FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions about Drink Driving

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  2. FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions about Drink Driving

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

Click here for further information.

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.

Jargon Buster!

Someone who acts on behalf of someone else: For example, Olliers may instruct an agent to represent one of our clients on our behalf

Agreement

Where two parties reach consensus on a set of facts or course of action.

Allegation

A claim made against someone which has not and may not be proved true.

Associate

A person, usually employed by a law firm, who may be in charge of handling your case, often a lawyer.

Barrister

A lawyer regulated by the Bar Standards Board, often specialising in court room representation, drafting pleadings and expert legal opinions

Breathalyser

A device used to ascertain the concentration of alcohol in your blood.

CAMIC Datamaster

A type of breathalyser used in police stations across England & Wales.

Chambers

A collection of independent, self-employed barristers who share employed clerks to administer work, and who share the expense of such clerks, office buildings and brand name.

Counsel

A term used to describe a barrister.

Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

The CPS is the organisation that prosecutes criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

Crown Prosecutor

A lawyer (generally a solicitor or a barrister) working for the Crown Prosecution Service.

Disbursement

Usually payments to third parties who have assisted in your case. For example, we may instruct an expert witness to strengthen your defence and they would be classed as a disbursement.

District Judge

Full time judges that hear criminal cases, youth cases and also some civil proceedings in magistrates’ courts. They are legally trained (usually sourced from Barristers or Solicitors of at least 5 years standing).

Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA)

Organisation of the UK government responsible for maintaining a database of drivers in Great Britain and a database of vehicles for the entire United Kingdom.

EC/IR Intoximeter

A type of breathalyser used across England & Wales.

Fee earners

Employees of firms who deliver legal services.

GATSO

A type of speed detection camera used in speeding cases.

Hearing

A legal proceeding where the facts of a particular issue are looked at.

Instructing

Authorising a lawyer to represent you: An instruction describes the type of work that you want them to do. So you may instruct us to represent you in a drink driving allegation.

Interim proceedings

These are proceedings that take place between the first hearing and the final hearing (usually your trial or sentence hearing).

Legal aid

Government funding that can help people meet the costs of legal services they require, if they are eligible to receive it. Olliers Motor Law do not represent Legally Aided defendants.

Legal Executive

A lawyer regulated by ILEX Professional Standards (IPS).

Litigation

The contest process before a court.

Lion Intoxilyser

A type of breathalyser used across England & Wales.

Legal Ombudsman

An independent body set up to deal with complaints of poor service about all lawyers.

Legal services

Services provided to clients, such as legal advice or representation in court.

LTI 20-20

A type of speed detection device used in speeding cases.

Magistrates

Volunteers who hear cases in courts in their community. They are not legally trained and rely upon a court Legal Adviser/Clerk for guidance on points of law.

Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP)

A notice sent out to inform someone of the intention to prosecute them. Most commonly sent out to drivers who have been flashed by a speed camera.

Paralegal

A broad term sometimes used to describe someone who supports lawyers in their work.

Printout

We often refer to “printouts” when discussing alcohol related allegations. The printout we are referring to is from the breathalyser device and contains the breath alcohol results from your breath test. It looks a lot like a till receipt.

Proof of Evidence

Your instructions to us in a written document. This is used to obtain a written account of the circumstances in your case. It is for our use only and is not shown to the Prosecution or the Court.

Pursuant

When something is related to, or comes out of, something else: For example, drink driving is an offence pursuant to section 5 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Revocation

When something is cancelled or taken away, such as the DVLA revoking a driving licence.

Special Reason

Unique circumstances that relate to the commission of an offence that the court ought to consider

s.9 Statement

A written statement given by a witness in a case and used as part of the legal proceedings.

Summons

A summons that requires you to attend court on a specified date and time. Failing to adhere to a summons may result in arrest

Totting

The term used to describe when a motorist has accumulated 12 points or more within a 3 year disqualification.

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