If you had been watching the news over the summer months, you will be aware of the story about the ex-Liverpool football striker Dean Saunders was arrested over a drink-driving offence. But did you know that he was committed a further offence of refusing to do a breathalyser test? The 55-year-old Saunders had been spotted driving at speed and failing to give way at a roundabout. His Audi A8 car was then pulled over by a police patrol car. It was later stated that Saunders was slurring his words and had to prop himself up against the car when he was asked to get out of his vehicle. It was later heard at court that Dean Saunders had stated that he had spent the day at Chester Races and had drunk two pints.
After the police officers had determined that they suspected Dean Saunders of drink driving, they asked him to consent and cooperate to a roadside breathalyser test. Saunders decided to refuse to comply with the roadside breath test that was offered to him and later failed to provide a further sample at the police station he was taken to. These two actions are offences in the eyes of the law. Saunders initially denied the charges of failing to comply with a roadside breath test and failing to provide a sample at a police station, but later pleaded guilty.
So, what is the law behind this? What happens if a driver decides to refuse to do a roadside breathalyser test and then a later test at a police station? A roadside test can be used on a driver if the police officer thinks that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A police officer can stop a driver if he or she believes that the driver is or has been driving, attempting to drive or is in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This means that a driver could be asked for a specimen without even driving a vehicle as the law states that a potential driver may be asked to provide one if a police officer suspects that he or she intended to drive.
If a police officer has the belief that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she might ask the driver to do a physical test, also known as the ‘field impairment test’. This test will include the officer asking a driver to walk in a straight line then turn around and walk back, or something similar. Also, the driver in question cannot decide which type of specimen they will provide to the police; the police officer will decide which type of specimen is required from the driver. If a blood sample is required, a medical practitioner who takes the sample from the driver in question will decide which area of the body the blood specimen will be taken from.
The law states that if a driver refuses to take a breath test or fails to supply a sample of breath and does not have a “reasonable excuse”, the driver can be arrested. The law states that an excuse can be seem as “reasonable” if it is a genuine physical or mental condition stopping a driver from giving a sample. A “reasonable” medical condition would be if the driver suffers from a medical condition, such as a phobia of needles or blood for blood tests, a chest issue for breath test, or another medical condition, which prevents the giving of a urine sample. However, for this “reasonable” excuse to be taken into account, it must be verified by a medical practitioner who believes it to be genuine. It is also worth noting that a driver’s refusal to give a specimen based on religious grounds is not deemed as a reasonable excuse.
The law regarding the offence of failing to provide a test specimen is governed by the Road Traffic Act 1988. In this section of the law, there are three types of offence that can be committed with regards to a person’s failure to provide a specimen:
Failure to participate in a preliminary test
- If a driver refuses to participate in a roadside breathalyser test or sobriety test when asked by a uniformed police officer. The punishment for failing to cooperate is four penalty points added to a driver’s licence for four years, or a driving disqualification and also a hefty fine of up to £1000.
Failure to give permission for a laboratory blood test
- For the evidential blood specimen to be tested, permission must be granted for it to be tested in a laboratory. It is an offence to withhold permission for an evidential specimen to be tested for alcohol or drugs in a laboratory. The punishment for failing to give consent for laboratory tests are the same as those for failing to provide an evidential sample for analysis, being four penalty points added to a driver’s licence for four years, or a driving disqualification and a fine of up to £1000.
Failure to provide an evidential specimen for testing
- Evidential specimens are required when a driver is detained in connection with a drink or drug drive offence and is conducted at a police station after an arrest has been made. It is an offence to refuse to provide the required breath, blood or urine sample at this stage. The punishment for failing to provide an evidential specimen after driving or attempting to drive is a driving disqualification and an unlimited fine, with potentially six months imprisonment. If convicted of a similar offence within 10 years a mandatory minimum three-year minimum driving disqualification will be imposed. The punishment for failing to provide an evidential specimen after being arrested for being drunk in charge of a vehicle is 10 driving licence penalty points or a driving disqualification, and a fine of up to £2,500, plus potentially three months imprisonment.
Here are some more key facts to remember. If a driver initially refuses to provide a specimen to the police officer, but subsequently changes their mind, even if it is within a few minutes of giving their first response, leaves the driver liable to being charged with failing to produce a specimen. It has also been established that waiting for a legal counsel to arrive before a specimen is made is not a valid excuse either. However, if there is a solicitor immediately available and if consulting them would delay the test by a short period of time the advice and subsequent delay may be allowed.
But what happened to Dean Saunders at his trial? Well, the father of three had been branded “arrogant” by District Judge Nicholas Sanders. Whilst passing sentence on Wednesday 28th August 2019, the District Judge told Saunders that he had shown no remorse and thought he was “above the law”. Saunders pleaded guilty at Chester Magistrates’ Courts for failing to comply with a roadside breath test and failing to provide a breath sample for analysis. As well as the ten-week jail time, he has been banned from driving for 30 months and ordered to pay court costs of £620.
To have a read of the newspaper articles have been used in this blog or to read more about Dean Saunders’ case, please look at the following websites:
The law surrounding specimen samples is highly complex. Due to this, it is important that if you are accused of failing to provide a specimen drink that you seek the correct professional legal help which Driving Solicitors can offer you. Our team of specialist driving offence solicitors at Driving Solicitors have the experience and expertise to give you legal advice over being reported for summons for drink driving. So, if you have been charged with driving whilst under the influence of drink, do not hesitate to contact Driving Solicitors on 0203 488 2551 and get expert legal advice from a specialist motoring solicitor today.
For more information on Drink Driving offences please Click Here
Written by: Miriam Rhodes-Leader