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Drink Driving Lawyers Glasgow & Scotland

Drink driving is a serious criminal offence which can have severe consequences for both the driver and others around them. Since the new tightened limits – introduced in Scotland in 2014 – a no tolerance policy has emerged.

There are various offences under the drink driving umbrella. With each offence comes various mitigating factors. If you are charged with drink driving, it is essential that you seek legal advice. Solicitors are often able to persuade the court to allow the client to sit the Drink Drive Rehabilitation Scheme (“DDRS”), which can reduce the period of disqualification.

This post will aim to give a brief overview of the law surrounding drink driving.

THE NEW LIMITS IN SCOTLAND

In December 2014, the limits were reduced:

  • From 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood to 50mg;
  • From 35ug of alcohol in 100ml of breath to 22ug;
  • And from 107mg of alcohol in 100ml of urine to 67mg.

THE OFFENCES

  1. I. DRINK DRIVING

Drink driving is regulated under the 1988 Road Traffic Act. It is an offence if a person drives or attempts to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit. This means that if your reading states that there is 23ug of alcohol in your breath you have committed this offence. Even having just one drink could put you over the limit.

You can purchase personal breathalysers to keep in your car for when you have had that glass of wine and suspect you may be okay to drive. The important point is that Scotland’s ‘no tolerance policy’ is just that; you should never assume that you are okay to drive.

  1. II. BEING ‘IN CHARGE’

Drink driving offences don’t always require the vehicle to be moving. You can also be charged if it appears that you are merely in charge of the car. It is an offence if someone is in charge of a vehicle on the road or other public place after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit. This is a relatively strict provision; the engine can be off and you may not look like you are about to start driving at all.

Similar to drink driving, the Police will administer a breath test. If the reading is over the limit you will be charged. This offence, however, brings with it a lot more technical issues.  The court must consider whether the Crown have enough evidence to prove you were actually in charge of the vehicle (in the legal sense). This hangs on a lot of factors and is entirely dependent on the facts of each case. It is relatively easy for the crown to prove that even if the vehicle is not in motion, you do, in actual fact, have control of it. However, if it can be satisfactorily shown that there’s no way you could have been in control, the case will fall at the first hurdle.

  • III. BEING UNFIT TO DRIVE DUE TO DRINK OR DRUGS

It must also be noted that there are similar provisions relating to driving or being in charge of a vehicle whilst unfit due to drink or drugs. The fact that the drug is a legal or prescribed one is not a defence.

This follows the same kind of procedure as the offences above.

  1. IV. FAILURE TO PROVIDE A SPECIMEN

It is also an offence if you refuse to provide a specimen either by the roadside or at the Police station. You can be arrested if you refuse to provide a specimen of breath when required to do so and the constable present has reason to suspect that you have alcohol in your body. The consequence of this could be a longer disqualification period than for drink driving.

There is, of course, a defence that you had a ‘reasonable excuse’. Examples of reasonable excuses could be where a medical issue prevents the provision of breath or even where a fear of needles makes the driver unable to give a blood sample. Proving this requires full investigation. The court take a narrow view of what constitutes ‘reasonable’. This makes it vital that you seek help from a specialist lawyer to prepare your case.

THE LEGAL PROCESS

  1. I. HOW IS THE READING TAKEN?

The device used in Scotland to take a breath sample is an Intoximeter. It produces a till receipt with 4 readings on it – two calibration tests and two breath tests. It rarely produces identical readings so the lower one is always relied on in court for reasons of fairness. However, if the difference between the two samples varies by more than 15% the samples are unable to be used, and alternative type of specimen will be required.

There is no longer a statutory right to provide alternative specimens of blood or urine in borderline cases. This is in line with Scotland’s no tolerance policy.

  1. II. WHAT’S THE PROCESS?

After the reading is taken, you will be told to come to court on a particular day. However if the case involves a high alcohol reading or lack of cooperation, the Police may hold the accused in custody to appear on the next lawful court day.

It is a separate offence to fail to appear at court without reasonable excuse.

The court will consider the facts of the case, penalties and any possible discounts in sentence. Sometimes a plea of guilty results in a bigger discount. The court can also reduce the length of disqualification by granting a referral to the DDRS.

It is essential that a bespoke and comprehensive plea in mitigation is given to the court to ensure that they understand the circumstances and how this will impact your life.

DRINK DRIVING PENALTIES

Apart from the obvious stigma attached to drinking and driving, there are serious legal consequences.

For drink driving, there is a minimum 12-month driving ban. This is increased to a minimum 3-year ban for a second offence within 10 years of the first. The length of disqualification correlates to the level of breath, alcohol or urine reading. There is also potential for a 6-month prison sentence and/or a fine of up to £5,000 depending on the intoxication level, proximity of previous ban and manner of driving whilst intoxicated. The court is more likely to be sympathetic to a first offender than someone committing a second offence.

For being drunk and in charge of the vehicle, you can also get 10 penalty points on your licence or a discretionary period of disqualification. For particularly bad cases, there is also a potential 3-month prison sentence and/or a fine of up to £2500.

In terms of the driving or being in charge of a vehicle whilst unfit due to drink or drugs, the former is punishable by a minimum 12-month ban, potential 6-month prison sentence and/or a fine of up to £5,000. The latter carries 10 penalty points or a discretionary disqualification, a potential 3-month prison sentence and/or a fine of up to £2,500.

IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO REDUCE THE PENALTY?

There is, in fact, a defence to the ‘in charge’ offences. This takes the form of a ‘no likelihood of driving’ defence. If the accused can prove that at the time of the offence the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of them driving the vehicle whilst the proportion of alcohol in their breath, blood or urine remained likely to exceed the prescribed limit. There is also a similar provision for the section 4 offence of being unfit to be in charge of a vehicle due to drink or drugs; that they were below the limit at the point of driving. For this, a toxicology report is required for the accused to scientifically prove that their alcohol level was more probably than not below the limit.

The success of this defence rests a lot on credibility. All circumstances are considered to exclude the possibility that the car was driven while the accused was over the limit. Because of this, it is important to instruct an experienced lawyer to help you prepare your case.

WHAT IS THE REHABILITATION SCHEME?

If you have been found guilty of one of the above offences, the judge can refer you to the Drink Driving Rehabilitation Scheme (“DDRS”). It is in your interests to accept this as it can reduce your penalties.

Before the court makes an order, it must ensure that there is an available place on the course, the court has informed you of the effect of the order and amount of fees, and you have agreed. The course must then be passed by a ‘relevant date’. Successful completion will normally allow the period of disqualification to be reduced by a quarter. It is your responsibility to pay the cost of the course. You will be informed of this by the court if you are being referred to the DDRS. You should usually expect to pay between £150-£250.

Don’t worry – the course is not especially difficult. It usually takes the form of short talks, group discussions, self-observation, presentations and guest speakers and there are no exams. Once the course is passed, you can contact DVLA for a new licence. This allows you to apply to sit the driving theory and practical tests. Once both are successfully passed you can apply for your full licence.

Contact Our Drink Driving Lawyers Glasgow

Our drink driving lawyers are available for consultation throughout the working week. Get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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