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Driving Matters: Drunk in Charge of a Motor Vehicle

Being caught drunk in charge of a motor vehicle is often a shock to chose charged with it. In 1925, it became a driving offence to be found drunk in charge of any mechanically propelled vehicle on any highway or other public place. The penalty was a fine not exceeding £50, and/or imprisonment for a period not exceeding four months. Furthermore, drunk in charge motorists were disqualified from holding a driving licence for a minimum of 12 months.

When considering drink driving penalties, we may think of someone being charged after causing a serious accident or even death. But drink driving law does not only involve driving when over the limit. If you are charged with being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle, you could face:

  • 3 months’ imprisonment
  • Up to £2,500 fine
  • A driving ban

Major Family Law Consultant Solicitor Charles Waddell explains the meaning of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle and advises what to do if you are ever in a potential drunk in charge situation.

Gentleman drunk in charge of a motor vehicle

What it Means to be Drunk in Charge of a Motor Vehicle

You may have no intent to drive after drinking alcohol. But you may still be considered drunk in charge if you are over the limit and:

  • There is evidence you intend to drive the vehicle
  • How far you are from your vehicle
  • Your keys are in the ignition
  • You are found in the car, even if not in the driver’s seat

Determining whether you were or were not drunk in charge of a motor vehicle will be reviewed by the Court on an individual basis. Each case is different, but it can be difficult to prove you were not drunk in charge. As with any driving offence, it is strongly recommended to seek advice from a lawyer. A drink driving solicitor can argue your case for you to deliver the best possible outcome.

Drunk in Charge: Example Case

Drink driving penalties can happen to even the most law-abiding citizen. You could drive to a party and sleep in your car before heading back the next day after a hearty breakfast. By that time, one will hopefully have fallen below the drink drive limit (35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath). But you could be considered drunk in charge for being over the limit and sleeping in your car.

I had a client who had a lunch in the park on a sunny day in June. He brought with him a newspaper, roast ham and chutney sandwiches, Kettle crisps, an apple and a bottle of wine – a chardonnay, I seem to remember. Unfortunately, he had in his car looking out across the park. Also, his bottle of wine was on the dashboard in full view. A concerned member of the public reported him (quite rightly). Before he finished his sandwiches, the police arrived.

The keys were in the ignition, the vehicle was in a public car park and the gentleman was over the limit. Therefore, in order for him to be deemed ‘not drunk in charge of the motor vehicle,’ he needed to prove (on the balance of probabilities) that, at the material time, there was no likelihood of him driving whilst unfit or whilst over the legal limit.

One of the problems was the client had been at work in the morning. He had clients booked in that afternoon. Furthermore, he regularly had lunch at the same park most days of the week. Although, normally, he had a flask of coffee to quench his thirst, rather than a bottle of wine.

Drunk in Charge: Case in Court

On the face of things, it seemed particularly bad and a drunk in charge disqualification likely. His wife attended court; I remember it being a rather heated discussion, with her saying she wouldn’t lie for him, which I commended her for. The client’s wife then asked what the best thing would be to say in court (a question criminal defence solicitors are often asked). ‘The truth,’ I replied! She answered, ‘Yes, of course.’

There were a number of other important issues the Court were given to consider in mitigation. In the end, the matter was disposed of by way of 10 penalty points and a hefty fine. But the client maintained his licence to drive.

How to Avoid a Drunk in Charge Penalty

If you are drinking alcohol, you can avoid being classed as drunk in charge of a motor vehicle by:

  • Parking on private land
  • Giving your car keys to somebody else
  • Booking a taxi to collect you at a prearranged time
  • Organising a lift with somebody else

Don’t put yourself in the position where you are going to have to argue the statutory defences of being ‘in charge.’ If you are unfit to drive through drink or drugs, it will usually be a difficult argument to win.

Defending a Drunk in Charge of a Vehicle Allegation

You should always seek assistance from a drink driving solicitor for a drunk in charge allegation. With their knowledge and expertise, drink driving solicitors are the most equipped to build your defence and achieve the greatest results.

Major Family Law can help with all driving offences. We understand how the impact of offences like drunk in charge penalties or totting up bans can affect a person and their family. In addition, we can protect you by successfully representing you in court to reduce or avoid a driving offence penalty.

Contact us today for an initial consultation, free of charge, to find out how Major Family Law can help. Or call Consultant Solicitor Charles Waddell on 078 0271 7418 for urgent enquiries and advice on driving offences.