Community, Diaspora and Immigration

UK – Drink Driving Law

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Drink driving has become one of the most serious offence for all drivers and carries automatic disqualification. 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. Our team has amassed extensive knowledge of defending such cases and is able to give you frank and professional advice. We do not condone drink driving but we do appreciate that many motorists simply do not understand how the law works or is enforced. Whilst ignorance is no defence, it can make a difference.

What is 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 limit?

  • The current limit is:
  • 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath;
  • 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood;
  • 107 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine.

The Police had no reason to stop me. Are random breath tests allowed?
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.

What if the reading is borderline?
If the lowest reading is 39 microgrammes or below, you should be released with a warning. Between 40 and 50 microgrammes 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?

  • Failing to provide a roadside breath test
  • Discretionary disqualification
  • 4 penalty points and fine up to £1,000.00
  • 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

Can I get the sentence reduced?
The Court does have the opportunity to consider sending a convicted motorist on a rehabilitation course. The benefits to the driver is that it entitles a reduction of 25% of the disqualification period. A mandatory 12 month ban would therefore be reduced to 9 months. If you agree to attend the course (which you have to pay for) you will be contacted by the course organiser and advised of the sessions that you need to attend. The course will normally last between 16 and 30 hours and will deal with 8–20 motorists in each session. It is designed to demonstrate the effects of drink driving etc and will include seminars, discussion assessment, particularly dealing with driving ability and behaviour. You cannot demand to be sent on the course; it is at the discretion of the Court.

What if I am actually the passenger?
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.


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