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Drink Driving – The Law

Think, before you drink, before you drive

Drinking and driving is a criminal offence and is often in the media, especially when committed by celebrities. It is a very topical issue now, and recent events have shown that not only does it cause problems to you from a practical perspective if you are fined, banned from driving or imprisoned, but it can seriously damage your reputation; this can affect your career and future job prospects.

We thought it would be useful to write this article explaining the drink driving laws as a reminder and to explain what happens if you do get convicted.

The drink driving limits

In the UK it is not an offence to drink alcohol and drive, but it is an offence to drive whilst over the limit. This table shows that if you exceed the level of alcohol detailed below, you are likely to face a drink driving charge.

England & Wales
Per 100ml of breath 35 Micrograms
Per 100ml of blood 80 Milligrams
Per 100ml of urine 107 Milligrams

It’s hard to say how this translates into the number of units consumed as so many factors can affect how your body deals with the alcohol.  These include your age, weight, the type of alcohol, how long after you drank it you drove, when you last ate and even the level of stress you are under can have an impact on the reading. It is not an exact science because we, as individuals, are all different.

Impact of alcohol in your bloodstream

It is best to avoid drinking alcohol if you know you will be driving, particularly if you are nominated as the designated driver for the night and have passengers in your car.

Be aware of ‘the morning after the night before’. If you consumed a large amount of alcohol, finished drinking late and are driving early the next morning, just because you have had a few hours’ sleep that does not mean you will be under the limit when you wake up.

There is plenty of evidence that shows alcohol can slow down your reaction rate so if there was an emergency you would not be able to respond quickly enough to avoid an accident. It can also blur your vision and in some cases, make you take risks that you would not normally take.

You not only put yourself and passengers at risk, but you could also cause an accident that causes injury to pedestrians or other motorists making the offence even more serious.

What to do if you are stopped by the police

The law states that a police officer can request a breath test in the circumstances shown below, they can’t randomly stop you and insist that you take a breath test:

  • they have reasonable cause to suspect that you have committed or are committing a moving traffic offence;
  • they have stopped you and the officer has reasonable cause to suspect that you have consumed alcohol e.g. smells alcohol on your breath;
  • if you are involved in an accident, and the officer has reasonable cause to believe that you were the driver even if the accident was not your fault.

The officer can request that you take a road side breath test which is a screening test. It is an offence to refuse to provide a roadside test which carries a fine and 4 penalty points or a discretionary ban. If you fail the test the officer would have grounds to arrest you and take you to the police station where you would be asked to either give a breath test, provide blood or a urine sample. It is an offence to refuse to provide a sample unless you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. The maximum punishment for failure to provide is the same as for driving whilst over the limit to deter people from not providing a sample.

What are the drink driving penalties?

If you are found to be over the limit, then you will be charged and usually released on bail. You will be given a date to attend a magistrate’s court. The level of penalty that you will be given if you plead guilty or are convicted depends on the severity of the offence.

If you are driving or attempting to drive when over the legal limit or you fail to provide a sample at the police station, then you may get up to six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a driving ban of at least a year. The court has a discretion to offer you the opportunity to undertake a drink driver’s rehabilitation course which would reduce the length of ban by 25%.

As you can see, drink driving is a very serious offence. If you want to find out more or if you are facing a drink driving conviction then contact us, we can offer legal advice. You can call 0115 784 1588 or email maria@mooremotoringlaw.co.uk

 

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