Drunk in Charge of a Vehicle

Being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle

The charge of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle is a motoring offence which can lead to prosecution resulting in a fine or a custodial sentence of up to 6 months, endorsement of 10 points or disqualification from driving. The offence is committed if: “a person is in charge of any motor vehicle on a road or other public place after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in their breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit they are guilty of an offence”.


Whether or not a person is in charge of a motor vehicle depends on the facts of each individual case. These cases usually arise when a motorist who is in excess of the prescribed limit is found inside a car but is not driving. The key question is whether the person is in control of the vehicle and whether there is a realistic possibility of them attempting to drive the vehicle. An individual could be charged with this offence if they have entered a vehicle with the intention of removing belongings or to sleep.

As with many motoring offences, the law is not clear cut. Every case is different and motorists need not accept the charge without challenge. Factors such as presence of car keys and the engine running all play a part in a case such as this. Therefore, the real key to defending a charge of being drunk in charge of a vehicle is centred upon the intention to drive. If you can prove that despite being over the prescribed alcohol limit you had no intention of driving, then you stand a very good chance of defending the charge and avoiding prosecution.

Penalties for being drunk in charge of a vehicle

The penalties for being convicted of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle will vary and the consequences can be serious. You could be handed a discretionary qualification from driving for up to 12 months, endorsement of 10 penalty points unless special reasons apply and a fine of up to £5000. You may receive a community order requiring you to carry out unpaid work and you could be disqualified from driving under the totting up procedure if you already have 3 penalty points or more on your licence.

This could lead to loss of earnings and have severe implications on your livelihood. If you are a new driver and are sentenced to 10 penalty points, then your licence would be revoked and you would have to retake your test leading to further expense. A rise in your insurance premiums would also be inevitable. However, accused drivers who can show that there was no likelihood of them driving whilst over the limit can be acquitted altogether.

Sentencing guidelines for being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle

The difference between drunk in charge and drink driving is where the police are unable to prove that you drove. The Magistrates Court will often say that they consider that it was likely that the vehicle was driven whilst the driver was still over the limit and then prosecute. The penalty imposed will depend on how much alcohol was found to be in the driver’s system.

Breath samples of 120-150 (μg) or above, blood samples of 276-345 (mg) or above and urine samples of 367-459 (mg) or above will have a starting point of a medium level community order, a low level community order to 6 weeks’ custody or a disqualification of 6 to 8 weeks.

Breath samples of 90-119 (μg), blood samples of 207-275 (mg) and urine specimens of 275-336 (mg), may result in a Band C fine, medium level community order, consideration of disqualification of up to 6 months or 10 points.

Breath samples reading 60-89 (μg), blood samples of 138-206 (mg) and urine samples of 184-274 (mg) may carry a Band B to Band C fine, and the Magistrates Court may consider disqualification or 10 points.

Breath samples of 36-59 (μg), blood samples of 81-137 (mg) and urine samples of 108-183 (mg) may result in a Band A to Band B fine and 10 penalty points.

Defending a case against being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle

In this type of case the burden of proof is on the defence to convince the Court that you would not have driven the vehicle while over the limit. You will need to show Magistrates when it was your intention to drive next and expert evidence will be required relating to your breath, blood or urine reading and the rate at which you would have metabolised the alcohol to establish at which point you would have been below the prescribed limit.

In addition to this defence, there are a number of general defences which may be argued surrounding the factual circumstances of the offence. These may include factors such as the accuracy of the breath specimen and whether the police followed the correct procedure after making the arrest.

As you can see, this type of case is far from straight forward and requires a detailed knowledge of the law. Thankfully we can help. As specialists in defending drivers charged with motoring offences, we have the expertise to look at the facts and advise you on whether or not you may have strong grounds for challenging the offence. We have a proven track record and a wealth of experience of defending motorists charged with being drunk in charge of a vehicle and have secured the best possible outcome for our clients.

Contact PDA Law

Through contacting a member of our team, you can find out exactly where you stand legally. 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.

Our Road Traffic Offence Experts

Paul D’Ambrogio

Solicitor

E: paul@pdalaw.co.uk