Drink driving FAQs
Frequently asked questions about drink driving
What is the drink driving limit?
It illegal to drive or be in charge of a vehicle after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in the blood, breath, or urine exceeds the 'prescribed limit', which is currently set at:
- 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.
What is the safest type of alcohol to drink before driving?
Simply answer: none. You cannot rely on drinking a particular type of alcohol to stay under the legal limit. Our bodies absorb, metabolise and remove alcohol at different rates. Aside from the amount and type of alcohol consumed, the rate can be affected by a host of different factors, including the speed of consumption, tolerance for alcohol, gender, weight, fat to muscle concentration, when you last ate, and drug use (both prescribed and illicit).
I'm a first time offender. Will I receive a driving ban for driving under the influence?
Yes, even if you're a first time offender, you will receive a mandatory minimum ban of one year for driving under the influence.
Can the police stop me for any reason and ask me to take a roadside breath test?
No. Only a uniformed constable may stop you and he/she must have reasonable cause to suspect you've either been driving, attempting to drive, or in charge of a vehicle with alcohol in your body or you've committed a traffic offence.
Will I be convicted if I fail to provide a test sample?
Three separate offences exist for failing to provide a test sample :
- Failure to co-operate with a preliminary test : a person commits this offence by failing to submit to a roadside breathalyser test or sobriety/impairment test.
- Failure to provide an evidential specimen for analysis : a person commits this offence by failing to provide breath, blood or urine samples at the police station.
- Failure to give permission for laboratory test : if a specimen is taken, it cannot be subjected to a laboratory test unless the person from whom it was taken expressly agrees.
If you have a "reasonable excuse", however, you do not have to provide a specimen and cannot be convicted of any of these offences. Essentially, this means you'll need to prove that you suffer from a physical or mental infirmity that precludes you from giving a sample.
This is difficult and requires the introduction of medical evidence. In one case, a court found the accused's shortness of breath during a panic attack to be a reasonable excuse for failing to provide a breath specimen. In another, however, the court said aversion to the sight of blood did not excuse the accused from giving blood (since he could either shut his eyes or look away as blood was drawn).
The courts have also affirmed that waiting for legal advice does not constitute a reasonable excuse for failing to take a test unless a solicitor is immediately available, either in person or by telephone, "for a couple of minutes" and any delay in the test would be "very short". If the police fail to allow you to speak with a solicitor in these circumstances, a court may rule the specimen inadmissible -- but only if admission of the evidence would unfairly prejudice your case and outweigh the public interest in allowing it.
Finally, even if the police act in bad faith and you did not drive, attempt to drive, or take charge of a vehicle, you would not have a reasonable excuse to refuse a test.
How many breath specimens do I have to give?
If you fail the initial roadside breathalyser test, the police will take you back to the station and ask you to provide two additional breath specimens using a larger evidential breath testing device.
Do I have the right to request additional testing?
After conducting tests at the station, the police will take the lower reading of the two breath specimens and the other one will be ignored.
If the lower of the two breath specimens is no more than 50 mg/ml, you may request that a sample of blood or urine be taken. The decision as to which of the two is taken is made by the police constable. This sample is then used to establish whether an offence has been committed and the earlier breath tests are ignored.
The police may also request a blood or urine test if you are unable to provide a breath specimen because of some medical condition (e.g., severe asthma or emphysema).
What is the maximum fine for drink driving?
It depends on the offence. The court has discretion to impose whatever fine it wants for c ausing death by careless driving when under the influence. For some other drink driving offences, however, the maximum fine is £1,000.
What is the maximum custodial sentence for drink driving?
Again, it depends. Causing death by careless driving when under the influence carries a maximum custodial penalty of 14 years. In contrast, most other drink driving offences carry penalties of 3-6 months maximum imprisonment, and one (failure to co-operate with a preliminary/roadside breathalyser test) does not provide for the imposition of a custodial sentence.
What effect will enrolling in a rehabilitation course have on the length of my driving ban?
A judge may grant up to a 25% reduction in your period of disqualification if you attend and successfully complete a drink driving rehabilitation course .
What is the High Risk Offender Scheme?
The High Risk Offender Scheme covers:
- Those convicted of having a proportion of alcohol in the body two and half times or more over the legal limit.
- Those convicted twice, within a 10 year period, for any drink driving offences.
- Those disqualified for failing without cause to provide a specimen for analysis.
Under the Scheme offenders are required to satisfy the Medical Advisor at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that they no longer have a drink problem and are otherwise fit to drive before their licence is returned. They also have to pay the full cost of renewing their licence as well as the cost of the medical examination.
Should I Consult a Solicitor?
If you've been charged with a drink driving related offence, you need to consider your position very carefully as the penalties can be severe. In every case, you are strongly advised to seek legal advice. You can find a criminal law solicitor in your area via Contact Law .
- Drink Driving Law Overview
- I Don't Think I Was Over The Limit: What Should I Do?
- Drink Driving Penalties
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