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Driving while unfit through drink or drugs

What does ‘driving while unfit’ mean?
Are you unsure about what this means? Don’t worry! Being unclear about this offence is understandable; it’s far from self-explanatory. In the eyes of the law you are guilty of ‘driving while unfit’ if you have driven or attempted to drive a vehicle on a road or public place whilst unfit due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs. It sounds similar to a charge of driving with excess alcohol, because it is, but there is a difference in that in order to be charged with drink driving, a specimen from you is required as proof that you over the legal limit.

If the police did not take a sample from you, no matter what the reason for not doing so is, instead of being charged with drink driving you may be charged instead as being ‘unfit under the influence of drink or drugs’. This accusation can be made if the police believe that you were driving a vehicle on a road or public place whilst being over the legal alcohol limit, intoxicated after consuming legal prescription drugs or under the influence of illegal substances.

In order to have made the accusation the police sometimes would have observed you carrying out a Field Impairment Test which would consist of 5 elements:

1. Pupil measurement
2. The Romberg Test, the essential features of which are:

  • Standing with your feet together, eyes open and hands by your side
  • Closing your eyes while the examiner observes for a full minute

3. Walking and turning
4. One leg stand test
5. Finger to nose test

If the officer believed you failed this test, you would usually be taken to the police station.

Driving while unfit penalties
If you are found guilty of this offence you could find yourself with a prison sentence of up to 6 months, a driving disqualification, or a fine of up to £5,000. Because the court will not have definitive evidence of exactly how under the influence you were, they can err on the side of caution and deliver a higher sentence than they would have if they had a specific reading. If this is your second conviction within a 10 year period for this type of offence, you will receive a disqualification from driving for 3 years.

At Hammond Trotter we are highly experienced in defending an accusation of this nature and because of the often-ambivalent nature of this charge it is absolutely necessary to seek out the services of a specialist solicitor to help you achieve the best outcome possible.

Possible defences for a driving while unfit charge
Fortunately, there are a number of possible defences, all of which are based on fact.  The following are possibilities:

  • You were not impaired in anyway and the police made a mistake
  • You were impaired but this was not as a result of drug or alcohol intoxication (eg, tiredness)
  • The correct police procedure was not adhered to in full

The circumstances of your case need to be studied in detail by a solicitor who is completely conversant in the complexities of driving offences.  The prosecution has to prove that you were unfit to drive at the time, and without specimen as evidence their case would be based upon the opinions of a police officer or specialist Doctor. At Hammond Trotter we are specialist solicitors who know the law relating to all of this inside out. Get in touch with us and don’t risk your future.