By Conor Johnstone, Solicitor at M.A.J Law Ltd
As a specialist solicitor, I spend a lot of time defending and challenging drink driving cases, both in and out of court. If you're wondering whether you need a drink driving solicitor, read our TIPS before you make a decision.
I am often asked whether drink driving is a criminal offence. This is an important question as it may impact upon your decision to plead guilty or not-guilty. A criminal conviction would usually result in a criminal record, as well as a requirement to notify employers, insurance etc... For more information and to discuss your case in confidence, call our team on 01514228020.
Drink driving laws actually date back to 1872. The Licencing Act created an offence of being drunk in charge of horses, carriages, steam engines and cattle! Many years later, The Road Safety Act 1967 created the first legal limit for alcohol (drink driving). Believe or not, the same legal limits apply today as back then!
What are the legal limits?
In breath, the legal limit is 35 micrograms (ug) per 100 millilitres
- In blood, the legal limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres
- In urine, the legal limit is 107 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres
Is Drink Driving a Criminal Offence?
Yes. Drink driving is classed as a criminal offence. Section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 makes it an offence for any person to drive a motor vehicle when the level of alcohol in their breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit.
Schedule 2 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 contains a list of offences and the penalties given. The penalty for drink driving is a mandatory disqualification.
|Section||Nature of offence||Punishment||Disqualification|
|RTA section 5(1)(a)||Driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol in breath, blood or urine.||Summarily.||Obligatory|
Drink Driving is a summary-only offence. This means that it can only be dealt with in the Magistrates' Court. More serious offences, known as 'either-way' offences or 'indictable-only' offences, may go to the Crown Court (such a murder, rape, robbery etc...). The maximum penalty in the Magistrates' Court (for a single offence) is 6 months in prison and a £5000 fine.
If you'd like to know more about sentencing for drink driving offences, read our booklet on the Magistrates' Court Sentencing Guidelines. This booklet answers questions about prison, driving bans and spent convictions.
Do you get a Criminal Record for Drink Driving?
I'm afraid so. Drink driving is a criminal offence and will result in a criminal record. A criminal conviction will never go away, it's always there and can always be found. Even if a criminal conviction becomes spent, it can still be detected on security checks carried out by employers.
What are the consequences of a criminal record?
- Employment - Many employers conduct DBS checks for security reasons. A drink driving conviction will show in a DBS check.
- Travel - Some countries are very sensitive about drink driving conviction, in particular the USA and UAE.
- Mortgage - Most lenders will enquire about criminal convictions before lending. You may be refused a mortgage.
- Business - If you're planning on becoming a director of a company (or you already are), your role within the company could be limited.
- Insurance - Most insurance providers will ask about previous convictions. Your insurance premiums may increase.
Can I still drive whilst on bail for drink driving?
In most cases, yes (even if you plan on pleading guilty). The only exception is where the police impose a bail condition not to drive a motor vehicle. This is highly unlikely and may only happen in the most serious cases of drink driving. If you plead not guilty in court, you can continue to drive over the course of the adjournment (usually 3 - 6 months).
Thinking of pleading guilty?
Our Case Studies take a look a real cases involving real people. You may also be interested in reading about court hearings in the Magistrates' Court and Sentencing Guidelines. You can also view our case studies page for more information.
This booklet discusses a drink driving first court hearing - Is a solicitor necessary?
When will the disqualification for drink driving actually start?
The driving disqualification will start from the date you are sentenced for the offence. It will not start from the date you committed the offence. If you have not been driving since the date of the offence, the court cannot 'backdate' the driving ban. It will start from the date of the hearing.
Please remember that you can challenge a drink driving offence, even if you were over the prescribed limit. There are many defences that exist to a drink driving case, some of which you may never have heard of. If you'd like to discuss your case in confidence, please call our team on 01514228020 or you can request a call back using the form below.