Tis the season … and now Boris has allowed everyone out to argue with their relatives for five days over the Christmas period, there is the inevitable danger that some people may have one too many in order to drown out the verbal disappointment expressed by a relative, and then get in the car to drive home.

While this survival method is clearly not a good idea, it still happens.

Here is a list of things to remember should you fall foul of the law …

  1. This seems both trivial and obvious but be polite. As angry with yourself as you may be, there is no point whatsoever in being an argumentative prat who knows the Chief Constable (or as I was once informed, “I’m distantly related to the owner of Amazon – I’m sure Jeff Bezos is lovely, but while he’s relaxing on his private island, I doubt that he gives a toss that you’ve been nicked for drink driving”). Your objections are unlikely to make any difference to whether you are breathalysed; in fact, if you are unnecessarily impolite this may go into the officer’s statement, which will then be relayed to the judge or magistrates. If you go beyond being impolite to being offensive, this may be considered an aggravating feature of the offence. While the period of disqualification is largely based on the level of alcohol in your blood or breath, you will not endear yourself to the court when examples of your behaviour are read out in the cold and sober confines of the courtroom.

The Police do occasionally get it wrong when they stop a vehicle. The definition of a ‘road’ and even a ‘mechanical vehicle’ has been debated in numerous cases and the goalposts occasionally move, but if you do try and argue with the officer at the side of the road, the chances are that you’re going to lose. You could make polite observations later on, but the best approach is to instruct an solicitor- preferably a drink drive expert – as soon as you can.

  1. Take the breathalyser test. More people fall foul of this drink drive rule than I care to remember. Failing to supply a specimen of breath (both at the roadside and at the police station) is an offence all by itself, one with a minimum disqualification period of 12 months. It is possible to be under the drink drive limit, but still be convicted and disqualified for the offence of ‘failing to supply a specimen’ if you have no valid reason to do so.

If you have a valid reason, then it’s important to tell the Police as soon as you can. This is one occasion where it’s better not to wait until you see or speak to a solicitor. If you have a medical reason, ensure it’s noted by the Police. If they request a blood sample and you have a fear of needles, it’ll probably not be a defence if you are covered in tattoos. This is more likely to succeed if you have a documented medical history of needle phobia – and not just a claim that you find needles ‘concerning’, because let’s face it, who doesn’t?

If you are stopped by police and they suspect you of having taken drugs, they can put you through a ‘field impairment assessment’. If this assessment leads them to believe that you have taken drugs, they will arrest you and take you to the station for an actual drug test. If this blood test indicates that you do have drugs in your system, they can charge you.

  1. So, you’ve failed the test and arrived at the police station. You will be booked in by the custody sergeant. Despite what you may have seen on TV, you are not entitled to a phone call. You are entitled to have someone informed of your arrest, so if you want to exact revenge on the relative that drove you to drink by having them informed of your detention by a police officer, now is your chance. The most important thing to remember is that everyone arrested and brought into custody has the right to legal advice from an independent solicitor. This could be a solicitor you know (preferably one that specialises in road traffic law, such as Major Family Law) or, if you don’t know anyone, you can ask for the duty solicitor. You don’t have to know the actual name of a solicitor, just the firm they work for will do – such as Major Family Law. The police will contact the firm irrespective of what time/day of the week it is.

Although you are entitled to speak to your solicitor about your drink drive arrest and further procedures, this cannot delay the provision of a further specimen of breath/ blood or urine.

  1. You will normally only be interviewed for drink driving if there is some discrepancy about whether you were driving the vehicle or where you were driving. If you are interviewed, it is important that you have availed yourself of legal advice beforehand. Ensure that your solicitor is present or that you have spoken to him/her on the phone and had a private consultation. Nobody envisages being in this situation, but it’s always good to make a mental note of who you would contact should you find yourself being arrested or interviewed.
  2. One point that is frequently overlooked is that if you have been released from custody, the Police will normally perform a further breath test to confirm that you are now able to legally drive. If you are going to collect your car from the roadside and the Police haven’t performed the second test, ask them to do so. If the second test is forgotten, problems could ensue: you wouldn’t be the first person to have walked out of a police station, gone back to their car and then been arrested a second time after 500 yards because the Police were watching the vehicle….

So; the bottom line is: stay calm, be polite, take the test and as soon as the custody officer asks, make sure they have the details of your solicitor. Make a note of the latter now and keep it with you. You can reach us – Major Family Law– 01661 824582. We are road traffic law experts.

Image by West Midlands Police via Flickr (Creative Commons)