Drink Driving – what to do if you are charged
The national pre-Christmas drink drive campaign starts today. The dark wintry nights will be filled with office workers wending their way home from the annual Christmas party.
As night follows day, this campaign coincides with a national police initiative concerning drink driving. Forces across the country are preparing for a steep rise in the numbers of drivers tested and arrested for drink driving and drug driving offences.
While these offences may not seem particularly serious when viewed against other offences This is especially so as custody is almost never imposed except on serial repeat offenders with a high reading. Clients often do not understand the real impact that a conviction and disqualification can have.
Loss of a licence leads, in a great many cases, to loss of employment. Consequently, bills and rent cannot be paid. In some cases, it is the final straw that breaks a fragile relationship. The financial costs will be felt for many years thereafter as insurance premiums will be greatly increased.
At this time of year, we also see a a great many people come before the courts with alcohol readings that are not high. The offence has been detected the ‘morning after’ before all the office party alcohol has dissipated. These offences have been committed more out of ignorance than a wilful disregard for the safety of others. A single error of judgment with devastating consequences.
What is a safe level of drinking?
No alcohol is the safest level as you can be sure when you get behind the wheel that your reactions are not impaired at all. Crucially, a policy of soft drinks only, also prevents the guesswork that brings so many people before the courts. Urban myths such as ‘2 pints are ok’ have long since been proved to be false, as have back of the envelope guesses as to how long it takes alcohol to leave the body. Different people deal with alcohol in different ways, and even this can vary for a single person depending on a multitude of factors.
But I felt fit to drive
Feeling fit to drive is not a reliable indicator as to whether you are below the legal limit or not. The problem is that even small amounts of alcohol can impair your judgement. Including your judgement as to how fit you are to drive. As you get merry, you will reach a familiar tipping point; a point at which you can make foolish choices that will prove costly. The risks are not only financial but also include injury and even loss of life.
What if you are charged?
There are defences to drink drive prosecutions. If you do find yourself in trouble, there is a lot we can do to assist.
Driving over the limit
Firstly, the police must follow complex procedures to establish a case against you – we can ensure that this has been done and make submission of no case if it has not. We can also investigate issues such as ‘laced drinks’ and ‘special reasons’. In some cases, it can be worth challenging the calibration of the intoximeter device.
Secondly there are a range of offences other than simply driving over the limit. These include “Drunk in charge” where there are substantial matters of evidence to be considered and if necessary challenged, such as:
- Your distance from the vehicle;
- What you were doing at the time or arrest (if you were in a pub and a friend had said they would drive then you were not in charge)
- Whether you had the ignition key;
- Any other evidence showing that you were not about to drive the vehicle
Driving whilst unfit
Under S 4 (1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 it is an offence to drive or attempt to drive on a road whilst unfit through drink. You do not need to be over the limit. The test is not objective as with drink driving and sometimes the police have been known to bring the wrong charge. Legal advice is essential if this happens. It is important to deal with errors such as this in the right tactical way.
The police will often seek to call evidence that you were unsteady on your feet, that you slurred your words, that they could smell alcohol and that your driving was badly affected. They may give the results of a field impairment test. This test involves you being asked to carry out up to five simple physical moves such as touching your nose or walking a line.
What if you have no defence?
Well-presented mitigation can make a real difference to the outcome. Often the most persuasive explanations do not sound right coming from the defendant themselves. It is a very good idea to put an expert drink driving solicitor r between you and the sentencing bench. Even where a disqualification cannot be avoided, we can often achieve a reduction in length. We can offer affordable fixed fees for anything but the most complex case.
You do not hear a lawyer say this often – but we do not wish to see you this Christmas. If you do get in to trouble conatct us at once we will be able to help.
Contact Keith Hollywood or Jamie Ritchie on 020 8986 8336 to discuss your case or use the contact form below.