As the party season approaches, its time to look at the perils of drink drive and drug driving.

Offence Codes: DR10 DR20 DR30 DR40 DR50 DR60 DR70.

How much is too much?

The whole principle of ‘units’ of alcohol is confusing and misleading. The are many variables that can affect your absorption of alcohol and determine whether you are likely to be over the drink drive limit. Your height, weight, what you have eaten and your tolerance to alcohol can all affect whether the amount of alcohol that you have consumed will take you over the legal limit.

Section 5 RTA 1988 sets out this offence but also provides a defence.

A person who drives or attempts to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, or is in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit is guilty of an offence.

The offence of driving with excess alcohol requires the following elements:

  • You were driving a mechanically propelled vehicle
  • On a public road or other public place
  • When the proportion of alcohol in your breath/blood/urine was over the prescribed limit. The legal drink driving alcohol limit is 35 milligrams per 100 millilitres of breath.

But, as with most road traffic law, what at first appears to be simple can become very complicated.

For one thing, the police do not have to stop you driving the vehicle if they have enough evidence to prove you were indeed over the limit – or if you admit that in interview.

The amount of caselaw, within road traffic law as a whole, that defining a public road has generated is, to say the least, significant. Under the Road Traffic Act a public road can be many things and the definition can change according to which road traffic offence you are considering.

If you are stopped by police, they will initially carry out a roadside breath test. If you fail the test, you will be taken to the police station for a more accurate test to be carried out.

Failing to provide a specimen of breath

Failing to provide a specimen of breath is a separate offence that carries a disqualification period of around 18 months – for obvious reasons. This applies even if you feel that you were not over the limit. If there is a medical, or any other ‘reasonable excuse’ why you cannot provide a specimen of breath you need to tell the police at the time, so that other methods of measuring your alcohol intake can be considered.

Defending drink drive allegations is one of the most difficult and controversial areas of road traffic law and doing so requires a specialist road traffic solicitor. There are many aspects of the offence to consider, particularly in relation to the police procedure – for example, whether it was carried out correctly and whether the equipment used was reliable and accurate.

Section 4 RTA 1988 – Driving/Attempting to drive or being in charge of a motor vehicle whilst unfit

If you are sitting in your stationary vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, you may still be committing the lesser known offence of being drunk in charge of a vehicle. As before, this area of road traffic law is not straight forward. The usual circumstances involve someone who, after a night on the tiles decides to ‘sleep it off’ in their car while parked in a layby, possibly with the engine running to try and stay warm. That sounds like a fine a fine plan until the police tap on the window to see if they are ok…

In that scenario it is fair to say that the person is drunk in charge of a vehicle: they have the keys, they are in charge.

The statutory defence in road traffic law is that the person had no intention to drive the vehicle while still over the limit. The only way to establish this before the court is to firstly obtain a ‘forward calculation’; this means establishing from the reading the police obtained at the scene exactly when the person would have been under the limit and then gathering evidence that establishes that you would not have driven the vehicle before that point.

The consequences of a conviction for driving with excess alcohol are justifiably severe. You will be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of 12 months. Yyou may be offered the Drink Drive Rehabilitation Scheme, which if completed will reduce the length of your ban. For drunk in charge the penalty is 10 penalty points or a discretionary ban.

Accessing advice from an experienced road traffic law solicitor is of the utmost importance in this situation.  At Major Family Law our road traffic law experts can check every aspect of your case and provide you with clear and reliable advice that could make all the difference.

Along with our highly experienced solicitors, we have access to the best experts and forensic scientists to help build your defence.

At Major Family Law our road traffic law solicitors have many years of experience and we can provide swift and precise advice throughout. Contact Major Family Law on 01661 82 45 82 to speak to one of our lawyers.

Image by West Midlands Police via Flickr (Creative Commons)