YOU HAVE JUST LEFT THE PUB CAR PARK when your rear view mirror fills with flashing blue lights. You must stop for the Police to avoid offences of dangerous driving and failing to stop. You must blow into the road-side breathalyser (a small box) as refusal can get you points or a ban. It is no defence to say the police had no right to test you. If you blow clear, you can let out a sigh of relief and continue your journey. If not…
Down to the Nick
You will be arrested for drink-driving and cautioned and put in the police car. Don’t add obstruction or resisting arrest to your difficulties. Just go. But the police should heed practical problems such as getting passengers home – but they do not have to.
On arrival at the Police Station you will be booked in to custody and given your rights. These include legal advice but you CANNOT HOLD UP THE BREATHALISER PROCEDURE to wait for advice. [In 2002 there was a small inroad into this: if the solicitor is down there at the police station at the time and is readily available, then and only then can you have your advice before blowing.]. You will be searched, your shoes taken away, a cell assigned and other humiliating things (such as the questions “do you take drugs? Have you ever tried to harm yourself?”).
Your future now depends on the reading. You must blow hard enough, or the police will charge you with failure to give a specimen and a one to three year ban will follow. If you blow under the 35 limit you are innocent, and will be released immediately. 35-39 and they still release you without charge despite you being over the limit- lucky indeed. It used to be the case that you would have the option to replace a breath test between 40 and 50 with blood or urine, but this option is no longer offered. Blood or urine only replace breath if the breathalyser has a fault. In this bracket the likely ban is one year.
If you blow 51-59 you are looking at a 12-16 month ban. Around double the limit (60-89) and you are looking at 17-22 months. 90-119 and the disqualification is for 23-28 months, with likely community service (unpaid work) rather than just a fine. Above 120 and the court will CONSIDER CUSTODY. For this reason you must get advice from a solicitor if your reading is above 120.And if you have done it before (in the 10 years previously) then the MINIMUM BAN IS THREE YEARS – even if you only blew 40.
Time in the cell
After the breathalyser procedure you are introduced to your “room”. The cell will be made of concrete and steel, may not have windows, should have a very basic WC, and will be well and truly locked. Repent at leisure.
You stay there for around 2 hours before the Police check your reading again. If you blow under 35 you will be charged and released and (usually) you then have to make your OWN WAY back to the car, if you can remember where you parked it. If you blow over 35 still, you have another 2 hours in the cell and so on until you blow under the limit.
See you in Court
Unless you blew over 120 (in which case the police will probably charge you and remand you in custody –i.e. back to the cell – to appear in court that very next morning) you will be bailed to come to the local court (often next door to the police station) about 4 to 8 working days or so later. You are likely to want to plead guilty there and then – although your own or the duty solicitor will give you more individual advice. That guilty plea means you are immediately disqualified from driving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for the period specified, and cannot even drive home. Your licence is taken from you and it is pointed out that disqualified driving usually leads to prison. You can continue to drive abroad on an international licence, but it will only be a year or two before bans become Europe-wide. Ireland has agreed with UK that from February 2010 disqualification will cover all UK and all of republic of Ireland.
Add insult to injury
On top of the ban there will be a fine to pay (or even a community sentence such as community service if your reading topped 90), which will be half to two weeks’ net wages, and £60 to pay towards the costs it took to prosecute you. You can pay by instalments.
Any silver lining?
The nearest the law comes to mercy once you have got this far is that you can get a quarter off your ban if you do a drink-drive education course, costing around £100-£150. I highly recommend the course, not least because it should stop you ever going through this nightmare experience again.
By Andrew Storch MA solicitor.
Please note that as I sold a similar article to the above to BBCi, they own the copyright – so do not copy the above without BBC permission.
We successfully represent many people every year for drink driving. We work closely with a number of trusted experts to make sure that no stone is left unturned.
Our Experience in Drink Driving cases
- Michael recently represented Ms D who faced an allegation of driving with excess alcohol. Michael put forward special reasons on her behalf (she only drove a short distance). The magistrates agreed that there were special reasons so she kept her licence, despite the fact as a result of this offence she had over 12 points on her licence.
- Andrew had a couple of recent trials for drink driving where one was won as the police could not prove the driver’s friend had not in fact been driving at the relevant time (despite the “friend” coming to give evidence for the prosecution!); and getting an absolute minimum – as opposed to guideline – for a profoundly deaf client who the police misunderstood was feigning confusion.
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