Drink Driving Ban

Drink Driving Ban

There are several possible drink driving offences. These range from driving or attempting to drive whilst unfit through drink or whilst in charge of a vehicle, to failing to supply a breath test or failing to supply a specimen.

What is the drink driving limit?

In the UK the current prescribed drink driving limit is:

  • 35 (22 in Scotland) micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath; or
  • 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood; or
  • 107 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine

What is the minimum penalty for a drink driving offence?

The penalty depends on the actual allegation. For being in charge of a vehicle, subject to the alcohol level and offence circumstances, the minimum penalty is 10 points. However, subject to the alcohol level / circumstances, a mandatory ban of at least 12 months is imposed for driving or attempting to drive.

What is the minimum drink driving ban?

The length of disqualification is dependent upon the exact circumstances and the alcohol reading. This would normally start from 12 months when the reading is at the lowest end of the scale and there are no aggravating factors. The normal disqualification for failing to supply a specimen is a minimum of 12 months, but the Court would normally impose a ban of at least 18 months if the Magistrates believe that the refusal to provide a specimen meant that evidence could not be obtained for a high alcohol level.

What is the maximum penalty for driving under the influence?

If the Court takes the view that an offence is "so serious" that it can only be adequately punished by way of a prison sentence, then the Defendant can be sent to prison, even on the first offence. Clearly, "so serious" will depend upon the circumstances of the incident and the alcohol reading. Custodial sentences would normally be considered at readings of 120 ug breath / 276 mg of blood or 367 mg of urine.

At levels of 90 ug breath / 207 mg blood / 275 mg urine, community service is an option, as would a curfew order, but at lower levels, the ban will range from 12–36 months.

What are the Court Sentencing Guidelines for drink driving offences?

In addition to a fine, which in certain circumstances can be unlimited, but would normally be based on your weekly income and mitigation, the Court will impose a penalty as detailed below:

Court Guidelines – Disqualification / Penalties
Drink Driving / Attempting to Drive
Reading Driving Ban (Months) Additional Penalties
Breath Blood Urine First Offence Second Offence*
36–59 81–137 108–183 12–16 36–40
60–89 138–206 184–274 17–22 36–46
90–119 207–275 275–366 23–28 36–52 Community / Curfew Order
120–150+ 276–345+ 367–459+ 29–36 36–60 Community / Curfew Order or
12-26 weeks custodial sentence
In Charge of a Vehicle
Reading Points / Ban (Months)† Additional Penalties
Breath Blood Urine First Offence Second Offence*
Points Ban Ban
36–59 81–137 108–183 10 36–40
60–89 138–206 184–274 10 Up to 6 36–46
90–119 207–275 275–366 10 Up to 6 36–52 Community / Curfew Order
120–150+ 276–345+ 367–459+ 6–12 36–60 Community / Curfew Order or
12-26 weeks custodial sentence
Failing to Provide a Specimen (driving / attempting to drive)
Examples Driving Ban (Months) Additional Penalties
First Offence Second Offence*
Defendant refused test when had honestly held but unreasonable excuse 12–16 36–40
Deliberate refusal or deliberate failure 17–28 36–52 Community / Curfew Order
Deliberate refusal or deliberate failure where evidence of serious impairment 29–36 36–60 12-26 weeks in custody or
Community / Curfew Order
Failing to Provide a Specimen (in charge of a vehicle)
Examples Points / Ban (Months)† Additional Penalties
Points Ban
Defendant refused test when had honestly held but unreasonable excuse 10
Deliberate refusal or deliberate failure 10 Up to 6 months
Deliberate refusal or deliberate failure where evidence of serious impairment 6–12 Community / Curfew Order
* Second offence in 10 years.
The Court has the option to impose penalty points OR a driving ban.

What if this is my second drink drive offence?

If there has been a previous drink driving offence within 10 years, a second offence will result in a disqualification of at least 36 months.

What if a drink driving ban will result in me losing my job? Can the Court exercise any discretion?

For offences where mandatory disqualification is required, the only effect your circumstances will have is the duration of the ban. There is no opportunity for the Court to avoid a ban when statute requires that a ban must be imposed due to the severity of the offence. The Court cannot alter the terms so that you can drive at certain times etc., all the Court can do is impose a ban for the minimum duration, i.e. 12 months.

What other factors will the Court take into account?

The Court will consider both aggravating and mitigating factors. Aggravating factors will increase the length of a ban, and could include lack of co–operation, having children in the car, being involved in an accident etc. Mitigating factors can reduce the severity of the penalty and can include a previously good record, co–operation with the Police, early plea etc. It always makes sense to obtain expert legal advice to clarify how best to present a case.

Is there any benefit from instructing a lawyer if a driving ban is inevitable?

Yes. The length of disqualification is at the discretion of the Court and the information above is by way of a guideline only. It is important that at the hearing, the most compelling mitigation is put forward so it makes sense to obtain legal advice/representation. It is quite possible that the length of the ban can be reduced if a strong plea of mitigation is put forward. This will also result in a lower fine. Although the Court does have the option to reduce a ban by 25% if the Defendant attends a drink drive rehabilitation course, this is not automatic and the Court may take some persuading to allow this opportunity.

Legal Advice

Can I get the case dismissed?

Whilst there is always a possibility that a Defence is available, nowadays, the systems and processes used by the Police mean that it is less likely that any sort of administrative or technical error will arise. However, particularly in relation to blood / urine samples, there have been cases where the processes have not been followed or the laboratory carrying out the analysis has made an error. It is unlikely that these issues will be apparent until you have received full disclosure which is normally only available if a not guilty plea is entered. If you believe that an error occurred, then it may be worth investigating in more detail and you should seek legal advice.

Legal Advice

What if my drink was spiked?

If you believe that your drink was spiked, or you were unaware that there was alcoholic content, this may amount to "special reasons" as to why no ban should be imposed but is unlikely to constitute a defence. To avoid disqualification, you would have to satisfy the Court that the drink was "spiked", that you did know or suspect that this had been done and but for that issue, you would have been below the limit. This will require a full hearing, at which you will probably need expert evidence. If you feel that your circumstances meet this criteria, you should seek expert legal advice immediately as the Court will normally take the view that it is unlikely that you were unaware that you were consuming alcohol.

Special Reasons

What if it was an emergency?

The Court is unlikely to find that in an emergency justifies a defence, but subject to the exact circumstances, dealing with the severity of the emergency and the distance driven, it may amount to special reasons.

What if I was not driving on the road?

The rules stipulate that the offence can be committed on the road "or in a public place". What constitutes a public place will depend upon the location, ease of access, potentially even the time the incident occurred. This is a complicated issue but can be a successful defence if the Court is persuaded that the incident occurred on private land.

I had no intention of driving, do I have a defence?

There may be a defence to an allegation of "being in charge of a vehicle" if you can satisfy the Court that you had no intention of driving and would not have driven before you were below the legal limit. This will depend on the exact circumstances of the incident and may also require expert evidence to demonstrate when your alcohol level would have dropped below the limit. It makes sense to seek advice promptly if you believe that you have a defence or wish to challenge the allegation.

Legal Advice

How long does a drink drive conviction stay on my driving licence?

The conviction will be valid for 10 years and can be removed from your licence 11 years after the event.