Number one: instruct, instruct, instruct….
Unless you have provided a specimen so high that you’re in danger of being sent to prison, you will not be entitled to use the free Court Duty Solicitor service, and if you are in that position, bear in mind that you will only be able to instruct a Duty Solicitor on the day of the hearing. If your liberty is at risk, please don’t leave it that late. You need to prepare, even if you anticipate pleading guilty.
You need to instruct a road traffic expert such as Major Family Law as soon as possible. There is a school of thought that says if the period of disqualification is based on the level of your reading, there is little point in instructing a solicitor. It’s a personal choice, but given the importance of your driving licence, why take the risk of making matters worse by representing yourself? Over the years I have witnessed some terrible personal mitigation. For example: “it’s not like I murdered someone”. No, but given your reading, it’s a miracle you didn’t. And then there’s the “it’s not my fault” manoeuvre, also known as “this is mainly my wife’s/husband’s fault” …Why? Did she/he open your mouth and force the alcohol in? Failing to take personal responsibility will not impress the magistrates or judge.
Saying that, I’ve also heard some dreadful lines from solicitors – usually those who, unlike Major Family Law, don’t have a department which specialises in road traffic law. But I’m saving those for my memoirs.
When you make your first appointment with your legal representative, try to take along all your paperwork from the police and, if you can, some written references. It helps if they are not from relatives. No one will dispute the fact that your mother thinks you are a wonderful human being, but it won’t carry much weight with the court.
Ask for references from people that really know you, but aren’t related: an ex-boss, a long-standing friend and/or any professional with headed note paper. Don’t go mad, around five will do and your representative can choose the best one to submit. Of course, they need to convey your personal merits to the court, but if there is an underlying problem that has led to an issue with alcohol, and your reference knows, they need to be candid about it.
Magistrates and judges (sadly) hear numerous drink drive mitigations every day. You need to prepare, and you need to instruct an expert in order to make yours look and sound like you have taken this seriously. Those who rock up, shrug their shoulder and say “I thought I was ok to drive” exude an air of ‘I’m not that bothered’. The result could be a sentence intended to say ‘you might not be bothered, but society is’.
Pick the phone up. Make that appointment.
Number two: specimens
If you have provided a sample of blood or urine instead of breath, you will have been given the option to be provided with part of the specimen to have your own analysis conducted.
You need to make your legal representative aware of this as soon as possible, so that you can discuss the merits of having your own analysis conducted. There may be an underlying reason for this, or, occasionally, it can just be for peace of mind, but you need to discuss the costs and merits before undertaking further testing.
Number three: the CCTV and custody procedures
When you were arrested, the officer(s) may have been wearing a body worn camera (BWV). If you dispute any element of your arrest, you need to know if this is available. BWV can be very interesting; officers sometimes forget they’re wearing it and clients can forget what was said when they were stopped and arrested.
The areas in a police station where you will first be taken to be booked in by the custody sergeant are known as custody suites and they are all covered by CCTV. If the officer’s statement says you were swaying in the breeze and argumentative and that told him/her your name was Lewis Hamilton (it happens…) but your recollection differs, you may wish to ask your solicitor to try and obtain the custody suite coverage.
The breath test that you undergo at the police station is usually on a device known as the CAMIC – unsurprisingly, it’s located in the ‘Camic Room’. As the police embraced CCTV more and more, these rooms are normally covered by the cameras. Many solicitors still overlook this. It’s particularly important if for whatever reason, you could not provide a specimen of breath and were consequently charged with failing to supply a specimen of breath. If the officer maintains you were deliberately not blowing into the machine hard enough and you say that you simply could not, a picture will paint a thousand words.
As with most CCTV, it isn’t kept indefinitely so time is of the essence.
Number four: CCTV of the surrounding area
This is especially useful if there is a dispute over whether you were the person driving or where you were driving is considered a ‘road’ for the purpose of drink driving.
The police are unlikely to look for this or seize it on your behalf.
Your solicitor will make relevant enquiries and if it is at all possible, ensure that the footage is at least preserved by the person who owns it. Most CCTV systems ‘reset’ after a short period of time, so instructing someone such as Major Family Law is imperative in this scenario.
Number five: The medical evidence
If you have a case that is based on a medical issue, you will need medical evidence (obviously!)
Doctors are occasionally not that keen to provide this, because they don’t want to have to attend court which is why handing over the task to your solicitor is the best way forward. They will also be able to communicate with your doctor/consultant/psychiatrist to obtain information on exactly what they want the report to cover. It may help to pre-empt this with a visit to your doctor or psychiatrist in order to explain exactly what had happened and perhaps supply them with written authority to communicate with your solicitor about your medical issues. This could be relevant to your defence or your mitigation.
Very occasionally, persistence in this area pays dividends. You may have a condition you were unaware of at the time, such as the speed at which your body processes alcohol.
The principal message here is: instruct a solicitor as early as you can. When you do, instruct an expert in road traffic law – you wouldn’t ask a podiatrist to perform heart surgery, would you? At Major Family Law, we won’t judge and will provide you with clear, constructive advice.
The Christmas holidays are a time of joy, especially this year, but they are also a time of great stress for some people. We at Major Family Law wish you a peaceful, joyous festive season and an equally happy New Year, but if you, or anyone you know, need us, we are here to help. Call Major Family Law on 01661 824582 or put the number in your phone now for peace of mind.
Image by André Gustavo Stumpf via Flickr (Creative Commons)