Drink driving

Driving with excess alcohol, and all related drink and drug offences, are extremely serious and a defendant is strongly advised to seek expert legal advice at the outset of the case.

For allegations involving alcohol or drugs the possible sentences include penalty points (for “in charge” offences), as well as a mandatory minimum ban of 12 months (for a first offence, increasing to 36 months for a second within a 3-year period). Custodial sentences are also a possible outcome, depending on the levels involved, in addition to substantial fines.

The legal limit to be able to drive, or be in charge of a vehicle, is 35mcg of alcohol in 100ml breath (this equates to 80mcg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, or 107mcg of alcohol in 100ml of urine).

If you are suspected of driving with excess alcohol the Officer who stops you at the scene will require you to complete a roadside breath test. If this is positive, you will be transported to the police station, where you will complete the specimen for analysis. If you are unable, for medical reasons, to provide a breath sample, the Police must offer you the opportunity to produce either a blood or urine specimen for analysis instead.

This area of law is extremely complex, and the outcome will depend upon the procedures followed and how much alcohol has been consumed.

Our expert motoring legal team are regularly asked to challenge allegations of driving with excess alcohol, or those associated with it (being drunk in charge of a vehicle; failing to provide a specimen; being unfit through drink or drugs). Common defences are:

➢ I was not the driver;
➢ I was not driving a mechanically propelled vehicle;
➢ The alleged offence did not occur on a road or other public place;
➢ I was acting in duress, or through necessity or emergency;
➢ The breathalyser procedure, or steps taken to transport the samples to the lab, were not carried out correctly and therefore the evidence provided is unreliable and inadmissible;
➢ The correct procedure was not followed by Police; I was not warned of a likely prosecution for failing to provide a specimen; or was not offered my half of the sample for my own analysis;
➢ Post driving alcohol consumption (the “hip flask” defence); this occurs when a driver consumed alcohol after driving but before providing a specimen. An expert is required to complete back calculation reports, to confirm that, at the time of driving, the defendant would have been within the legal limit.

Our motoring offence team are genuine experts when it comes to drink driving, or any other road traffic offence. We can consider the evidence, request further disclosure and will work exceptionally hard on your behalf to try to defend the allegation, if your instructions lead us to believe that you have a defence. The consequences of a drink drive related conviction are severe, and it is therefore vital that your case is thoroughly prepared.

Where you do not have a defence to the allegation, it may be that you have a valid Special Reasons argument. Our legal team will be able to advise you further on whether you have an argument that should be considered in Court.

Some Special Reasons arguments which are commonly advanced for excess alcohol related offences include; shortness of distance driven, laced drinks, and emergency.


This offence is usually a result of a driver drinking more than anticipated or finding themselves suddenly without a place to stay for the night. Many defendants will find themselves sleeping in their car, possibly even putting the engine on to warm the car or charge their phone and will find themselves in charge of a vehicle whilst over the legal limit to drive.

The main argument raised in these circumstances is that there was no likelihood of driving whilst the alcohol level was above the legal limit. This can be a complex argument, and credibility is important. An expert report will be required to establish, using the proportion of alcohol in your breath / blood / urine, and your metabolic rate, at what time you would have been legally allowed to drive. It will then be necessary to show that you had no intention of driving until this time.

The sentence for this offence is more lenient, because the defendant has not actually driven. However, it is still significant, including the endorsement of 10 penalty points, a lengthy discretionary disqualification, a potential custodial sentence and a substantial fine.

  • We are specialist motoring defence solicitors, based in Plymouth in the South West. We provide expert legal advice and representation to clients both across Devon and Cornwall and nationally. Contact a member of our motoring legal team for an initial discussion about any road traffic matter.**