Do I need a specialist motoring offence solicitor for a drink driving offence?
We would always advise that somebody who has been charged with drink driving speaks to a specialist solicitor prior to their court appearance who can give advice in relation to their options. Furthermore, if you instruct a solicitor prior to the hearing, in most circumstances they can obtain initial disclosure from the prosecution prior to the court hearing. This means that they will then be able to advise you far more thoroughly having regard to the specific circumstances and evidence in your case.
For many people being arrested and subsequently charged with a drink driving offence it is their first involvement with the criminal justice system. They may never previously have been arrested and it is therefore a huge shock for them to find themselves arrested, charged with drink driving and then given a date to appear in court just a few weeks later. Many such individuals find themselves in a state of shock and are unsure whether they require the services of a solicitor to advise and represent them at court. For many it is then a huge shock when they turn up at court, plead guilty and find themselves disqualified from driving immediately. Many people still do not appreciate that if you plead guilty to driving with excess alcohol or are convicted after a trial then there is a mandatory disqualification from driving. This means the court cannot use their discretion in the same way they can for other matters to avoid disqualification.
I am pleading guilty, do I still need a solicitor?
If you plead guilty to an offence of drink driving then the court will generally have regard to the sentencing guidelines for driving with excess alcohol. There are ‘various’ categories depending on the level of alcohol in your breath (or blood/urine) which dictate the seriousness of the penalty. Other factors can also affect the penalty. These are often known as aggravating or mitigating factors and could include a road traffic collision, whether there are passengers in the vehicle or poor driving to name just a few. If you instruct a solicitor to represent you then they will have opportunity to address the court and put forward your mitigation. This may include an explanation as to the circumstances of the offence, your personal circumstances, how a disqualification would affect your employment and your home life, your lack of previous convictions and anything else that your solicitor considers relevant. If you instruct a solicitor prior to the hearing they may advise on character references and these can be provided to the court during the sentencing hearing. This is all with a view to trying to achieve a more lenient penalty. Whilst this must include a mandatory twelve month disqualification for drink driving offences, in many circumstances the court will be considering a higher penalty.
I have a high alcohol reading – will the court send me to prison?
If your breath alcohol reading is over a certain level, the court will also consider sentencing to what is known as a community penalty in addition to a disqualification from driving. This can include an unpaid work order, an electronically monitored curfew or attending to see the Probation Service. In some circumstances it may be possible to bring the penalty down to avoid a community penalty and this is one of the areas in which a solicitor can assist.
With very high readings or a number of previous convictions then the court may consider a custodial penalty n addition to disqualification. In such circumstances it is imperative that you use the services of a solicitor as it could make a fundamental difference to your liberty.
I am not sure whether I should be pleading guilty
A solicitor can also advise you as to plea. From consideration of the initial prosecution evidence and the instructions provided to your solicitor it may be appropriate in some cases to plead not guilty. It may be that there is a defence in your case, for example you indicate you were not driving the vehicle. There are also technical and procedural aspects of the case that a solicitor can advise fully in relation to. If it is that you are minded to plead not guilty then the matter will be adjourned for a trial. However, at some point, there will be what is known as a case management hearing where the court wish to discuss witness requirements, directions for service of evidence, directions for service of defence reports and the issues in the case. We would not advise dealing with such a hearing unrepresented as from our experience it can often jeopardise your case at trial.
Can I use the services of a duty solicitor at court?
We would advise not relying on being able to use the services of a duty solicitor at court. A duty solicitor is only required to deal with cases where defendants are at risk of a custodial sentence. Whilst duty solicitors may represent other defendants who are not at risk, this really depends on how busy they are on that particular day.
Olliers Motor Law – specialist motoring lawyers
If you require advice in relation to an offence of driving with excess alcohol (drink driving) or any other motoring after please contact us to discuss your case. We are specialist motoring solicitors with considerable experience of the full spectrum of motoring offences. We can often agree fixed fees to advise and represent you at court. Click here for more information in relation to our fees.