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Drink Driving

Driving (or in charge) when under the influence of drink or drugs (section 4); 

Driving (or in charge/attempting to drive) with excess alcohol (section 5); 


Drink Driving has become one of the most serious offence for all drivers and carries automatic disqualification

for a minimum of 12 months. 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.

 

 

 

 

What is the legal definition of 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 legal limit?

 

The current limit is:


35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath;


80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood;


107 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine.

 

There has been some discussion about the lowering of these legal limits.

 

What does ‘being in charge’ of a motor vehicle 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.The current limit is:

 

  • 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath;

  • 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood;

  • 107 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine.

 

 

How do the police test you for excess alcohol?

 

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 the test (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.

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.

 

I was stopped by the police for no reason. Are they able to stop drivers and test randomly for excess alcohol?

 

Although the Police cannot carry out a random breath test, they are 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.

 

What if I am actually the passenger and not the driver?

 

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.

 

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.

 

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. If you refuse to give a sample you could be charged with this separate offence.

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.

 

I was asked to give a breath specimen. Am I able to refuse and give a urine or blood instead?

 

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 micrograms or below, you should be released with a warning. Between 40 and 50 micrograms 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 happens if I fail the roadside breath test but I pass the test at the police station?

 

In theory, you should be allowed to leave the police station. 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.

 

If the lowest reading is 39 micrograms or below, you should be released with a warning. Between 40 and 50 micrograms 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  that will be imposed?

 

 

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

 

Failing to provide a roadside breath test

 

  • Discretionary disqualification

  • 4 penalty points and fine up to £1,000.00

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