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The Law, You & Us
Drink Driving Offences Law Guide
The consequences of committing a drink driving offence can be severe and punishable through sentences that may include a driving ban or imprisonment. While there are some limited defences available, the offences are of ‘strict liability' so it is irrelevant whether the accused held the belief that they were sober at the time. Below is an explanation of each of the four main drink driving offences and the sentences that can be imposed following conviction.
Driving with Excess Alcohol
Driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol over the prescribed alcohol limit on a road or in a public place can be punished through imprisonment for a maximum of six months, a £5,000 fine and a driving ban. In order to secure a conviction, an official test must be carried out at the police station. This will take the form of a breath, urine or blood test.
As mentioned, there may be limited defences available. These include: a failure by the police to follow the correct procedures; alcohol consumed was done so after ceasing to drive or the breath testing instrument provided an unreliable reading.
Failure to Provide a Specimen
Failure to provide a specimen of blood, breath or urine at the police station can carry a six month prison sentence, a £5,000 fine as well as a driving ban. The court may infer from a refusal to provide a specimen that the suspect drove or attempted to drive while knowingly over the limit. Punishment for this offence may be more severe as the court will be unable to ascertain the precise level of intoxication.
Being Drunk in Charge of a Vehicle
To be guilty of this offence, the accused must have an intention to drive the vehicle. The offence can be committed by a person in or around the vehicle. To raise the statutory defence, it must be proven that on the balance of probabilities the accused would not have driven. This defence is likely to prove successful if it can be established that alternative means of transport are available and there is evidence of an intention to use such means.
This offence is punishable by a driving ban or ten points on the party's driving licence as well as three months imprisonment and a fine up to £2,500.
Driving While Unfit Through Drink or Drugs
While similar to the first offence, for this offence no specimen is required. A professional such as a doctor or police officer merely casts their opinion on the suspect's suitability to drive. A person guilty of this offence can expect to face driving disqualification, six months imprisonment and a £5,000 fine.
Defending Drink Driving Offences
Anyone accused of a drink driving offence should immediately instruct solicitors experienced in dealing with these types of cases. The available defences are limited but a thorough understanding of the police procedures and the special circumstances that courts take into account when sentencing could help avoid a ban or imprisonment.
The following links may be useful if you need more information.