As specialist Motoring Law Solicitors we are used to be asked the same sort of questions, therefore below is a useful list of frequently asked questions but we would always encourage contacting one of our Solicitors in regards to specifics of your offence.
In addition to FAQs, the legal world is full of jargon that may make very little sense to anyone who does not have experience in this field. Hopefully our jargon buster will give you a better understanding of the terms often used so you can make a more informed decision on how to proceed with your case.
How much can I drink and still be under the limit?
Each individual processes alcohol differently and how the body treats alcohol is dependent upon various factors such as age, weight and gender to name a few. This means that whilst one person may be able to drink xx amount and ultimately remain under the limit, the same may not be said for someone else. In the UK it is illegal to drive a vehicle if the concentration of alcohol in your body exceeds the following limits:
- 35µg of alcohol in 100 ml of breath
- 80mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood
- 107 ml of alcohol in 100ml of urine
Will I be disqualified for drink driving even if I need my car for my job?
Unfortunately the answer is yes as driving with excess alcohol (along with drug driving and failing to provide a specimen for analysis) carry mandatory disqualifications of 12 months regardless of your personal circumstances. The only way to avoid a disqualification is by successfully defending your case or if a special reason exists.
Shouldn’t the police have taken a blood sample from me?
If under suspicion for drink driving (for example) there are limited circumstances when a blood or urine sample is required. It is not a mandatory part of the procedure for a blood or urine sample to be taken and a suspect is only able to provide a further sample if, for whatever reason, the breath sample is considered to be unreliable at the time of the breath test or you are in hospital.
The police said they stopped me for speeding and then breathalysed me because they said they suspected me of drink driving. I was not speeding, is this lawful?
In order to stop a driver the police only need reasonable suspicion of drink driving. If the officer formed the opinion that your speed may have seem excessive or irregular or erratic for example this gives them grounds to stop your vehicle and require a breath sample.
I didn’t feel well at the police station but I did not see a doctor straight away. Is this lawful?
Once a suspect is taken into custody, the police should conduct a risk assessment where any medical conditions should be considered and a decision made about whether they require urgent medical attention. There are some conditions that demand medical assessment however, the police will also be mindful about any significant delay that may be caused by waiting for a health care professional’s opinion. If they consider a medical condition requires attention, the police would usually contact an FME (Force Medical Examiner) but continue with the procedure in the meantime.
Should the police have let me speak to a solicitor?
It is one of your basic legal rights to have free legal advice upon your arrival into police custody. That said, the police have a duty to investigate any allegation of drink driving efficiently and this includes proceeding with a breath test. As such, they will not usually delay a breath test in order for you to speak to a solicitor. This issue is a complicated matter however and advice would be given on a case by case basis as the circumstances will almost always vary.
Is Legal Aid available for my case?
There is strict criteria in place that is used to assess whether or not an individual is entitled to legal aid and it is ultimately a two-part test. Anyone applying for legal aid must satisfy the “means test” in addition to the “interests of justice” test. The “means test” looks at your income and ability to potentially pay privately but even if you are receiving the bare minimum in terms of income, there is a real possibility that you will not pass the “interests of justice” test. This is where the court decide whether it would be in the interests of justice to grant you legal aid and as a general rule with motoring cases, if you are not at risk of a custodial penalty it would not be deemed to be within the interests of justice and legal aid would be refused. Regardless of the above, Olliers Motor Law do not represent individuals who are legally aided and we would refer you to our costs page.
If I want to defend my case, will I be able to carry on driving whilst the case is ongoing?
In the vast majority of cases the court will allow you to continue driving until a decision following trial has been made or you plead guilty to the offence and are sentenced. In some rare instances the court may impose bail conditions to prevent you from driving however this would only really happen if you had many previous convictions or were considered a danger.
Will I be making things worse for myself if I try to defend my case only to be found guilty?
There is a credit system in place at court which entitles defendants to a reduction of one third off the penalty should they plead guilty at the first opportunity (i.e. your first hearing). This is less relevant however for cases involving a mandatory disqualification as the length of the ban (regardless of what you do) is largely determined by the level of alcohol found in your system. If you try to defend your case and are found guilty, there may be financial implications as you will have to pay Prosecution costs and the court may impose a slightly higher fine to reflect the fact that you did not plead guilty early on.
What is stopping me from defending myself and do I really need a drink driving solicitor?
The laws that govern drink driving are a very niche area of criminal law and it is widely considered to be a specialist area. This is due to the fact that the law allows for several technical and procedural arguments that would need to be carefully prepared and effectively argued in court with the backing of legal authorities. It would be extremely unwise to try and prepare your own defence unless you are specifically trained in road traffic law. Specialist motor law firms exist and were required due to the lack of expertise that general criminal practitioners possess in this area. Motor Law is such a niche area that instructing a general criminal lawyer or choosing to prepare your own defence would be comparable to asking a dentist to repair your car.