You may be wondering what happens if you get caught drink driving. Will you go to prison? How long will you be banned? Can you defend the allegation? These are important questions you need to ask before going into court. M.A.J Law is a family-run motoring defence practice. To discuss your case in confident, call our team on 01514228020.
What happens if you get caught drink driving?
If you get caught drink driving you'll be asked to go to court. The reason you have to go to court is because the magistrates will want to ban you in person (assuming you plead guilty). Any person facing a driving disqualification (even for speeding) will be asked to attend court. If you fail to attend, the court could issue a warrant for your arrest. Drink driving is a summary-only offence. This means that it can only be dealt with in the Magistrates' Court. Take a look at some of most frequently asked questions about drink driving.
Drink Driving FAQ's
Do I need to submit a guilty plea before the hearing?
No. We would never advise a client to submit a plea before the first court hearing. This is because the CPS are required to serve the initial evidence against you before you enter a plea. The initial evidence is known as the IDPC (initial details of the prosecution's case) and is usually sent out one week prior to the hearing (but only if you ask for it!). Once provided, we can assess whether any important defences arise (such as technical or procedural issues).
What happens if you plead guilty by post before the court hearing and then find fault with the evidence provided? If you've already pleaded guilty, you might find it difficult to reverse that decision without weakening your case. Always keep an open mind and seek the correct legal guidance before court. Even if you don't have a defence to the allegation, you may have a 'special reason'. This can help you avoid a driving ban.
Even if you wait until the first court hearing to plead guilty, you will still receive maximum 'credit'. Therefore, there is no benefit to you in pleading guilty beforehand. Please remember that credit only applies to the punitive part of the penalty (in most cases, the fine). This might save you £100. Credit for an early guilty plea does not apply to the length of the disqualification.
Can the court deal with my case in my absence?
This depends upon the status of your bail. If you were given a court date before you left the police station, it is likely you are bailed to attend court on the date shown on your paperwork. If you fail to attend, the court could issue a warrant for your arrest. The only exception is where you receive a postal requisition (a court date through the post). The rules surrounding postal charging is slightly different. In some circumstances, a barrister or solicitor can attend and enter a plea on your behalf.
If you would like us to check the status of your bail, please get in touch. You are welcome to email us a copy of your charge documents.
Can I represent myself for drink driving?
Yes. Every person has the right to defend a criminal charge in court, with or without representation. Before making a decision, ask yourself the following question: If you broke your leg, would you try and fix it yourself? In most cases, the answer is no. You'd leave it to the professionals. So why is a criminal case any different?
As a specialist solicitor, I spend a lot of time representing clients in court across the country. I often see individuals representing themselves in front of magistrates and district judges. It's usually very awkward and uncomfortable for all involved. Unsurprising, most are convicted.
If you're facing a serious allegation and a pending court hearing, leave it to the professionals. Don't try and botch it yourself. You get one chance to get it right.
You may know that the team at M.A.J Law offer free initial (no obligation) advice. This means that even after speaking with us, you're welcome to ignore us and do it yourself!
Do I need to fill out the means form before the hearing?
No. It's not necessary to fill out the means form before the court hearing; this can be done at court. The magistrates are really only concerned about your weekly income (so that they can calculate the fine). In most cases, the magistrates won't even ask for the mean form, they'll just ask you, or your solicitor, what you take home each week. As long as you've got a rough idea, you're usually okay. In any event, your earnings are only important if you plead guilty. If you enter a not guilty plea you will not be sentenced on the same day, thus your income is irrelevant.
Can I take a family member to my drink driving court hearing?
Yes. You're usually allowed to take at least one family member to court with you for support. However, a family member is not entitled to speak in court on your behalf, or take on the role of a solicitor. You may be able to use a McKenzie Friend.
Will I need to take character references to court?
Only if you want to plead guilty can character references be used. You can read our Character References 'Do's and Don'ts' to help you obtain the most helpful references. References may not be as helpful as you think. Please remember that drink driving carries a mandatory driving disqualification. The magistrates will refer to sentencing guidelines when passing sentence. The length of your driving ban depends upon the level of alcohol.
Will I have to speak in court?
You will only have to speak to confirm your name, address, date of birth and plea (i.e. guilty or not guilty). If you're represented, your barrister or solicitor will speak on your behalf and answer questions. If you intend on pleading not guilty, there's a considerable amount of paperwork that will need to be completed setting out the defences in your case. You can see an example of the paperwork here.
If you're unrepresented and intend on pleading not guilty, the court are required to assist you in filling out paperwork and clarifying the defence issues. Some courts are more helpful than others. You may also find the CPS will take advantage of an unrepresented defendant.
Will I get a free solicitor at court?
Most courts provide free legal advice. When you get to court, ask to speak to the duty solicitor. If the duty solicitor is available, they should see you before you go into court. A duty solicitor can offer general advice
Do I need a solicitor for drink driving?
We would always recommend instructing a solicitor for your drink driving court hearing. We understand that you may not appreciate the benefit of a solicitor if you've never been in this situation before. You might think that instructing a solicitor will make you seem 'more guilty'. The role of a solicitor it two fold. Firstly, the solicitor can advise you on the likely outcome of your case and whether you have a defence. This will enable you to plan ahead (particularly if you face a disqualification). Secondly, a solicitor can review the evidence provided by the prosecution and tell you if it's correct. Your solicitor may pick up on procedural errors which you might overlook. Remember that many of our cases are won on technical points of law and procedure. All of our clients are over the limit, but many aren't convicted.
A specialist defence strategy may not cost you as much as you think.
If you have been bailed to attend court it is important that you seek urgent legal advice. It is always in your interests to understand your options before the court hearing and review the evidence. M.A.J Law offer free initial legal advice. We are usually able to tell you in straightforward terms whether you have a defence to the allegation. Please get in touch to discuss the case with a member of our team.