Drunk in Charge or Unfit Whilst in Charge

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Drunk whilst in charge of a motor vehicle

This lesser known offence is likely one that many motorists have committed without even realising they are breaking the law.

The usual scenario is when you have a couple of drinks, realise that you have had too much to drive and so decide to sleep it off in your car. Sounds like the sensible thing to do, right? Unfortunately however whilst your intentions may be good, you are putting yourself in real danger of facing an allegation of being “drunk in charge” if spotted by or reported to police.

In English law it is an offence to be:

…”in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit”

It is also an offence to be “unfit” to drive through drink or drugs which is a slightly different but dealt with in a similar way.

It is important to realise from the outset that whilst you may have provided a sample that was above the limit, this does not always mean that you can be convicted of this offence as there are a number of factors to consider.

How Do We Win Cases of Drunk in Charge?

To secure a conviction, the Crown Prosecution Service must be able to prove not only that you were in fact “in charge” of the vehicle (with the definition of this not being as straight forward as you may think) but also that you were over the limit. Proving both elements of this offence can be a difficult task which is why it is essential to seek advice.

What is meant by in-charge?

The legal definition of “in charge” is not as straight forward as one may think and the court will consider a number of factors such as:

  1. Where you were in relation to your vehicle at the time
  2. Where you were sitting if you were inside the vehicle
  3. Where the keys were
  4. Whether the engine was on
  5. Any evidence that suggests an intention to drive

It may come as a surprise to a lot of people that even if you are asleep in your car you can still be found guilty of being drunk in charge.

“I wasn’t planning to drive!”

One possible defence to this allegation is if there was no intention of driving. If you are merely sat in your vehicle (for whatever reason) but do not intend to drive then you should not be found guilty of this offence however convincing the court of this can be a challenge.

A defendant must be able to prove that they had no intention to drive so long as he remained unfit/over the limit to do so. This is what is called as a “statutory defence” and is established in The Road Traffic Act 1988.

I Was Not Over The Limit!

Methods used to detect alcohol in a person’s system that are used in England and Wales are not infallible and we are often able to successfully challenge the reliability of breath/blood/urine samples. If you think that you did not consume enough alcohol to be above the prescribed limit then this in itself is worth investigating. 

Why Instruct Olliers Motor Law?

Road Traffic Law is a very niche area of criminal law and there are literally only a handful of firms with genuine expertise in this area. As specialists, there are a number of strategies and techniques that have been developed and fine tuned over the years that result in successful acquittals but what makes us different from the rest?

When we are instructed in a case, there are a number of aspects that we will scrutinise to raise the chances of a successful acquittal which include:

  1. The procedure conducted by the officers involved in your case. It is vital that some aspects of the procedure are conducted correctly and we often find breaches that result in an acquittal
  2. Exactly how the samples were taken from you and what information was provided to you
  3. Is the sample reliable enough to be used against you?
  4. Is the evidence itself strong enough? To secure a conviction in the UK the court must be satisfied that you are guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. To a non-specialist drink driving lawyer the evidence against you may seem substantial however, when we review the strength of the case we almost invariably find flaws and have evidence thrown out. The result? The case against you simply isn’t strong enough to convince the court that you are guilty.
  5. Whether all evidence has been disclosed is another area that results in acquittals. It is vital that you receive a fair trial and there are many cases where this is simply not possible due to certain evidence not being disclosed to us. At trial, we have successfully argued that this means you cannot enjoy a fair trial and the case has been dismissed.

It is important you seek advice at the earliest opportunity. Not only could this make a huge different to the end result in your case but, you will hopefully find that it puts some of your concerns at ease and makes you feel better about the position you have found yourself in.

We provide free initial telephone advice and would be happy to help so please contact us to discuss. In cases where you have attended hospital, we are often able to establish whether or not you have a defence early on in the proceedings!

You must be confident in your representation and if our statistics are not enough to convince you of our expertise, we invite you to review our client testimonials and case studies.

If you have been given your own sample of either blood or urine we strongly urge you to send this away for independent analysis. The booklet of approved laboratories can be found on the Royal Society of Chemistry website. If you are unsure where to send your sample then please contact us and one of our lawyers will be happy to recommend a laboratory.

Pleading Guilty

The penalty for being drunk or unfit whilst in charge of a vehicle starts at 10 penalty points and a fine of up to £2500. If 10 points would mean that the total number on your licence will amount to 12 or more then we recommend reading our page about totting up.

The penalty can increase significantly however depending on the circumstances and for more serious cases of being drunk in charge you could be facing up to 6 weeks in custody or a disqualification from driving.

We offer representation on a guilty plea basis at £1200 + VAT which includes:

  • Untimed and unlimited consultations with your lawyers for advice and support;
  • Meticulously prepared mitigation;
  • A specialist Barrister/advocate
  • Thorough advice on supporting evidence to assist mitigation
  • Thorough advice on court procedure and what you can expect on your day in court

Worried about a possible drunk in charge conviction? Contact specialist drink driving lawyer Ruth Peters for an informal chat:

Call: 0808 168 0017
email: [email protected]

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