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Drink & drug driving solicitors
A conviction for drink driving or driving whilst unfit through drugs can have a very negative impact on your life, including costing you your driving licence. Given the importance of driving to many of our careers and personal lives, the consequences of losing your licence, not to mention the impact of a criminal conviction, can be very serious.
Our drink driving and drug driving solicitors are highly experienced in dealing with charges of this nature. This means we know all of the options we can explore that may allow you to avoid conviction or minimise the consequences of a conviction, including potentially allowing you to keep your driving licence or reducing the length of a driving disqualification.
When it comes to this type of serious motoring offence, having the right legal representation in place at the earliest opportunity can make a huge difference to the eventual outcome. Our accredited Police Station Representatives can support you from the outset, helping to ensure you have the strongest possible case. Our team can then support you through the entire process of dealing with a drink driving or drug driving charge, working to ensure your best interests are protected at all times.
We understand how worrying and stressful these kinds of charges can be, so we take a practical, supportive approach, allowing you to get a clear picture of the realities of your situation as quickly as possible and what options you have to address the charges. We want you to have complete confidence that our drink driving and drug driving solicitors will explore all available options to minimise the impact on your life.
For help with a drink driving or drug driving offence, call us now on 0113 245 8549 or use the contact form on the right to request a call back.
How our solicitors can help you with drink driving & drug driving charges
When you contact our drink driving and drug driving solicitors for help, we promise to:
- Listen carefully to your side of the story
- Carry out an in-depth review of your circumstances and offer a realistic assessment of the strength of your case
- Make practical recommendations for how to proceed and give a realistic idea of the likely timescale involved
- Support and guide you through the entire process of defending yourself against a drink driving or drug driving charge
- Keep you informed every step of the way, so you are never left in the dark about what is happening and can have complete confidence in the way we are handling your case
Types of drink driving offences
There offences that full under the umbrella term of ‘drinking driving’. These are:
- Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink
- Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink
- Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis
- Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink
Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink
You do not need to be driving in order to be charged with a ‘drink driving’ offence, it is also an offence to be ‘in charge’ of a vehicle while above the legal limit or otherwise unfit. This can include being asleep in a car while drunk and you do not have to be in the driver’s seat to be considered ‘in charge’ of a vehicle.
Establishing whether or not a person is deemed to be in charge of a vehicle is not always clear-cut and will normally depend on a number of factors, including:
- Whether the person was in the vehicle, or close to it
- Whether they had possession of the keys
- What they were doing
- Whether there was any obvious intention to take drive the vehicle
- If the vehicle was in an area to which the public has access
The penalties for being drunk in charge of a vehicle can include:
- 3 months imprisonment
- A fine of up to £2,500
- A minimum 12 months disqualification from driving
A key defence against such charges is proving that you had no intention or that there was no likelihood of the vehicle being driven while you were over the limit or unfit.
Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink
Driving or attempting to drive when over the legal limit is what most people think of when talking about ‘drink driving’. You can also be charged if you are over the limit or unfit through drink and the police have reason to believe you have recently been driving.
The penalties for this type of drink driving can include:
- 6 months imprisonment
- An unlimited fine
- Disqualification from driving for at least 12 months
Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis
If you are stopped by police on suspicion of a drink driving offence you are required by law to give a breath, urine or blood sample when requested. Failing to do so is a criminal offence and carries serious penalties.
If you refuse to provide a specimen, you could be sentenced to:
- 6 months imprisonment
- An unlimited fine
- Disqualification from driving for at least 1 year
Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink
If you are charged with driving carelessly as a result of being under the influence of alcohol resulting in someone’s death, you will be facing much more serious penalties than for a standard drink driving offence.
Potential consequences include:
- A 14 year prison sentence
- An unlimited fine
- Being banned from driving for a minimum of 2 years
- Having to take an extended driving test to get your licence back
With such a serious offence, there is also not guarantee you will be able to get your licence back at all if you are deemed to be a high risk offender.
Defences against a drink driving charge
There are various defences that can be used where you have been charged with a drink driving offence. The application of these defences can be highly complicated, so it is absolutely critical to get expert legal advice before attempting to rely on one of these defences in court.
Generally speaking, the possible defences against a drink driving charge break down into three broad categories: technical defences, factual defences and “special reasons”.
Technical defences against drink driving
While the viability of a technical defence will depend on the circumstances, common arguments we can pursue include:
- Reliability of breathalyser results
- Flaws in the analysis of blood or urine samples
- Procedural mistakes made by police e.g. failing to get proper consent for a blood sample, failing to offer the defendant a second blood sample for their own independent analysis etc.
Factual defences against drink drinking
Potential factual defences against a drink driving charge include:
- That you were not driving or attempting to drive at the time of the alleged offence
- Your were driving, but not in a public place
- You were driving out of necessity i.e. under the circumstances, not driving would have resulted in significant harm or risk of harm to you or others and there was no other reasonable option
- You only drank alcohol after driving (where you were arrested later, rather than being arrested while driving)
Special reasons defences against drink driving
A special reasons defence is one where you do not dispute the charge of drink driving, but believe there are particular circumstances that mean you should face less harsh penalties.
- Your drink being spiked
- Only driving a very short distance while under the influence
- Driving under duress i.e. under extreme pressure from a third party
Types of drug driving offences
There are currently 2 ways you can be charged for “drug driving”:
- Driving whilst unfit through drugs
- Driving with excess (over the specified legal limit) drugs
Driving whilst unfit through drugs
To be prosecuted for driving whilst unfit through drugs, the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) need to be able to prove that your driving ability was significantly impaired due to consumption of drugs.
This charge is not based on specific levels of drugs in your system, so does not rely on a blood or urine sample. Instead police will usually carry out a roadside Field Impairment Test (FIT) after stopping you on suspicion of an offence.
A FIT is based on standard guidelines, but is not an entirely reliable test with various factors potentially influencing results e.g. strong wind affecting balance. The test includes measuring the size of your pupils, a balance test, touching your finger to your nose, a walk and turn test, and a one-legged stand test.
If you fail a roadside FIT test, you will be required to attend a police station to provide a blood sample. However, unless this blood sample shows you have excess levels of a qualifying substance in your blood, the charge will still hinge on the police proving that your driving was impaired, leaving significant room for a legal challenge.
Penalties for driving whilst unfit through drugs
Depending on the level of impairment and whether there are other aggravating factors, penalties for driving whilst unfit through drugs can include:
- A fine
- A community order (a.k.a. community service)
- A prison sentence of 12-26 weeks
- A driving disqualification of 12-36 months
Driving with excess (over the specified legal limit) drugs
In 2015, a new offence was introduced to deal with the uncertainty around the need to establish impairment for a charge of driving while unfit through drugs. This new offence of driving with excess (over the specified legal limit) drugs is now the main charge used against people accused of driving under the influence of drugs.
The new offence sets out legal limits for what amount of various legal and illegal drugs a driver can have in their system. It is worth noting that for illegal drugs, such as cannabis, cocaine and LSD, the permissible level is very low so as to support a zero tolerance approach to these substances.
Legal drugs covered by the act include Diazepam, Temazepam, Lorazepam, so if you are taking prescription drugs, it is important to always carefully follow the guidelines around dosage and whether or not it is considered safe to drive following consumption.
Penalties for driving with excess drugs
If you are convicted of driving with excess drugs, the potential penalties include:
- An unlimited fine
- A community order
- Up to 6 months in prison
- A minimum driving disqualification of 12 months (and 36 months for a second offence within 10 years)
Defences against a drug driving charge
There are 2 main arguments that can be used when defending against drug driving charges: that the police made procedural mistakes or that the analysis of blood and urine samples you gave was unreliable.
There are various steps the police must go through when charging someone with a drug driving offence, including recording evidence of impaired driving, carrying out a FIT test, getting consent to obtain blood and urine samples and how samples are handled after being taken.
Identifying flaws in any of these processes can undermine the potential for a conviction and help you to avoid any negative consequences.
Unreliable analysis of samples
Any blood or urine sample you give will need to be analysed by an accredited laboratory using approved methods. This is normally done through private laboratories and there are strict rules in places that must be followed at every stage of transfer, analysis and storage of your samples. Any failure by these third party analysts could lead to the evidence from your sample being compromised, preventing them from being used for the purposes of a conviction.
Retaining your driving licence following a drink driving or drug driving conviction
Where you are found guilty of a drink driving offence it may still be possible for you to retain your licence by arguing that a driving disqualification would cause you “exceptional hardship”. We can explore this and all other options to minimise the negative impact if you are convicted of a drive driving offence.
Our expertise in drink & drug driving charges
Our Leeds-based drink driving and drug driving solicitors have been supporting motorists all over the UK for more than 30 years. We regularly support people facing drink and drug driving charges under a variety of circumstances and have a strong track record of achieving the best possible outcome for our clients.
Our expertise and experience in motoring law means we are able to quickly establish the facts of your case, including any mitigating circumstances and develop a strategy that protects your interests, including helping you to keep your driving licence wherever possible.
We are highly recommended by the Legal 500 and Chambers’ Guide to the Legal Profession, based entirely on feedback from our clients and other professionals we work with. We are members of the Police Action Lawyers Group and our team includes a number of Accredited Police Station Representatives and qualified Legal Aid Supervisors.
Minton Morrill has been awarded the Law Society’s Lexcel Legal Practice Quality mark in recognition the high standards we adhere to in our legal practice. We are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which ensures that we continue to meet the highest legal and professional standards at all times.
Individual solicitors in our team have achieved recognition including the Law Society Excellence Award for Lawyer of the Year: Private Client, a Yorkshire Lawyer of the Year Litigation Award and Leeds Advocate of the Year (decided by the District Judges of the region). Several of our solicitors have also been shortlisted for Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards.
Frequently Asked Questions about drink & drug driving
What is the drink drive limit in the UK?
In the UK, the current legal alcohol limits are:
- 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath
- 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
- 107 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine
It is important to note there is no set rule for determining how much alcohol you can drink and stay below the limit. This will vary from person to person and will depend on factors such as size, age, gender, metabolism, type of alcohol consumed, stress levels and whether you have eaten recently.
What are the rules for drug driving in the UK?
Driving whilst unfit through drugs, also known as drug driving, is a serious offence that is punishable in the same way as drink driving. If you are stopped on suspicion of drug driving then police will look at your appearance and behaviour for signs of drug use, which will vary depending on the drug.
The law does not differentiate between illegal substances and over the counter or prescription medicines, which can sometimes make the user drowsy. 2015 saw an amendment to the Road Traffic Act 1988 which introduced the offence of Driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with concentration of specified controlled drug above specified level.
There are currently 16 drugs that have been identified in the Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014. It is not a ‘zero-tolerance’ offence and legal limits have been set for each specified drug. Importantly however, the Police currently only have the ability to test for Cannabinoids, Benzodiazepines and Cocaine.
What are the penalties for drink driving?
Drink driving carries a minimum:
- 12-month driving ban
- A fine of up to £5,000
- An endorsement on your licence for 11 years.
The exact penalties will depend on the circumstances, including the exact alcohol level in your breath, blood or urine sample and whether this is your first offence. For more serious of repeat offences, you could lose your licence for up to 5 years or face community service or a prison sentence.
If someone is injured or killed as a result of your drink driving then you could also be convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.
What are the penalties for drug driving?
If you are convicted of drug driving, the penalties include:
- A minimum 1 year driving ban
- An unlimited fine
- Up to 6 months in prison
- An endorsement on your licence for 11 years
How long does a drink or drug driving conviction stay on your licence?
Drink driving and drug driving convictions stay on your driving record for 11 years from the date of conviction.
Who can see a drink or drug driving conviction on your licence?
The only people who can automatically see details of a drink driving or drug driving conviction on your licence are the police and the DVLA. However, if you are required to drive for work, your employer may ask for evidence of your driving record. Some car hire companies may also want to so evidence of your driving record before allowing you to hire a car from them. Insurance companies can also see details of any convictions or endorsements attached to your licence through the Insurance Industry Access to Driver Data database.
Does a drink driving or drug driving conviction affect a DBS check?
Any driving offence that crosses the line into being a criminal offence, including drink driving and drug driving, will appear on a DBS check. This means you could miss out on work opportunities or at the very least have to explain the conviction up front to people during job interviews.
Drink driving convictions become ‘spent’ after 5 years, but will stay on your driving record for 11 years, meaning it can be seen by potential employers during this period.
How does a drink driving or drug driving conviction affect your insurance?
A conviction for drink driving or drug driving will almost certainly lead to a steep increase in the cost of your car insurance in future. You are required to inform your insurer as soon as you are convicted and will normally need to continue declaring your conviction for 3-5 years (depending on your insurer’s rules). As well as having to pay much higher premiums, you may also be required to pay a far higher compulsory excess in the event you do need to make a claim.
It is also worth bearing in mind that many of the top insurers will likely refuse to ensure you at all, leaving you with fewer options over who to buy your car insurance from. However, some insurers will offer discounts to drivers with a drink driving conviction who have completed a drink-driving rehabilitation course.
How can you reduce a driving ban for drink driving?
The simplest way to reduce a ban for drink driving, if you have been found guilty, is to agree to take a drink-drive rehabilitation course. This can allow you to cut the length of a ban by a quarter, but is only available for bans lasting 12 months or more.
If you believe you have grounds to appeal a ban, this is something our drink driving solicitors can discuss with you. We can also advise you on any mitigating circumstances during court proceedings that could help to reduce the penalties for a drink driving charge.
How do drink-drive rehabilitation courses work?
If you are found guilty of a drink-drive offence and you are banned from driving for 12 months or more, you may be offered a drink-drive rehabilitation course. While you have to pay for the course yourself (which can cost up to £250) this can reduce the length of time for which you are disqualified from driving.
If you complete the course within a set time limit, the length of your ban will usually be reduced by a quarter i.e. a 12-month driving disqualification would be cut to only 9 months.
You will have to decide in court whether to take a course and this decision will be final, meaning you mind be able to change your mind later. The court will sent you a ‘referral order’ listing available course dates and when you must complete the course by.
Drink-drive rehabilitation courses are intended to educate you so you do not end up drink driving again. These are group courses given face-to-face and usually take around 16 hours split across 3 days taking over 3 weeks.
Upon successfully finishing the course, you will be given a ‘certificate of course completion’ from the course provider. You will need to send a copy of this to the court that sentenced you and they will notify the DVLA or the reduction to your driving ban.
Can you refuse a test for drink driving or drug driving?
You are required to provide a breath, urine or blood sample when requested to do so by police and failing to do so is a criminal offence.
If you refuse to participate in a roadside breathalyser test or other sobriety test when requested to do so by a uniformed police officer the penalties can include 4 points on your licence, a fine of up to £1000 and a driving disqualification.
If you are detained for a drink or drug driving offence and refused to provide a breath, urine or blood sample, you can be disqualified from driving, face an unlimited fine and up for 6 months in prison.
If you refuse to provide a sample after being arrested for being drunk in charge of a vehicle, you can face 10 penalty points, a driving disqualification, a fine of up to £2,500 and up to 3 months in prison.
Can you be fired for losing your driving licence?
If you are banned from driving and driving is a requirement of your job, your employer can legally terminate your employment. Some employers may allow you to carry out alternate duties for the length of your ban and this is generally more likely the shorter the amount of time you are banned for.
What is “exceptional hardship”?
In some cases, we may be able to help you avoid driving disqualification if we can prove that this would cause you “exceptional hardship”. Exactly what a judge will consider exceptional hardship varies, but the basic principle is that a driving ban would cause more than ordinary difficulties for other people who rely on you, such as your family or employer.
How do you get your driving licence back after a ban?
Getting your licence back after disqualification may simple be a case of filling our a driving licence renewal form when your ban is close to expiring, or you may need to retake your driving test. In some circumstances, you may need to take an extended driving test to receive a new licence.
How can you get your driving licence back if you are a ‘high risk offender’?
If you are considered to be a high risk offender, you will need to prove that you are fit to drive again before you will be allowed a new driving licence
You will first need to apply to the DVLA for a new driving licence and they will then refer you to a doctor from their approved list who will need to give you a medical exam. This exam will include filling out a questionnaire about your medical history and alcohol use, a physical exam and a blood test.
High risk offenders are people who:
- Received 2 convictions for drink driving offences within a 10-year period
- Were found to have alcohol levels of 87.5microgrammes per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood, 200milligrammes (mg) per 100ml of blood or 267.5mg per 100 ml of urine.
- Refused to prove a sample of breathe, urine or blood to police for testing upon request
- Refused to allow a blood sample to be tested (e.g. if the sample was taken while you were unconscious)
Get in touch with our drink driving & drug driving solicitors
If you are facing drink driving or drug driving charges in Leeds, Bradford, Hull, Yorkshire or anywhere in the wider North of England, our experienced solicitors can help you.
Contact our drink and drug driving solicitors now by calling 0113 245 8549 or using the enquiry form below to request a call back.
Our Experience of Driving Offences Claims
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