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Drink driving solicitors

Our specialist lawyers have years of experience successfully defending drink driving cases, for advice 24/7 from leading drink driving solicitors call our team now on 01616 966 229 or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you directly.

The consequences of drink driving are widely known. Most people have an understanding that it means a ban upon conviction. For first time offenders it is, in fact, a minimum 12 month disqualification going up to as long as 3 years in more serious cases. Alongside a ban there is an additional part of the penalty that will see you face a fine or depending on the seriousness even a community order or prison sentence.

Given the importance of our driving licence in a modern, fast paced world it is vital that you get the right advice before attending court to help you make the right decision about how to deal with a charge. The consequences of a drink driving conviction can be completely life changing.

Defending drink - sentencing guidelines

For a first time offender, upon entering a guilty plea the Magistrate's Court will refer to the up to date sentencing guidelines to help them hand out any penalty:

Level of alcohol  Starting pointRangeDisqualification
Breath (μg)Blood (ml)Urine (ml)   
36 - 5981 - 137108 - 183Band C fineBand B find to band C fine12 - 16 months
60 - 89138 - 206184 - 274Band C fineBand C fine to low level community order17 - 22 months
90 - 119207 - 275275 - 366Medium level community orderLow level community order to high level community order23 - 28 months
120 - 150 and above276 - 345 and above367 - 459 and above12 weeks custodyHigh level community order to 26 weeks custody29 - 36 months (extended if imposing immediate custody)

Where there is a previous relevant conviction within a 10 year period leading up to the allegation you currently face the starting point for any ban will be 3 years and rising to as long as 5 years in serious cases. 

The above guidelines are the most up to date and came into force on 24 April 2017. To help you interpret the above guidelines and to give you more of an idea of the penalty you will face you can visit our online drink driving penalty calculator.

Where there is a previous relevant conviction within a 10 year period leading up to the allegation you currently face the starting point for any ban will be 3 years and rising to as long as 5 years in serious cases. 

A common misconception is that drink driving is black and white. If you’re stopped driving and later provide specimen that puts you over the legal limit then you have no alternative but to plead guilty. That is not true.

Police station procedure

Drink driving procedure is extremely technical and complex, this can often lead to errors being made. Drink driving is one of the few where you as the defendant, by being asked to give a specimen of blood, are being required to participate in and consent to provide evidence that can lead to you being prosecuted. That evidence has to be obtained using the correct procedures. Errors can and do happen. We have the specialist knowledge required to dissect a case and spot any such errors.  A number of procedural errors are so significant that they can lead to cases either resulting in a not guilty verdict at court or the case being dropped.

Often, where the procedure can appear to be followed on the face of the facts of the case; it is important to put all of those facts into context. For example, after a road traffic accident where someone suffers an injury that leaves them dazed and confused, it may be that they do not have the relevant capacity needed to understand what is happening. In such a case it can be argued that the procedure, although on the face of it has been dealt with, has not been fully comprehended and is therefore invalid. It is an area of law that requires a detailed technical knowledge that our specialist lawyers at Stephensons have in abundance.

Reliability of the breath reading

Expert evidence can also be critical when defending a charge of drink driving. We are able to identify when an expert's evidence is required and have a good relationship with leading experts across the country. Where you might be surprised at the reading produced by a breathalyser machine we can rely upon the case of Cracknell v Willis [1988] in respect of the above. With the help of experts we can consider your alcohol consumption to give us the platform in order to consider whether the breathalyser is working properly. If a doubt is raised about the reliability of that result then that can lead to the evidence being dismissed. 

Procedure elsewhere and different types of specimen (blood and urine)

Not all drink driving offences involve a breathalyser at the police station. Many involve a specimen of blood or urine being taken by a police doctor or nurse and sometimes not even at a police station. When cases move away from the more common process of providing a specimen of breath on a police station breathalyser then procedures automatically become more complex with additional stages needing to be dealt with, often by a number of different people.

Whilst defending drink driving charges is complex and complicated, the police process of gathering the evidence in the correct way can often be just as complicated and involved for a number of reasons. We can vigorously scrutinise this process. Some of the issues that will be analysed along the way will be:

  • Has the police officer moved on to a procedure involving blood or urine for the right reason and has that been properly made clear to you
  • Have you been given adequate opportunity to provide two separate specimens of urine
  • Has the police station doctor or nurse obtained the relevant consent to obtain a specimen of blood from you;
  • How has the blood or urine been taken
  • Where has the blood or urine been kept after it has been provided
  • How has the analysis of the blood or urine been dealt with

The number of additional stages and issues to be considered mean that we often find an issue with a crucial stage of the process that can throw reliability of the whole process into doubt. This is often all we need to ensure your acquittal. Contact us now on 01616 966 229 to discuss your options in confidence.

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Reliability of the analysis of blood or urine

Our clients are often surprised at the result of the blood or urine analysis and the reliability of analysis can be challenged in such circumstances. In the same way as we are entitled to challenge the reliability of the breathalyser, we are entitled to challenge the reliability of the blood or urine analysis. Police forces use private laboratories to carry out the analysis of your specimen and those laboratories must ensure they comply with strict rules regarding how those specimens are dealt with. Scrutiny of the process can very often lead to an argument developing to get that evidence excluded as neither we nor the court can be satisfied that a reliable result has been reported. 

Factual defences

Not all drink driving defences involve this technical approach. There are often more obvious ‘factual defences’ that can give you the best chance of defeating the allegation. Typical factual defences range from straight forward defences based purely on the evidence before the court to more complicated defences that are based on that facts presented but require the assistance of an expert. Some of the more obvious factual defences include:

  • You were not driving nor attempting to drive at the time
  • You did drive but it was not a ‘public place’
  • You have a defence of ‘necessity’ meaning that, irrelevant of the fact that you were over the limit, it was reasonable for you to drive given the severity of the circumstances you faced. It must be proven that
    • you acted to avoid a significant risk of harm
    • no adequate lawful means could have been used to escape the harm; and
    • the harm avoided was greater than that caused by breaking the law
  • ‘Hip flask’ defence. This is a defence raised when you have consumed the alcohol after driving the vehicle. This usually occurs when you are not arrested at the time of driving and some time passes during which alcohol in consumed. We would usually require an expert to assist us with preparing a ‘back calculation’

Our experts can give you a candid advice regarding the merits of any factual defence and it is important to take expert advice and assistance rather than simply turning up at court and hoping that you are believed. 

Special reasons - drink driving

In certain cases whilst there may not be a defence to a charge of drink driving, there may be 'special reasons' surrounding the circumstances of the offence. A 'special reasons' argument is something which does not amount to a defence to the charge but if successful can lead to a disqualification being avoided. Examples include spiked drinks, only driving a very short distance, and duress. Special reasons arguments can be as complex as a technical defence and will often involve expert evidence and cross examination of witnesses. If you think special reasons may apply in your case contact us now for specialist advice. 

The courts also have an option to offer the drink drive rehabilitation course, which can reduce the length of the disqualification by up to 25 per cent upon completion. This will normally be offered on a first offence however this is a discretionary power and the court is not obligated to do so. The court may be reluctant to offer this where a defendant has previous convictions, however these are the cases where a reduction will have the most benefit.

We acknowledge that not every case can be defended and in many cases the best approach is to focus on keeping any sentence to a minimum. It is important to get the correct advice at the right stage. We have extensive experience of presenting mitigation to the court and helping our clients to achieve the best possible result in their case. Contact us now on 01616 966 229 to discuss your options in confidence.

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