Everyday throughout England and Wales people appear in their local Magistrates Court charged with drink driving and other associated offences such as failing to provide a specimen of breath, being in charge of a motor vehicle while drunk and driving whilst unfit.
If you are reading this and think that it may not apply to you, you may be right. Some people do not drink and drive, others simply do not get caught. More often, drivers have that one more than they should or convince themselves that they feel competent to drive when in fact the level of alcohol in their system is over the limit prescribed by law.
With the Christmas Drink-Drive campaigns coming up like the annual live rounds of X-factor, take a moment to read what we have to say, just in case.
The legal limit for alcohol in breath whilst driving a motor vehicle is 35 mgs in 100 millilitres of breath. What is that you say in terms of a glass of wine or a pint of beer? Well it varies and honestly, the experts cannot really be certain. Alcohol which is consumed can dissipate at different rates in different people and varies between the sexes in terms of the water and fat content in an individual. Your lifestyle, what you have eaten and your height and weight all can play a factor. The strength of drink and the type of drink can effect it. So essentially to make sure you do not commit an offence then you should not drink alcohol and then drive but if you do, beware – as one drink can put you over the legal limit.
This article is here to help you in the event that you have had a drink and you are pulled over with blue flashing lights.
Yes, the police can stop you. They may reason that you have committed a minor traffic offence, that they suspect you of drink driving or simply that they are conducting a random stop check. They will speak to you and inform you that they can smell intoxicants on your breath and at that point they will ask you to comply with a roadside breath test.
If you comply with the test and it turns red you will be arrested and taken to the nearest police station with equipment to obtain an evidential sample of breath.
If you refuse or give only a partial sample and it is evident that you are not trying to provide a full sample, you could later be charged with failing to comply with providing a specimen at the roadside.
If the red light appears and you are informed that you are under arrest, displaying signs of displeasure at your arrest will not assist your case. If you resist or are obstructive you could be charged with an additional offence.
At the police station you will be booked in as the police aim to get an evidential breath specimen from you as quickly as possible (the alcohol content in your breath will be reducing all the time). They still have to give you your rights and your detention for this process must be authorised.
1. DO ask for legal advice. This will be over the telephone unless the officers want to interview you later and a solicitor will attend. It is free, it is independent and if you do not know a solicitor’s firm, ask for a Duty Solicitor. The police will not delay the procedure for you to speak with a solicitor but depending on the individual circumstances of your case some early advice from a solicitor may be invaluable to you.
2. DO accept the statutory option if your breath reading is between 40mgs and 50 mgs. What is this? Well, if your breath sample is between these two readings the police have to offer you the statutory option of replacing your breath sample with blood or urine.
If you accept, blood or urine will be taken from you with your consent and tested in a laboratory. It will take time for either procedure to be completed and may make the difference in terms of your reading being without the boundaries of prosecution, or it may drop lower that the chargeable reading. If you are between 40mgs and 50 mgs and you do not accept the statutory option you WILL be charged to the Magistrates Court.
3. DO explain as best you can any medical issues that you suffer from. Medical problems can affect you being able to blow sufficiently in the machine as required or will affect you giving either blood or urine. This will have to be subsequently backed up by a doctor, but if you have lung problems, panic attacks or a phobia of needles these are important. If you are suffering from a condition which is affecting you behaviour or ability to comply you should put this excuse forward at the first available opportunity.
If you DO NOT COMPLY and therefore FAIL TO PROVIDE A SPECIMEN OF BREATH, BLOOD OR URINE WHEN REQUIRED you WILL potentially be committing an offence unless there is a REASONABLE excuse for not doing so.
Officers may want to interview you under Caution whilst at the police station. This is likely to be an evidence gathering exercise. DO SEEK THE ADVICE OF A SOLICITOR IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES. This can be done over the telephone or in person. It is free and it is independent.
If the police have evidence that you drove a motor vehicle on a road or public place and your specimen is above the legal limit you will be charged with the offence of driving whilst over the prescribed limit.
You may not have been seen to drive but may have been found in charge of the car. You could be charged with this offence. The police will charge this if they feel that whilst you were not driving, there would be a strong likelihood that you would have driven whilst over the prescribed limit.
If you have failed to provide specimens either at the police station or at the roadside then you may be charged with the offence of failing to provide.
The offence of driving whilst unfit through alcohol is also an offence that can be considered in certain circumstances.
The Magistrates have guidelines in terms of sentence and if the reading is at the lower scale you are likely to be fined. The higher the reading the higher the sentence. Sentence can progress to a Community Penalty including unpaid work or even to custody for seriously high readings and/ or repeat offenders.
Disqualification is mandatory for driving whilst over the prescribed limit, failing to provide and driving whilst unfit. Being in charge of a motor vehicle whilst over the prescribed limit can be punishable with points on your licence, but similarly a disqualification can follow.
If your licence is essential to you, seek the advice of a solicitor prior to your hearing. It is likely that you will not receive Legal Aid in respect of charges of this nature but a solicitor can advise you on the circumstances of your case.
Milne Moser offer free initial consultations over the telephone or in person and offer competitive rates for representation at the Magistrates Court across Cumbria and beyond. You will receive expert advice on your plea and potential sentence tailored to your individual circumstances. Representation at court can affect sentence and therefore early consultation can be helpful to you so that you bring the right things with you to Court.
The criminal law team at Milne Moser appreciate just how essential a driving licence is and how serious these cases can be for those who fall foul of the drink-driving provisions. We can help so call us now to discuss your case.
Suzie Kavanagh & Rachel Broughton
Suzie Kavanagh and Rachel Broughton can provide advice to you no matter where you live and can arrange for expert representation at any Court. For an initial consultation please call 01539 729786. Advice on the eligibility for Legal Aid and Fixed Fees can be discussed at this time. Alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com