Specialist Motoring Solicitor, Ruth Peters explains what could happen if the police stop you for drink driving.
What will happen if you are stopped for Drink Driving?
The police do not have the power to perform random preliminary breath tests. If a police officer has reasonable suspicion that you may be driving, attempting to drive, have been driving or are in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, whilst having alcohol in your body they then have the power to request a preliminary roadside breath alcohol test under section 6 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
The police will often say they can smell alcohol on an individual, they have bloodshot eyes or other visible signs of intoxication, the manner of their driving was erratic or unusually slow or cautious, or they have been given information leading them to believe that an individual is driving whilst over the limit.
The roadside test is not an evidential breath test but will assist the police in deciding whether or not to arrest you.
What happens if I don’t cooperate with a roadside breath test?
It is an offence to fail to cooperate with a preliminary breath test and so if you failed to give a roadside breath test you would still be arrested.
If your roadside breath test proves positive, you fail to cooperate with a preliminary roadside breath test or the police officer still holds a reasonable suspicion that you have been driving with alcohol in your system, then you are likely to be arrested.
What will happen if you are arrested for Drink Driving?
If arrested you will be taken to the nearest police station custody suite and booked in by the custody sergeant.
You will be asked a number of questions about your welfare and any medical conditions and/or medication you may take. The police may offer you a solicitor and if they do so we would always advise you to exercise this option.
You will then be asked to provide an evidential breath test. There are a number of different breathalysers used across England and Wales but generally you will be taken into a different room with either one or two police officers and asked to blow into a large breath test machine. The police will ask you a number of questions before you provide a specimen and will need to explain the process fully to you. You will be asked to provide two breath specimens.
The legal limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. However if your alcohol level is between 35 and 39 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath you are unlikely to be charged with any offence. If you blow under the legal limit it is likely that you will be released with no further action. If you blow 40 or above you are likely to be charged with an offence of driving with excess alcohol. If you fail to provide a specimen you are likely to be charged with failing to provide a specimen.
You may be interviewed by the police although this is not the norm in driving with excess alcohol cases. You may be kept in a cell overnight and you may be asked to provide another breath test before the police release you although this is not an evidential specimen.
If the police do indicate that they will be formally interviewing you we would always recommend that you request the services of a solicitor at that stage if you have not previously done so.
What are your options if charged with Drink Driving?
If you have been charged with an offence of driving with excess alcohol then essentially you have two options. You could either plead guilty to the offence or ascertain if there are any circumstances whereby the matter could be defended i.e a not guilty plea.
Drink Driving – Guilty Plea
If you plead guilty to an offence of drink driving you will face a mandatory disqualification of at least 12 months together with a fine and prosecution costs. The length of your disqualification depends of the level of alcohol in your body together with aggravating and mitigating features specific to the offence themselves.
For individuals with a high alcohol level, you could be at risk of a more serious sentence for example a community order, or in some very serious circumstances you could be at risk of a custodial sentence. The court do not have any discretion to not disqualify you from driving even if you would lose your job or your home could be at risk.
The court could offer you the Drink Drivers Rehabilitation Course and if you complete this, it will reduce your period of disqualification by 25%, but they must disqualify you unless special reasons apply.
Click here for more information on sentencing in driving with excess alcohol cases.
Defending a Drink Driving Charge
There are a number of different ways in which driving with excess alcohol matters can, in some circumstances, be defended. The police need to follow a specific procedure when conducting the breath test. It is vital that certain aspects of the procedure are adhered to and we often find breaches resulting in an acquittal. It is also possible to look at the reliability of the actual breath specimen. There are a number of different breath test devices across the country and Olliers Motor Law work with the leading experts in the field to challenge the reliability of the specimen and the functionality of the devices themselves.
There are other ways in which we may be able to consider challenging a drink driving matter and we would always advise that you speak to a specialist drink driving solicitor as each case is specific to its own circumstances.
If you are found not guilty of the offence at court you will not be disqualified from driving and will indeed not receive any type of sentence in respect of the matter.
Ruth Peters – Specialist Motoring Lawyer
Written by Ruth Peters, specialist motoring solicitor at Olliers Motor Law. If you require further advice in relation to an offence of drink driving (or indeed any other motoring offence) please contact Ruth on 0808 168 0017 or 07714 680535. You can also email Ruth at [email protected] or click here to contact us.