Driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol carries a minimum disqualification period of 12 months and a sentence ranging from a fine through to a prison sentence. The actual sentence imposed by the court will depend upon a number of factors such as the actual alcohol reading, previous like convictions and other aggravating or mitigating features.
The alcohol reading can be obtained through analysis of a person's breath, blood or urine. The legal limits are 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood and 107 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine. Even if you are just over the limit you can find yourself charged and before a court, sometimes within a week. It is vital to seek representation immediately, even if it is just to just have an initial consultation over the phone about what your options are.
If you are convicted of driving with excess alcohol then the minimum period of disqualification is 12 months. The effects of this can be devastating in terms of employment and family life. Obviously it is important to keep the length of the ban to a minimum and for that you will need representation in court. We have come across all manner of circumstances surrounding this type of offence and the majority of people plead guilty at the first hearing. However there are instances where a defence is available, such as having had a drink after an accident but before the breathalyser, the so called "Hip Flask" defence. To successfully argue this point it may be necessary to instruct an expert to carry out a back calculation as to what the alcohol level was at the time of driving, excluding the alcohol consumed after the accident. We have a network of experts that we have used over the years with whom we can work closely to provide you with the best chances of a successful outcome.
As with drink driving it is also an offence to drive after taking drugs that impair your driving. This includes legal as well as illegal drugs. Since March 2015, it is easier for Police to charge someone with drug driving. On stopping a vehicle and having a reasonable suspicion that someone's driving may be impaired by having taken drugs, the Police can use a screening device or a field impairment test to test someone's ability to drive. If the screening device detects the presence of drugs or the impairment test suggests someone is under the influence of drugs, the driver can be arrested and taken into custody and requested to provide a sample of either blood or urine. If the results come back as positive and above the prescribed limit, then charges will be brought and the suspect will be taken to court.
There are now seventeen legal and illegal drugs that are covered by this new piece of legislation, including cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis. The tests can detect even low levels of the presence of drugs and charges do follow. The penalties are similar to drink driving, with a minimum ban of 12 months and a sentence ranging from a fine up to a prison sentence. There are however defences to this charge. Just because a low level trace of drugs are found in the system does not mean that a person's driving had been impaired, and therefore not all prosecutions result in a conviction.
When a person is taken into custody for drink or drug driving it will be because they have failed a roadside test of some sort, and therefore they are arrested and once at the station will be asked to provide a specimen for analysis. For drink driving that specimen is usually a breath sample submitted by blowing into the intoximeter two times, whereby the police rely on the lower of the two readings. The police can also ask for a sample of blood or urine in certain circumstances. Both tests are also used for drug driving.
If a person refuses to provide a sample without a reasonable excuse, for example breathing problems or a needle phobia, then they are guilty of an offence and the punishment can be more serious than if they had complied with the test and were found to be just over the limit. As with the main offences the minimum period of disqualification is 12 months. For a deliberate refusal or a deliberate failure (not blowing into the machine long enough or blowing so that some of your breath escapes), then the sentencing guidelines state that the starting point for the period of disqualification is between 17 and 28 months! That is compared with a 12 month ban (on a first conviction) if only slightly above the limit and a sample was given correctly. There are however a number of defences available and we can advise you as to what the best course of action will be, so it is essential you give us a call.