Going to court for a drink driving offence
Specialist Motoring Solicitor, Ruth Peters, explains what will happen if you are required to appear in court for a drink driving offence.
An appearance in court is likely to result from an arrest for an offence of driving with excess alcohol.
What will happen if I am 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 should 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 happens after I am released from the police station
You will either be released from the police station with no further action, released under investigation or charged (and most likely) bailed with a date to appear in court.
It is crucial that you speak to a solicitor to ascertain your options before you appear in court. If released under investigation this is likely to be because the police have further investigative work to undertake or that they are awaiting the result of blood specimen analysis.
What happens at court?
At a first appearance for an offence of this type, the defendant is asked to enter their plea. If the matter is admitted then the Court will move to sentence and would ordinarily try and conclude the case that day. If it is denied, then the case will be adjourned for a trial. In the Magistrates’ Court trials are normally listed around two to three months after the first appearance, depending upon the court’s availability and availability of the prosecution witnesses and any defence witnesses – this is however subject to change following Covid as there is now a huge backlog of cases in the system and trials are likely to be delayed. Any disqualification from driving would begin immediately and therefore if you do plead guilty and are inevitably disqualified then you would not be allowed to drive home from court.
Do I need to plead guilty to 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.
Usually a plea will need to be entered on your first appearance at the Magistrates’ Court.
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.
Not guilty plea: 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.
Do I need a 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.
Click here to read more about have a specialist drink driving solicitor to represent you at court.
Ruth Peters Specialist Motoring Lawyer
If you require advice in relation to an offence of driving with excess alcohol (drink driving) or any other motoring offence please contact us to discuss your case.