Defending a drink driving charge

21 Jul 2020

Driving a motor vehicle while over the prescribed limit is a serious offence, but is it possible to defend a drink drive charge?

If you drive over the limit, not only do you put yourself at risk of serious harm, but also other road users. The Court will not look favourably on the facts of any case that involves innocent third parties. If you are being prosecuted and convicted of drink driving, then worst case scenario you could be facing custody. At the very least you will be facing a 12 month ban from driving (assuming this is your first offence of this kind). This is in addition to any fine the Court deems appropriate and costs of the prosecution.

Despite the seriousness of this offence, defences to this charge do exist. The following is not an exhaustive list, but refers to some of the more commonly raised defences.

What defence can I use for a drink driving charge?

One defence available to you may be that you did not have any intention of driving or attempting to drive the vehicle, or were not in charge of the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence. If you can prove that there was no likelihood of you driving the vehicle whilst exceeding the prescribed alcohol limit, then you are not guilty of that offence. Usually it is for the Prosecution to prove their case beyond all reasonable doubt (known as the “burden of proof”) however when you raise this defence, the burden of proof is reversed. It will be for you to prove that you would not have driven the vehicle whilst being over the limit.

It may be that you were not driving on a “road or other public place” or that you were driving out of necessity or duress of circumstance, both of which could amount to a defence.

Physically consuming alcohol whilst driving may not amount to an offence. The offence is driving whilst over the prescribed limit. Raising a defence of this nature would require expert evidence to calculate the proportion of alcohol in your blood at the time of driving the vehicle. Although drinking whilst driving may not be an offence, you may be charged with a different offence if you do not have adequate and appropriate control of your vehicle.

If you have consumed alcohol after you have stopped driving, but before you provided a specimen of breath, blood or urine, you may not have been over the prescribed limit when driving (depending on your alcohol consumption level prior to this). This is more commonly known as the ‘hip flask’ defence. Again expert evidence would be required to calculate post driving alcohol consumption with reference to the recorded specimen results.

There are other potential defences available but they are likely to be fact specific to your circumstances.

Please do get in touch with us so we may consider your case and advise on any potential defences.

COVID-19 impact on prosecution

These unprecedented times are having a significant impact on the Criminal Justice System. The Crown Prosecution Service issued Interim Case Review Guidance in April 2020 to combat the expanding back log of cases that have not been heard in Courts across the Country, due to social distancing measures.

This CPS Guidance recommends that prosecutors review whether continuing with a prosecution is appropriate, in a bid to reduce the increasing backlog. The assessment is largely based on the public interest test in continuing with the prosecution and each case will be decided on its own facts and merits. In light of this CPS Guidance, we can assess your case and where appropriate, put forward reasons for discontinuance of any prosecution to the CPS for their consideration.

If you are facing a conviction for driving over the limit, contact our team of Regulatory Solicitors on 0800 2800 421 or get in touch here.