The first thing you should do in this situation is contact a solicitor who is an expert in drink driving cases for advice on what to do next. The sooner you do this the more likely you are to be able to ensure the best possible outcome by taking specialist advice to decide on a strategy and clarify evidence.
What happens if you are found guilty of drink driving?
Drink driving is a criminal offence and if you plead guilty or are found guilty, you will face consequences that could include a fine, a driving ban and even a prison term, depending on the severity of your offence. Aside from that, there will probably be an enormous impact on your work and social life.
What defences are available?
If there is a valid case for defending your drink driving charge, then there is a chance you can avoid the stress and disruption to your home and work life that a drink driving conviction can cause. There are a number of defences that solicitors specialising in drink driving cases will consider using in your defence if they apply to your case. These include:
Reliability of the testing machine
In some cases it’s possible to prove that the device used to test the levels of alcohol in your system, either at the roadside in or in a police station, provided a falsely high reading. If you think this is the case, your solicitor may be able to prove this in court by reviewing the machine’s print out, examining its maintenance and calibration records or finding out if it has been modified in any way to make its official approval invalid.
Drinking after an incident on the road
If you are involved in a traffic collision, then you might drink alcohol at the roadside before the police arrive on the scene with a breathalyser. For example if you’re in a state of shock, you may accept some brandy offered to you to help with the shock when your state of mind means it doesn’t occur to you that this will affect a breathalyser reading. In the event of this ‘hip flask’ defence, your drink driving solicitors will request a ‘back calculation’ report and if it can be proved you were not over the limit at the time you were driving, you will not be found guilty.
Drink driving under duress
If you drink drive to escape threat in the form of serious injury or death, then this can be used by drink driving solicitors as a defence. However it’s important to remember that this defence can only stand if the threat is immediate or imminent. This means that if you reach a point of safety from your attacker when you are drunk at the wheel, you must stop driving immediately; otherwise your defence won’t stand. Also, the prosecution will examine whether a sober person would have made the same judgement about the perceived threat.
Drink driving on private land
You can only be prosecuted for drink driving if the offence takes place on a road or other public place. This means that it must be proven by the prosecution that the place in question, such as a car park, garage forecourt or camping/caravan site, is a public place at the time of the driving – the classification can change during the course of a day depending on whether the public have access or not. In drink driving cases, your expert drink driving solicitor will be able to advise you fully about this.
Police procedural errors
Sometimes solicitors specialising in drink driving cases use police failures in due process to secure a not guilty verdict. This happens when it can be proven that police didn’t comply with the use or maintenance of the testing equipment, failed to ask the necessary risk assessment questions before the test, produced incorrect or inadequate paperwork or neglected to warn the suspect of the consequences of failing to give a sample.
What happens if I don’t give a sample?
Failure to provide a sample when requested to do so by a police officer is an offence in itself. You can be convicted of this even if you were not driving, provided the police had a reasonable suspicion on which to base their request. However, there are some circumstances where you may be unable to comply with this request. This could happen if you are unable to provide a breath sample due to a chest problem, a blood sample due to a needle phobia or a urine sample for another medical reason. Solicitors dealing with a drink driving case can also use a suspect’s failure to understand instructions, for example through an inability to speak English, as a defence.
Is a solicitor specialising in drink driving cases necessary if I plead guilty?
Yes. It’s crucial to speak to a specialist solicitor as soon as you’re charged. At Bray & Bray, our experts in drink driving cases will examine the prosecution’s evidence before advising you on making any decision on how to plead. Sometimes, even if you think you may have to plead guilty, your solicitor may be able to offer an alternative strategy if the prosecution evidence is lacking something. In addition, there may be times when it is possible to argue that a ‘special reason ‘ applies to your case. If that is so, you may have to plead guilty, but the court finding a ‘special reason’ in your favour can then use a discretion not to impose a ban or other penalties on you.
If you think you were over the limit due to a spiked drink this can be used by your solicitor in your mitigation. Crucially, you need to prove that if it were not for the spiked drink you would have been under the limit, so an expert medical report proving this will be required.
If you decide to plead guilty, your solicitor will be able to identify any aggravating or mitigating factors that may increase or reduce your sentence, and plan accordingly. For example, character references may help reduce the penalty, even if it’s not your first offence. Also, your solicitor can guide you through what to expect from what can be a daunting process, involving a court appearance.
Speak to a solicitor with experience in drink driving cases
If you are accused of drink driving get in touch with your local specialists for drink driving cases, by calling us at our Leicester of Hinckley offices:
Leicester: 0116 254 8871
Hinckley: 01455 639 900