Drink driving

What is drink driving?

Drink driving is the common name for two quite different offences of excess alcohol and driving while unfit through drink or drugs. Both offences can be committed by driving a motor vehicle (this means anything with an engine, so typically a car) or by being in charge of one. There are also a range of offences related to drink driving, such as failing to provide a specimen of breath, which can be committed either at the roadside or at the police station.

We can help either by helping you to fight and win a trial or, if you intend to plead guilty, by minimising the sentence you will receive. Even if you plead guilty you may be able to keep your driving licence if there is a special reason for the court not to ban you from driving.

Excess alcohol

When you are accused of drink driving by having excess alcohol this means that you have provided a specimen of breath, blood or urine to the police and it was found to have a higher concentration of alcohol than is allowed by law.

If you are found to have driven with excess alcohol you will be convicted of drink driving and banned from driving for at least 12-months, although the driving ban can be much longer. Extreme cases may result in a prison sentence of up to 6-months in addition to the driving ban.

If you were in charge of the vehicle but not driving it then you may escape the driving ban, but it is still an option for the court. In serious cases you can face up to 3-month imprisonment.

Driving while unfit

Driving while unfit is a much wider offence that excess alcohol and means you can be convicted of drink driving without consuming a single drop of alcohol! The police must prove that you were unfit to drive, not that you had any alcohol in your system. This means that, although it is known as drink driving, you could be unfit because of drugs, which includes prescription, non-prescription and recreational drugs whether they are legal or not.

The minimum sentence is a 12-month driving ban, although this can go much higher if there is evidence of serious impairment and can result in prison for serious offences.

Being unfit through drink or drugs while in charge of a motor vehicle will result in a minimum of 10 penalty points, although the court can chose to impose a driving ban and even a prison sentence in serious cases.

Remember that if you are intending to plead guilty we can help you to minimise the sentence you will receive.

You can find more information about sentencing drink driving cases our sentencing page.

Winning drink driving trials

Because the law on drink driving is very tight and technical, the most important thing you can have on your side is somebody who understands the law in great detail and who has experience of handling drink driving trials. Yes, this is going to be a solicitor but you probably guessed that already didn't you?

Attacking the prosecution

There are many ways the prosecution can be attacked.

First, there is the out of court attack. The prosecution are required to undertake what is known as the full code test when deciding to bring a drink driving case. This requires them to look at the strength of the evidence and whether taking you to court is in the public interest. The London Drink Driving Solicitor has a great deal of experience of undermining cases at this stage by convincing prosecutors that cases do not meet this test.

If a drink driving case gets to court your solicitor will look at attacking the prosecution evidence before the magistrates or jury. This attack could take many forms, but the most common are that a key witness is lying or mistaken or that police officers have failed to do their duty properly. This second attack is often very successful in drink driving cases where the law and processes are very technical. Our solicitors are all accustomed to reviewing evidence to find mistakes and errors by police officers that our clients can exploit to win their drink driving trial. We also have access to the best technical and medical experts available who can come to court and provide evidence of exactly what police officers have done wrong and why it means you should win your trial.

Other attacks can be made thanks to gaps in the evidence of police officers. For example, to get a conviction for drink driving, the police must prove that you were driving. Often there will be a gap in evidence, for example where the police have found your vehicle by the roadside and you in the area. They cannot say for certain that you drove the vehicle and thus there is an opening for a skilled solicitor to fight and win your trial.

Drink driving defences

When Parliament wrote the law on drink driving they made it deliberately biased toward the police and prosecution, thus defences to the offence are hard to come by.

The two major defence available to drink drivers are the "hip flask" defence and duress.

The hip flask defence comes from the days when gentlemen would routinely carry a hip flask of some alcoholic drink to enjoy while out. The defence will work if you drove while under the drink driving limit, stopped driving and then consumed alcohol. Don't worry, your post driving alcohol can come from any container, not just a hip flask.

Duress is a very tough defence to prove both in drink driving trials and generally. In the case of DPP v Bell, the court of appeal said that duress is available to somebody who is real fear of a threat and who drives only to escape that threat and no further than is necessary to escape. Driving further than necessary will mean that you cannot rely on the defence of duress, thanks to the case of DPP v Jones.

There's more information about how we can help you win your trial if you follow the link.

Call us today on 020 8242 4440 or visit our contact page.

More information

You can find more information on these offences elsewhere on the London Drink Driving Solicitor website.

1. How we can help you win your trial

2. Sentencing drink driving cases

3. Ask us a question