimen or if you didn't give breath because you mistakenly believed that you had a reasonable excuse not to do so.

Any sentence will depend on the severity of the offence in question and the strength of the mitigation put forward. Sometimes, a prison sentence of 6 months is imposed or, if there is a second similar or other alcohol related offence on your record from within the last 10 years, the risk of you receiving a custodial sentence will increase and a minimum 5 year disqualification could be ordered.

Your defence

The procedure to acquire the specimen for analysis is very detailed and a failure to carry these out properly can result in the prosecution against you failing. The law in this area is extremely complex and the case law is just as difficult to understand. Early advice from an expert can increase the chances of a positive outcome, particularly if a technical defence is to be argued.

When it comes to the range of factual defences available for failing to provide a specimen, they are limited and largely restricted to a person being physically unable to provide sufficient breath for the test to be completed. In law, this is called a "reasonable excuse" but the public will know it as a "medical excuse". This is the most common defence for a driver who is suffering from a condition like asthma.

In some cases of breath tests, the reasonable excuse has been extended to faulty mouthpieces that prevent giving the right amount of breath.

If you were unable to understand what was required of you at the police station or the procedure used because, for example, you were highly distressed or you have a limited command of English, this may also amount to a reasonable excuse. This is not an effective defence if the reason you don't understand is due to your intoxication.

Where you don't have a defence for failing to provide a specimen, there may be special reasons that could be argued on your behalf to avoid being disqualified from driving entirely or to encourage the court to use its discretion to shorten the time of disqualification. We have a great deal of experience helping people who are involved in alcohol cases receive penalty points instead of a disqualification from driving.

What we can do

In most circumstances, we can help to get you the fairest outcome for the situation. There may be cases where your livelihood would be affected or you would experience immense hardship if you are prevented from driving. We will help you to put the best case forward so the court can determine the most suitable penalty in your situation.

If you are unfortunate enough to be subject to a charge of failing to provide a specimen and you do in fact have a medical reason, we can gather the right medical evidence to support your case.

Don't just accept an allegation of failing to provide a specimen, seek legal advice first before you risk losing your driving licence.


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Julie Robertson - Motoring Offences and Criminal Defence Solicitor - Manchester

Julie Robertson
Partner, Head of Motoring & Criminal Defences

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