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“I was recently represented by Kang & Co Solicitors for a drink driving charge. From the initial telephone call it was clear that Kang & Co were experts in this field. They provided sound advice and diligently guided me through the process leading up to the court case. Through their legal representation I was able to avoid a community order and receive the best possible outcome for my case .”

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Kang & Co Solicitors is a truly specialist high-end law firm providing legal advice and representation for all matters involving Criminal Law and Driving Offences. We are ranked as a top tier law firm by The Legal 500 and Chambers and Partner’s prestigous law guides.

Our head office is located at 1 Victoria Square in Birmingham City Centre and we offer our services throughout England and Wales on a private fee-paying basis. We also have an office at 330 High Holborn in London and another office in central Milton Keynes. We are frequently instructed by individuals and businesses nationwide.

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330 High Holborn
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What Do the Police Need to Prove for Drink Driving in the UK?

by | Oct 27, 2023 | Articles, Driving Offence Advice

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence with potentially severe consequences. In the United Kingdom, the police follow specific procedures to prove cases of drink driving. Understanding what the police need to establish can shed light on the legal process and its implications, particularly for those who are unsure of the law. In this article, we delve into the key elements that the police must prove in order to secure a conviction for drunk driving in the United Kingdom.

Driving Whilst Impaired

The first crucial element that the police will need to prove is that the driver was operating a vehicle whilst impaired by alcohol. This impairment can manifest through erratic driving behaviour, slurred speech and the smell of alcohol. Impairment itself is determined through observations relied upon via the statements of witnesses and officers at the scene. Such evidence is valuable in establishing the elements and proving that drunk driving has occurred. Whilst it is not an uncommon theme for drink drivers to believe they haven’t drunk that much and are fine to drive, the reality is very different. Consuming alcohol impairs our judgment and ability to make sound decisions, so while it may seem you can drive perfectly, the life-changing prospect of being caught will leave you regretting that decision for the foreseeable future.

 

Breathalyser, Blood, and Urine Tests

In order to secure a conviction for drink driving, the police will rely on the results from breathalyser, blood or urine samples taken.

The police have the authority to stop a vehicle and conduct a roadside breathalyser test If they suspect a driver of being under the influence of alcohol.

If a driver is found to be over the legal limit, they will be arrested and taken to the police station for further tests which are then used for evidential purposes. The results from these tests determine whether the matter is brought to Court.

There are instances where a specimen in breath cannot be provided, this may be due to a medical condition or technology failure of the machine being used, to combat an evasion of providing a sample, the law provides for alternative ways for samples to be obtained such as blood and urine which have their own legal limits, please see information below for further assistance:

Legal Limits of Alcohol

35mg of alcohol in 100 ml of breath

80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood

107mg of alcohol in 100 ml of urine

It is important to be aware, that even being above the limit by 1mg can result in an outcome of being charged and having a date to attend Court.

As we have established, sufficient evidence needs to be secured by the police before an individual can be convicted of drink driving. However, an important question is posed for those wondering what happens if they refuse to provide a sample for analysis?

If an individual refuses to take a breathalyser test, the police may instead ask them to provide a sample of blood or urine for testing. If there is then a failure to provide an alternative sample, you will be committing an offence which will result in a charge of Fail to Provide a Specimen for Analysis, this has its own implications and complications and being disqualified from driving is a mandatory outcome.

It’s also important for individuals to be aware that the police don’t always need a sample in order to prove drink driving. Offences such as Driving Whilst Unfit Through Drink/Drugs do not require a sample to be taken and instead rely on the impairment of the individual in question.

 

Correct Procedure

To achieve a successful conviction, it is essential the police follow the correct procedure when conducting tests and arrests. This includes making sure the driver is aware of their rights, informed about the consequences of refusing a test, allowing access to legal representation, ensuring that the testing equipment is calibrated and functioning properly and conducting the tests within the prescribed time frames to prevent errors and contamination of samples.

For many individuals, an encounter with the police will come as a shock and it is very unlikely that they will be familiar with what processes and procedures are required. If it is your first time being arrested, you will most likely be in shock and unable to process events as they unfold. Owing to this, it is not uncommon for individuals to leave the Police Station bewildered by their experience. If you find yourself in this position, it is extremely important you contact an expert motoring lawyer as soon as possible. By doing so, they can guide you through the process of the legalities and look for ways to defend and mitigate your case to ensure an outcome beneficial to you.

 

Gathering Evidence

In addition to test results, the police will collect and document evidence that supports their case. This can include witness statements from individuals who have observed a driver’s behaviour, any video recording such as CCTV, dash cam footage or body-worn cameras and any other relevant information they believe forms part of the evidence.

If the police can successfully prove these elements in a drink driving case, the penalties can be severe.

 

What are the penalties for Drink Driving?

The penalties for drink driving vary and depend on the severity of the offence. The Courts consider several factors such as the level of intoxication, and the level of harm caused and also look at an individual’s previous convictions.

The penalty for such an offence will therefore range from not only disqualification from driving for a period of at least 12 months, but will also include, fines, community orders and in serious or repeat cases imprisonment.

Are there any Defences Available?

For those charged with drink driving, the million-dollar question will be whether there are any potential defences available. Whilst there are a small number of defences that can be used in cases of drink driving, it is always beneficial to seek advice from a motoring law expert who can discuss your case with you in detail and establish whether such a defence will apply to your case and the likelihood of that defence being successful.

We have compiled a list of possible defences / challenges which are most commonly used for cases of drink driving:

1. Drinking POST driving – AKA “Hip Flask Defence”

There are a rare number of occasions where a driver may have consumed alcohol after they have been driving and are then arrested for the offence of drunk driving. For example, an accident may have occurred, and a driver may then drink to “calm their nerves”. However, in order for this defence to be successful, it will need to be proven that alcohol was consumed post-driving and prior to a sample being provided. In order to successfully advance this defence, the instruction of expert witnesses will usually be required and whilst this can be costly, it is imperative to have the scientific evidence available at Court as this will be the determining factor as to whether you are to be disqualified from driving.

2. Consuming a “spiked” drink

In order to succeed with this scenario, it must be proven that prior to being spiked, you would have been under the legal limit to drive, in addition to this, it must be proved that you did not know your drink was spiked and genuinely believed you were under the legal limit and in a fit state to drive. Such a scenario is usually advanced as a special reasons argument and it can be difficult but not impossible to prove, and will require the attendance of witnesses as well as potential expert reports to support the case.

3. Procedural Errors

A strict process must be followed by the police and this includes following Home Office guidelines when completing testing, asking the correct risk assessment questions, completing all paperwork accurately and warning that you may be prosecuted for failing to provide a sample when requesting a specimen. If it is established that such procedures were not followed correctly, this could lead to a charge being dropped.

4. Inaccurate Testing Device

If it can be proven that an inaccurate testing device was used, the evidence itself can therefore be unreliable which in turn can lead to a charge of drink drive being withdrawn.

Ultimately, driving under the influence of alcohol is a dangerous act. The legal requirements that the police need to prove are in place to ensure that those who break the law face the appropriate consequences. It is therefore vital to be aware of the legal limits and procedures followed by the police, as failing to comply with the law can lead to serious legal repercussions and endanger lives on the road.

Do you require legal advice &/or representation?

If you are facing a driving offence prosecution and require expert legal representation at Court, call our lawyers on 0330 818 9843 or complete our Contact Form.

What Do the Police Need to Prove for Drink Driving in the UK? drunk driving England and Wales, driving under the influence of alchohol

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