Drink driving has been at the forefront of news stories this week following football star Wayne Rooney’s arrest in the early hours of last Friday morning. Speculation has been rife about the type of penalty he will face if found guilty, how much he may have drunk and why he took the decision to drive when he could have afforded a taxi at no great expense.

Although we can’t offer any comment on the above we thought it would be useful to explain the drink driving laws in this country and bust some common misconceptions about the offence and the penalties imposed.

The One Pint Myth

In the vast majority of cases we deal with people are horrified to find out they were over the drink drive limit.

You are not automatically safe to drive if you have only had one pint or one glass of wine. Everybody is different and the amount they can drink before they exceed the drink drive limit varies not just from person to person but also from day to day. All of these things, among others play a factor:

–          Weight, size, muscle mass and metabolism

–          Age

–          Food consumed

–          Type of alcohol consumed

–          Speed that any alcohol is consumed

–          Any medications taken

–          Stress

It needs to be made clear that you don’t need to be drunk, or even tipsy, to become a drink driver. Hopefully this shows just how variable the effect of any drink can be and just one or two drinks, even over a few hours, can be sufficient to put you over the drink drive limit.  Sadly most people assume it is safe to drive and you would probably be surprised at the number of calls we receive where people have fallen victim to the one pint myth. If you are drinking, even only a small amount, it is always safer to leave your car at home and make other arrangements so you are not tempted to get behind the wheel.

“I’ll be fine the next day”

After a heavy night on the booze most people get up the next morning assuming they are fine to get in the car and drive themselves out for a much craved fry-up! This is often not the case as the alcohol will remain in your body even if you feel fine. After a night drinking think very carefully the next morning before you get behind the wheel. If you have a particularly heavy night then wait it out a good few hours.

We really recommend getting yourself an at-home breathalyser to stay on the safe side. They are relatively cheap to get hold of and although not totally reliable will give you a good idea of whether you’re safe to drive or need to stay home instead!

You can go to jail even for the first offence

If the level of alcohol in your body is above a certain level at the time you are caught then the Sentencing Guidelines used by the Courts recommend that a custodial sentence of up to 6 months is imposed. It is irrelevant whether it is a one off offence and at the very least in these circumstances a high level community order will be imposed.

In fact, outside of the least serious offences where the alcohol level is only marginally over the legal limit, it is likely that a community order will be imposed alongside the mandatory driving ban. This shows just how seriously the Courts take the offence and the kind of implications you are risking when you get behind the wheel having consumed alcohol.

A driving ban is mandatory regardless of any hardship it will cause

We get a lot of calls from people asking whether they can avoid the imposition of a driving ban for the offence because of the hardship it would cause, for example, loss of a job. Whilst this is taken into the account by the Court for other offences that carry a driving disqualification, such as speeding, for drink driving offences hardship is irrelevant. The offence carries a minimum mandatory 12 month driving disqualification if you are found guilty. This can rise up to 3 years for first time offenders or 5 years for repeat offenders.

It may be possible to apply for a drink drive rehabilitation course to reduce your ban by 25% once completed. This is offered at the discretion of the Court on the day of the hearing and must be accepted at the time of the hearing. If you are represented at your hearing your representative will ask that the Court afford you this opportunity.  The course will be paid for by you and you will have to attend over a certain number of days in order to qualify for the reduction in ban.

If you have been charged with a drink driving offence contact our specialist motoring solicitors for advice on 0800 046 3066