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Drink driving is understandably taken very seriously.  Whilst the number of serious injuries caused by drink driving has gone down in recent years, according to the Department for Transport, drink driving accidents still account for 14% of all road deaths in Britain.

There aren’t many people who would willingly put themselves and other people at risk of injury or even death, by getting behind the wheel of a car when they know they’re over the limit, but sometimes it’s because drivers don’t know that they’re over the limit – which can lead to serious accidents.

What is the drink driving limit in England?

For drivers in England, the legal limit can be measured in different ways, but they are all equal to each other: –  35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath, or 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, or 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine.

What does this equate to?

The difference between being over and under the limit varies for every person and will depend on:

  • Your weight
  • Whether you’re male or female
  • Your age
  • How fast or slow your metabolism is
  • The type and strength of alcohol you’re consuming
  • What types and amount of food you’ve eaten before, whilst and after drinking alcohol
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Generally speaking, if you have a slow metabolism, a low weight and haven’t eaten a lot that day, the chances are alcohol will have a greater impact on you and your reaction times because it will be quickly absorbed into your bloodstream, but only slowly expelled from it, giving you a much higher chance of being over the limit if you then drive.

It’s difficult for an expert to calculate alcohol levels, and almost impossible to guess for yourself how quickly alcohol will be absorbed into your bloodstream. The only way to be certain that you’re not over the limit is not to drink alcohol at all when you drive.

Do you have to be over the limit to be convicted?

No.  In addition to the offences that do require the prosecution to prove a level over the legal limit, there are other possible charges relating to ‘impairment’. Many people are affected after consuming only a small amount of alcohol that would not be enough to put them over the limit. Others may feel they have slept off the previous night’s drinks but still have some alcohol in them.  If you’re pulled over or involved in an accident when impaired, even if it’s from a small amount of alcohol that remains in your system from a day ago, you are still likely to be convicted and sentenced for drink driving.

Do you have to have been in an accident to be convicted of excess alcohol offences?

You don’t actually even have to be driving a car to be convicted of alcohol related offences.  You could be held to be in charge of the car (for example, if you are in possession of the keys and are in the car).  One way to defend such a charge is to prove that there was no likelihood of you driving the car whilst still over the limit.  So, sleeping in your car after drinking may not be such a good idea, unless you can show clear plans for driving much later, or for getting home another way in the meantime.

What are the penalties for drink driving in the UK?

Drink driving penalty – in charge of a vehicle

If you’re in charge of a vehicle whilst above the legal limit or likely to be impaired through having drunk alcohol, you could be penalised with 3 months’ imprisonment, a driving ban and a fine of up to £2,500.

Drink driving penalty – driving above the limit

If you have been driving whilst above the limit or impaired, you could be penalised with 6 months’ imprisonment, a driving ban lasting a minimum of 12 months and an unlimited fine.

Drink driving penalty – refusing to provide a specimen

If you refuse to provide a specimen for police to test whether you are over the limit, you could be imprisoned for 6 months, receive an unlimited fine and be banned from driving for a year or more.

Drink driving penalty – causing death whilst under the influence of alcohol

If death was caused by careless driving whilst you’re under the influence of alcohol, you could be penalised with 14 years’ imprisonment, a driving ban lasting at least 2 years, an unlimited fine and an extended driving test to regain your driving licence once your ban has been lifted.

If you are accused of drink driving

Unfortunately, despite strict procedures that are in place, mistakes do happen.  The police may make a mistake about who is driving or whether someone is actually in charge of a vehicle, or they may make a mistake in the procedures that they should follow.  If you think this may have happened to you, a specialist criminal defence solicitor will be able to help defend your case.  For more information, contact our criminal defence solicitors based at our offices in Leicester and Hinckley: