Drink Driving – Special Reasons Hearings

A special reason is not a defence against drink driving, however it is considered such good mitigation by the court it is almost as good as a defence and may result in no punishment. It is a way of the court saying, ‘technically you are guilty, but in practice we will not punish you’.

A special reason must directly related to the commission of the offence. The criteria are as follows:

  • The reason must be a mitigating or extenuating circumstance;
  • It must not amount to a defence to the allegation;
  • It must be directly connected to the offence itself; and
  • It must be something that the court should properly consider when imposing punishment.

Please note that your personal circumstances cannot amount to a special reason, e.g. that you will lose your job if you do not keep your licence. Also please note that if the court finds that there are special reasons it does NOT mean that you avoid a conviction, but it may allow you to escape the usual penalty.

Common special reasons for drink driving

The most common special reasons arguments are:

  • An emergency situation – for example, if your partner were to suffer a heart attack in the middle of the countryside, and the emergency services were unable to reach you within a reasonable time.
  • Shortness of distance driven – for example, if you were to have driven less than 10 meters and did not intend to drive further.
  • Spiked/Laced drinks.

Generally speaking it is extremely difficult to win these arguments, as the courts take a very dim view of drink driving. The courts will often ask ‘what else could have been done to avoid the offender driving?’ They will look at the following in order to decide whether to grant special reasons:

  • The nature and seriousness of the emergency;
  • How far you drove and whether you planned to drive further;
  • Why emergency services could not have been called as opposed to committing an offence;
  • Why somebody else could not have driven at the time;
  • Why you drove; and
  • What danger you presented to other road users;

Our Experience in drink driving special reasons cases

Recent cases include:

  • R v M (2014)- She had been out for the evening and her son was being looked after by her ex-partner. During the middle of the night she received a call from him suggesting that he was in danger from her ex. She drove a short distance towards her ex’s flat, however was stopped a short distance from her home. She was nearly twice the drink drive limit. With careful presentation of her case, the court found special reasons. She was not banned from driving.