02/12/2011

‘Tis the season to be pulled over

Although there is no national television campaign regarding drink drive awareness this year, police forces are pursuing the issue with their usual rigour.

The mid-week office party poses its usual threat, not only for drink drive on the evening, but the morning after commute. Frequently people do not realise just how much they have had to drink, often as a result of a free bar, combined with the misleading ‘units’ system where people frantically try to calculate whether they are fit to drive. The reality is that if you are calculating as to whether you are over the limit, the only safe conclusion is not to drive.

Things to remember

If pulled over by the police it is worth remembering the following points:

It is an offence not to comply with a Police Officer’s request that you provide a road side specimen of breath and, if you do, you could be arrested for ‘Failing to Provide a Sample’. Stating that you will not provide a sample until you have spoken with your Solicitor is not a defence in law.

If you do provide a specimen and fail you will be arrested at the road side and taken to the police station to be processed and two further, more accurate, readings taken. It is best not say anything regarding the potential offence to the police officers at the time of arrest, on the way to, or arrival at, the police station. The road side equipment is guidance of a potential offence. It is only when you have provided samples at the police station that the decision will be made as to whether an offence has been committed.

When you arrive at the police station and are being checked in, you can then ask that your solicitor be notified. Unfortunately the law does not allow any procedures to be delayed for solicitors to attend to monitor the breathalyser procedure. Failing to comply may again result in an offence being committed.

Having provided a sample of breath that is negative you should be released. If you provide a positive sample the lower reading will be used.

The only defence to failure to provide a sample of breath is for medical reasons. If the police are satisfied that may be a legitimate claim you will be offered the opportunity to provide a sample of blood or urine as an alternative.

If charged you may wish to instruct a solicitor to represent you at the Magistrates’ Court. Any conviction for drink drive will result in a mandatory disqualification for a minimum of 12 months.

The range for sentencing is wide, from a relatively low fine to 26 weeks in prison, and in addition to disqualification from driving between 12 to 60 months. This may be longer if it is a repeat offence.

It may be possible to advance mitigation to persuade the court to reduce the disqualification on completion of an approved course and this requires careful presentation.

Case law update

  • Newcastle United Footballer fined £3300 and disqualified for 12 months. He was only just over the legal limit.
  • A man from Derry was fined £500 and disqualified from driving for 4 years after being stopped five times over the legal limit.
  • Jersey Rugby Club player disqualified from driving for 23 months and fined £1600.
  • TV Sports presenter disqualified from driving for 19 months and fined £1000 after trying to park her car.
  • Lorry driver disqualified from driving for 6 years and sent to prison for 4 months after driving down the A9.

Gordons’ regulatory team is on hand to assist with all enquiries, attend the police station and Magistrates’ Court should you require. For advice and assistance contact Joanne Hall.