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 0203 816 9274 to discuss your options in confidence.

loading staff

We're widely accredited for our work - regulatory & criminal justice

  • Legal 500

It is our business to deliver legal services that work for our clients, you can trust our specialists to take care of things on your behalf. Over the years our regulatory and criminal justice team has been recognised by industry awards and accredited for their excellence.

Memberships & accreditations

8.2 out of 10
Trustpilot logo4-stars on trustpilot Based on count 285

We're Great

It is our business to deliver legal services that work for our clients, and you can trust our specialists to take care of things on your behalf.

Our Trustpilot reviews

I found them to be very efficient, organised, knowledgeable and caring. They truly care about their clients and seek to give them the best possible service and really go the extra mile.
View from a satisfied motoring offences client

Case rewrites criminal law textbooks overnight

The civil case of Ivey v Genting Casinos UK Ltd (t/a Crockfords Club) [2017] UKSC 67, published in the last few days, has rewritten criminal law textbooks overnight. The case itself concerned a professional gambler who...

Read more

Twitter block 1 tweet

Could your tree help Christmas come early?

The crisp mornings and dark evenings are upon us and Christmas is quickly approaching with decorations starting to go up all over the country. To get us into the festive spirit we’d love for you to share a snap of your Christmas tree with us....

Read more

Motoring Offences reorder

  • Sean Joyce
  • Neal Boland
  • Paul Loughlin

We're always here for you

As an award-winning top 150 law firm, with over 450 staff based in offices across the country, you're never far from the advice you need.

Find your nearest Stephensons office and arrange a meeting

As an award-winning top 150 law firm, with over 450 staff based in offices across the country, you're never far from the advice you need.