Drink driving is a serious offence which can result in a person being imprisoned for twelve months as a standard. According to the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 4(1), it is an offence to drive or attempt to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle when unfit to do so, due to the influence of drink. Section 4 also states that a “person who, when driving or attempting to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink is guilty of an offence.”
If an individual is found guilty of drink driving, it can result in receiving a disqualification, face paying a fine or even being imprisoned. An individual may be able to reduce their driving ban by taking a drink-drive rehabilitation scheme course (a DDRS) if they have been banned from driving for twelve months or more. However, this is left to the court to offer this to the accused if they are found to be guilty of the offence.
If a person is charged with being in charge of a vehicle whilst above the legal drink limit or unfit to drive whilst under the influence of drink, the possible penalties include three months of imprisonment, up to £2,500 fine and a possible driving ban. If a person is charged with driving or attempting to drive while above the legal drink limit or unfit because of drink, the possible penalties include six months of imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a driving ban for at least one year, but this can be increased to three years if the accused has been convicted for drink driving more than once during the last ten years.
If the suspect is found guilty of causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink, the now perpetrator might be punished with fourteen years of imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a ban from driving for at least two years. The punishments also include an extended driving test before the perpetrator’s licence is returned and the perpetrator won’t automatically get his or her licence back as they will be considered a high-risk offender. If a suspect is convicted for drink driving, their car insurance costs will increase dramatically. When found guilty, if the perpetrator drives for work, their employer will be able to see the conviction on the perpetrator’s licence. Also, there might be problems for the perpetrator if he or she wishes to travel to certain foreign countries, such as the USA.
Unfortunately, there is no fool-proof way of drinking alcohol and ensuring that you are below the legal drinking limit. The amount of alcohol an individual would need to drink to be considered over the legal drinking limit varies from person to person. How alcohol affects a person is dependent on the individual’s weight, age, sex, metabolism, the type and amount of alcohol that the individual has drunk. What the individual has eaten and the individual’s stress levels at the time will also have an effect on how alcohol affects an individual. Even small quantities of alcohol can affect an individual’s ability to drive so the only sound advice that can be given is to avoid any consumption of alcohol if you are driving.
The maximum legal blood alcohol content (BAC) for driving in England and Wales is eighty milligrams of alcohol for every one hundred millilitres of blood in a person’s body, thirty-five micrograms of alcohol for every one hundred millilitres of breath. Finally, the legal drink limit for urine is one hundred and seven milligrams of alcohol for every one hundred millilitres of urine. However, the maximum legal BAC limit in Scotland is lower, being fifty milligrams of alcohol in every one hundred millilitres of blood, twenty-two micrograms in every one hundred millilitres of breath and sixty-seven milligrams in every one hundred millilitres of urine. This was changed in December 2014 because the Scottish government argued that the changes they made were to bring Scotland in line with most other European countries to save lives and make Scotland’s roads safer.
Drivers should be aware of the procedure of testing whether a person is over the legal drink limit. If a driver is pulled over by a police officer and they suspect that the driver is over the legal drink limit, they will ask the driver to provide a specimen to analyse. This is usually a specimen of breath for a roadside breathalyser test. If a driver refuses to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis, this counts as an offence. In section 7a of the Road Traffic Act of 1988, it is also stated that it is legal for a constable to make a request for a medical practitioner to take a specimen of blood from the person concerned. If a driver refuses to provide a specimen, this could result in the driver getting six months of imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a ban from driving for at least one year. This is why, unless under very special circumstances, a driver should always provide a specimen and comply with the police or any medical practitioners that the police may request.
Drivers are liable to an offence if they refuse to give breath, blood or urine samples, even if the driver was not drinking but still refused to give a sample. The driver can be charged with Failure to Provide a Breath Specimen. This charge can also be applied even if the suspect was not driving. There can be different punishments and fines applied to a case which are dependent on whether the specimen refusal was blood and urine, or breath. Refusing to provide a specimen might have penalties of a six month imprisonment and an unlimited fine. The option to disqualify the suspect from driving is left to the courts to decide for both of these offences.
However, there are some circumstances in which a driver can refuse to give a sample. Reasonable circumstances for not providing samples have to be taken into consideration by the police. The police or courts will not take into account that the driver was too drunk to provide a specimen as this is not considered to be a reasonable excuse. There are a number of defences open to solicitors including reasons why the suspect refused to give samples. Special reasons may be given in the hope of avoiding a driving disqualification. Reasons could include that driver’s drinks were spiked or laced. Also, it may be the case that the driver was taking certain medication that reacted badly with alcohol and caused disorientation for the driver. This special reason may work if there was no warning label on the medication to warn the driver that this could be a side effect when the drugs are mixed with alcohol.
Another special reason that could be accepted by the courts might include things such as breathing problems in the case of breath tests, or the fear of needles if the police were intending to take a blood sample. Whilst these reasons might stand up in court, it is vital that you get sound legal advice from our team of solicitors at Driving Solicitors.
Due to the complexity of the law and the defences behind driving whilst under the influence of drink, it is important that if you are accused of drink driving that you seek the correct professional legal help. Driving Solicitors can help you with your case. 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.
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Written by: Miriam Rhodes-Leader