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Drink Driving Defences

Drink driving is a serious offence and an accusation of such needs to be taken very seriously. If it can be proven that you were driving and over the legal limit then you are guilty of the offence. However, you may have a valid defence and you should contact a solicitor if you believe there may be mitigating circumstances or are being wrongly accused.

Upon instruction Hammond Trotter solicitors will begin a complete breakdown of the events surrounding your arrest and the following events that occurred at the custody suite. We will study the details in full and ascertain if the law provides you with a suitable defence. There are numerous commonly used drink driving defences and the examples below are by no means exhaustive.

The intoxilyzer machine

Having arrived at the police station/custody suite, in normal circumstances, you would have been placed onto a machine that was used to detect the amount of alcohol in your blood.  There are various types of machines in use that take this measurement and it is inevitable that occasionally these machines are faulty and provide an inaccurate reading. All breathalysers used in the UK by the police have to be type approved by the home office and the test results that they produce are always deemed to be correct by a court of law until it is proven that the machine was not working correctly.

It is necessary to investigate the reliability of the machine used to obtain your alcohol levels and assess whether or not a true representation of the amount of alcohol consumed was provided. If it was not a true representation, this could indicate that the reliability of the machine is questionable.

Post driving consumption

In rare circumstances after having driven a vehicle, often following a collision, people drink more alcohol and are then arrested for drink driving. At the time of the collision they were not over the limit. This is legally recognised as ‘post offence consumption of alcohol or drugs’. There are very often periods of time before any police involvement in an accident or offence when there is certainly time for people to continue to drink, often to calm themselves in the aftermath of an accident. This defence relies heavily upon back calculation and it is up to the defendant to prove that alcohol was consumed after they had driven but before a specimen of any kind was provided, and that had the alcohol not been consumed their test would have shown an alcohol level below the legal limit.

Duress of circumstances

A circumstance may arise that is beyond a persons control and that necessitates driving whilst intoxicated. This is known as ‘duress of circumstance’ and in only an extreme case of duress would this defence be available. Examples of these are a threat of serious violence from another person against the accused or another individual or a genuine fear of death for the individual had they not driven the vehicle. If a person was to claim that they were under duress and this is used as their defence, it is up to the prosecution to prove this was untrue beyond any reasonable doubt. They will examine whether the threat was real or perceived, if the distance driven was appropriate for the escape of immediate danger and if a sober person would have responded to the incident in the same way.

Private land

If the arrest was made on private land you would not be guilty of drink driving. It is only an offence to drive over the legal alcohol limit on a road or public place, therefore it must be proven that there is no public access to the land, the definition of which is an area to which ‘the public have access or which members of the public are to be found without having obtained access either by overcoming a physical obstruction or in defiance of prohibition express or implied’. The following are considered to be public places and are an indication of where the ‘driving on private land’ defence would fail:

  • Car parks (including pub and bar car parks)
  • Caravan sites and camp sites
  • Hotel and nightclub forecourts

Spiked drinks

Do you believe that someone spiked or interfered with your drink? If so, you need to prove that:

  • Before consuming the spiked drink, you were below the legal drink driving limit
  • You were unaware that the drink was spiked
  • You had no reason to believe that you were over the legal drink driving limit

If the points above are proven and justified it is still up to the Court to convict or find the defendant not guilty. Point one, relating to being below the legal limit prior to consuming the spiked drink, is vital. This is because without this proof the other points are rendered insignificant. An expert medical report would be necessary to confirm that had the additional alcohol that the drink was spiked with not been consumed, you would legally have been able to drive.

Procedural error

There are procedures in place that the police have to adhere to accurately when dealing with a person who is potentially driving under the influence of excess alcohol.  Failure to work in accordance to these regulations and procedures can equate to a not guilty finding. A good, specialist solicitor will examine in detail all of what happened to ensure that the police followed correct procedure and acted completely within the law. Examples of possible errors made by the police are:

  • Non compliance with Home Office Guidelines of the use and servicing of the breath test machine
  • Failure to ask key risk assessment questions immediately before taking a sample
  • Incorrect completion of breathalyser paperwork
  • Failure to warn of prosecution for failing to provide a specimen at the time of requesting the breath, blood or urine samples

Driving a vehicle whilst over the legal alcohol limit is a serious offence, that carries severe punishment. These driving defence options are certainly not a guarantee of acquittal but if a legitimate defence exists, we will find it and use it.

Every case is different, so we would urge you to get in touch so that we can explore possible defences in your individual drink driving case.