What you need to know about drink driving
If you have been accused of drink driving the penalties can potentially be life-changing. Heavy fines, a driving ban, increased insurance premiums, loss of job and a criminal record are all very real prospects for anyone found to be guilty of driving, or attempting to drive, while under the influence of alcohol. Many drivers who are stopped and breathalysed at the roadside by a police officer are likely to accept at face value the result of the test and conclude that they have had too much to drink and must have been driving under the influence.
However, every individual road traffic offence case is different and drivers need not accept their guilt without challenge. In each drink driving case there are procedures and guidelines which must be followed by the police. If the police fail to do so they may invalidate a potential conviction. Therefore, it makes absolute sense to seek expert legal advice from a drink driving specialist before losing the opportunity to defend a claim. Failure to do so will force anyone convicted of this offence to accept the punishment issued by the court.
Penalties for drink driving
If a person is found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol they can receive a fine, a ban from driving and in the most extreme circumstances a custodial sentence. These punishments depend on the severity of the offence. For example, being in charge of a vehicle while over the legal limit or unfit through drink could result in 3 months’ imprisonment, up to £2500 fine or a possible driving ban.
Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink could lead to a punishment of 6 months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine or a driving ban of at least 1 year (increasing to 3 years if convicted twice over a period of 10 years). Drivers who refuse or fail to provide a breath, blood or urine sample for analysis could be handed a custodial sentence of 6 months’, an unlimited fine or a ban from driving for at least one year. Causing death by careless driving under the influence of alcohol could result in 14 years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, a ban from driving for a minimum of two years or an extended driving test before a licence is returned.
Sentencing guidelines for drink driving
On 24th April 2017, new sentencing guidelines were introduced in relation to motoring offences. The changes reflect a move towards treating middle of the scale, second category drink driving offences more seriously. This gives the courts greater scope to impose community orders in relation to breath readings between 60-89μg alcohol. This category of offence is generally limited to a fine together with a ban. Therefore, this move to encompass these offences into low level community orders displays the intolerance towards those who are more than slightly in excess of the drink drive limit.
On the other hand, the guidelines have been slightly relaxed for the lowest category of alcohol reading offences in relation to being in charge of a vehicle with excess alcohol. Whilst the starting point for the Magistrate’s Court remains a financial penalty, Magistrates have the scope for this to be a lower fine under the new guidelines. In relation to higher readings of alcohol, the courts are now encouraged to consider disqualification as their starting point. Disqualification is now specifically required by the guidelines to be extended for the most serious offences where immediate custody is imposed so that drivers cannot avoid the effects of any ban during their custodial sentence.
You will almost certainly face a driving ban if you are convicted of drink driving. These start at 12 months for first time offences. Second offences within a 10-year period of the first offence, carry a minimum disqualification of 3 years. Furthermore, penalties will vary depending upon your alcohol level reading and other circumstances. Lower readings of less than 2.5 times the limit will often result in a fine of up to £2500, in the absence of aggravating features. These features increase the risk of significant sentence and include:
- Previous drink drive offences
- Involvement in an accident
- Carrying passengers
- Poor weather conditions
If the reading is above two and half times the limit, Community Sentencing will be considered. This may be a probation order, community punishment or even a curfew at your home. The court will consider a custodial sentence if a reading of beyond 120 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath is recorded.
Defending a drink driving offence
Whilst drink driving is termed as an offence which carries mandatory disqualification, this is not always the case. If certain factors have prevailed, the Court may use its discretion to avoid imposing disqualification or points. Mitigating circumstances may include not knowing that your drink was spiked, driving a very short distance and certain emergency situations. Furthermore, evidence of you drink driving has to be obtained using the correct procedures and errors can, and do happen. A number of these errors are so significant that they can lead to cases resulting in a not guilty verdict, or even dropped.
This area of the law requires a detailed technical knowledge. Therefore, if you have been accused of driving under the influence of alcohol, you should contact a member of our team immediately. As specialists in defending motorists charged with drink driving, we have the legal expertise to give you the best possible chance of achieving a satisfactory outcome. We will help you to pursue any potential lines of defence and endeavour to keep you on the road. There may be perfectly legitimate grounds for you to appeal against your charge and keep your licence. However, you will never know if you do not challenge the charge and accept the offence.
Contact PDA Law
We have a wealth of experience in successfully defending drink driving offences and can offer you access to the best legal support possible. As we offer a free, no obligation meeting, as well as a no win, no fee service where appropriate, you can proceed with no financial risk throughout the process.
To receive tailored advice from our expert driving offence solicitors, contact PDA Law today by calling 01244 373373. Alternatively, fill out our online contact form and we will call you back at a time that is convenient for you.