Read our latest article in Luxe magazine, by consultant Charles Waddell

It’s only November, the goose may be getting fat and already some people are talking about Christmas and not just the children. It might be a bit soon for Christmas carols and mince pies, but it is not too early to consider the consequences the injudicious use of alcohol could incur over the festive season.

The mixing of alcohol and transport has always been a problem although it was not officially recognised in the UK until 1872 when the Licensing Act came into force and made it an offence to be drunk in charge of a carriage, horse, cow or steam engine! If one were to flout the law in such areas the penalty was a fine not exceeding 40 shillings or at the discretion of the court, imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding one month.

This was improved upon in 1925 when the Criminal Justice Act made it an offence to be drunk in charge of any mechanically propelled vehicle on any highway or other public place and increased the penalty to a fine not exceeding 50 shillings or imprisonment for a period not exceeding four months as well as a disqualification from holding a driving licence for a minimum period of 12 months.

Under the current law mandatory disqualification for driving whilst over the limit remains as a minimum of 12 months disqualification and increases in line with the increase in blood alcohol level reading which is determined at the Police Station following arrest by the Lion Intoxilyzer 6000UK (a second- generation machine which measures alcohol content in breath). The higher the reading the longer the disqualification which also comes with a financial penalty, a community order and if the reading is particularly high the prospect of custody becomes a reality which is something nobody would want to contemplate and the best way to avoid any problems with regards drink driving is of course to avoid doing it at all costs.

There are some occasions when drink driving can be tolerated to some extent and in such situations the court can be persuaded to show some degree of leniency when normally no quarter would be given. An example of this would be duress which can be used as a defence if it can be shown that a person has lost control of his will brought about by threats to one’s safety, in order to escape serious physical injury – they have jumped into a car and driven off – literally fleeing from danger.

Acting in time of emergency despite having drunk alcohol may afford the defendant with the opportunity of pleading Special Reasons not to disqualify – the good Samaritan who having exhausted all other options drives the injured or sick party to the hospital – but be warned going to the hospital may well provide the option of Special Reasons to be found by a court but driving home would definitely not.

The person who commits the offence without knowledge that they have done so and never intended to do so may also avoid disqualification if certain criteria are met and the court decide, having found Special Reasons, to exercise their discretion not to disqualify. ‘Spiked drinks’ fall under the Special Reasons line of argument and affords defendants the possibility of retaining their driving licences despite being guilty of drink driving, but it is worth remembering that none of these exceptions are ever straightforward and to persuade a court otherwise is never easy and the argument needs careful, detailed and thorough preparation prior to the hearing.

Drunk in charge of a motor vehicle is an offence that some people are unaware of and it can catch those who go to a Christmas party not intending to drink but then do and very sensibly decide not to drive home and perhaps end up sleeping in their car until the morning – be careful if parked in a public place with your car keys as if the police happen upon you, because you have your car keys with you puts you in charge of the motor vehicle and as you have been drinking that makes you ‘drunk’ in charge. The offence can result in a disqualification or ten penalty points together with a fine thus ruining New Year and beyond.

At MFL we look at every possible (lawful) option available and if there isn’t one we will help prepare a full mitigation in your best interests to limit the time you may be without your licence which can have far reaching implications not only for the driver but also their family.

If you have a road traffic problem, let us at MFL look at it and we will provide you with your best possible options.

And even if it is a little premature – HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Image by Phil Richards via Flickr (Creative Commons)