How Mental Health can help your case

Anxiety and depression affects nearly one if five UK adults. Unfortunately, mental health, alcohol and drugs fall hand-in-hand. If you have been charged with drink or drug driving - and think that you might suffer from a mental illness - we can help.

We would estimate that around 40% of all those who contact M.A.J. Law in relation to an allegation of drink, drug driving or failing to provide a specimen will suffer from a mental illness. Depression and anxiety being the most common.

We understand that mental health is a sensitive subject. If you would like to discuss your case in confidence, please call a member of our team on 01514228020. Alternatively, visit our website to request a call-back.

The effects of alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant. This means that it can disrupt the delicate balance of chemicals within the brain. Alcohol can affect parts of the brain that control movement, speech, judgment, and memory. It can even affect your long-term mental health.

Medication and your breath results

Our clients will often tell us that there is no “magic wand” for treating anxiety or depression. You may have been prescribed medication by your doctor.

The most commonly prescribed drugs for anxiety are;

  • Diazepam
  • Valium
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Lorazepam

The most commonly prescribed drugs for depression are;

  • Prozac
  • Sarafem
  • Sertraline
  • Effexior

Different drugs can affect alcohol metabolism in different ways. Some drugs may slow down the speed at which alcohol is broken-down, others may increase it. We are often asked whether certain medications can cause ‘false positives’ on breath test machines or falsely elevate the breath readings provided. Studies have shown that medication can affect your breath alcohol concentration, not just by increasing your breath test results, but also by making you appear more intoxicated than you perhaps are.

M.A.J. Law work closely with independent toxicologists, doctors and forensic experts who specialise in considering the affects of medication on alcohol absorption and elimination rates. It is not necessary to show that medication did affect the breath reading, we only have to show that medication may have affected the breath reading. Where doubt exists as to the reliability of the result provided by the breath testing device, the court cannot convict you.

The effects of drugs

Drugs such as stimulants may have some performance enhancing effects, for example by improving reaction times and alertness. Some drugs have adverse effects such as reducing critical judgement, increasing impulsiveness or increasing error rates (Report from the Expert Panel on Drug Driving K. WOLFF).

Is my mental illness a defence?

  1. Drink Driving
    Your state of mind is incredibly important in drink driving cases. Code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act lays the ground rules for the detention of suspects in police custody. Any person who suffers with a mental health condition must be provided with an appropriate adult. If the appropriate adult was not provided, you may not have 
    understood the nature or purpose of the breath test procedure. By law, you must understand your options during the breath test procedure - including the option to refuse the test. 
  2. Drug Driving
    As like with drink driving (above) there is a requirement for any person in police custody suffering with a mental health condition to be provided with an appropriate adult. The reason relates to the right not to self-incriminate and the statutory safeguards that serve to protect suspects in police custody.   
  3. Failing to provide a specimen (breath, blood or urine)
    The offence of failing to provide a specimen, contrary to Section 7(6) Road Traffic Act 1988, can only be committed without reasonable excuse. Reasonable excuse is your reason, or excuse, for not providing a sample when required to do so by the procedural officer.

    Reasonable excuse can arise from both a medical and ‘mental’ condition. M.A.J. Law have successfully argued this defence for clients who suffer with the following;

    • Panic Attacks
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Alcoholism
    If we can satisfy the court that you had a reasonable excuse for not providing a specimen, the court cannot convict you. To find out whether you have a reasonable excuse defence, please call a member of our team.

Useful Information - Getting Help You should always speak with your GP if you feel down on a regular basis. The evidence from your GP (even a written letter) could form the evidential basis of a defence. If you don’t see your GP, they won’t be able to comment on your condition. If you’re concerned about someone’s drinking, or your own, Drinkline runs a free, confidential helpline. Call 0800 917 8282