What happens if I am caught drink-driving?

Drink-driving is growing increasingly common across the UK and, rightly so, the consequences of being caught drink-driving can be severe.

Last month, Essex Police arrested 148 people on suspicion of drink and drug-driving. The force has committed to publishing the pictures and details of each person convicted as part of the campaign.

One of our solicitors, who specialises in defending motorists accused of road traffic offences, has given words of advice to motorists caught drink-driving in recent weeks.

“There are important steps for anyone accused of drink driving to take because each case is unique, as is the level of culpability,” said Jeremy Sirrell, a Partner at Palmers Solicitors.

“Anyone who has been stopped for drink driving needs firstly to comply with lawful requests from the police. They should not refuse to provide a sample unless they are unable to because of a medical condition, for instance.

“If they believe that they have been stopped wrongly, have not been driving or drank after driving, that can be dealt with at a later time.

“The courts will often impose a more severe penalty on someone who has refused to provide a sample than on someone who has been found to have been over the limit,” he warned.

Jeremy added that where a motorist has been charged with failing to provide a sample, they should seek specialist legal advice as a matter of urgency to establish any mitigating circumstances.

Where a sample has been provided and a motorist has been found to have been over the drink drive limit, they will be arrested and taken to a police station, where a further sample will be taken, this time for use as evidence in court. If this second sample is above the legal limit, the motorist will then be charged with drink driving.

“There are strict procedures that the police must follow when they have arrested a motorist for driving over the limit,” Jeremy said.

“These exist to protect innocent motorists from being unjustly punished for an offence they did not commit.

“An experienced solicitor will be able to check for any procedural irregularities that may call into question the integrity of the evidence,” he added.

In the event that a motorist has been charged with drink driving and the proper procedures have been followed by the police, it is still important to seek specialist legal advice.

Jeremy said: “While drink-driving attracts an automatic 12-month driving ban, it is open to the court to impose more severe sentences, including 26 weeks’ imprisonment and a five-year driving ban in the worst cases.

“It is critical that someone in this position seeks advice from an experienced solicitor who will be able to identify any mitigating factors that may be taken into account by the court and which could result in a more lenient sentence.”

He added: “It is also worth noting that the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 does provide for courts to impose a sentence of less than a 12-month driving ban in circumstances where ‘special reasons’ exist.