Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs
The most serious drink driving offence is 'causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs'. The charge can only be heard in the Crown Court.
Elements of the offence
To prove this offence, the prosecution must show beyond reasonable doubt that a driver:
- caused the death of another person;
- fell below the standard expected of a reasonable, prudent and competent driver in the circumstances; and
- the driver was unfit through drink or drugs or the level of alcohol was over the 'prescribed limit', or there was a failure to provide a specimen.
Each of these elements will be discussed in turn below.
1. Caused the death of another person
The prosecution has the burden of proving the accused drove carelessly when under the influence and his/her driving was a cause of death. The careless driving does need not be the principal, or even a substantial, cause of death, but it must have at least contributed to it in some way. Obviously, determining this issue requires close examination of all the evidence related to the accident and the events culminating in the victim's death.
2. Fell below standard expected of a reasonable driver
This standard is judged objectively. The prosecution may refer to relevant sections of the Highway Code and present evidence of alleged violations of it by the accused.
3. Unfit through drink, over the 'prescribed limit', or failed to provide a specimen
The police will conduct tests to assess the level of alcohol in the driver's breath, blood and/or urine. If the accused fails to submit to the tests or the level of alcohol exceeds the 'prescribed limits', this element of the crime will be satisfied.
Currently, the prescribed limits are:
- 35 milligrammes (mg) of alcohol in 100 millilitres (ml) of breath;
- 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood; or
- 107 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of urine.
Penalties / Sentencing
The maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs is an unlimited fine, 14 years imprisonment, and driving disqualification for at least two years (or three years if there is a relevant previous conviction) with compulsory extended re-test.
As the level of alcohol consumption increases, so does the severity of the penalty. Read pages 12 to 13 of the Causing Death By Driving Sentencing Guidelines for more information and to learn about additional aggravating and mitigating factors that could increase or decrease the penalty.
If you've been charged with c ausing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, you need to seek legal advice as a matter of priority. You can find a criminal law solicitor in your area via Contact Law .
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