Driving with Excess Alcohol is one of the most serious motoring offences dealt with in the magistrates’ court. Aside from the punishment you might receive if caught, the indignity of an arrest, a possible night in the cells and the subsequent appearance in court make for a truly salutary experience. Yet, in spite of this, many individuals fail a breath test at some time in their lives and there are innumerable reasons why.
Ignorance of legal alcohol limits, making a rash decision after having one too many or struggling to conceal a secret alcohol addiction can all lead otherwise law abiding citizens to fall foul of the drink driving laws.
So what can you expect if caught driving with excess alcohol? There is a wide range of penalties available to the Magistrates.
The majority of defendants who face prosecution for driving with excess alcohol are dealt with by way of a fine and disqualification from driving. The matter is usually dealt with at the first court hearing.
Nearly every defendant appearing before the court for driving with excess alcohol will be ordered to make a contribution towards the costs of the prosecution although the level of the contribution will depend upon the defendant’s means to pay.
The court will also add a victim surcharge to any punishment. This sum is added to a fund to support the victims of crime.
Any financial penalties imposed will be in accordance with your means and, if it is clear that you do not have the means to pay in full straight away, the court will usually grant time to pay.
It is only when the offence becomes more serious that Community Orders and Imprisonment are then considered.
Community Orders may be imposed where the offence is too serious for a fine or as a direct alternative to imprisonment. As a rule of thumb, if you are caught driving with excess alcohol with a breath/alcohol level over 90mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath or a blood/alcohol level over 200mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood you will be at risk of a Community Order rather than a financial penalty.
As well as defendants with high breath/alcohol or blood/alcohol readings, some defendants with aggravating features set out below under Imprisonment may be ordered to perform unpaid work in the community, attend alcohol treatment programmes or be placed under probation supervision.
Failure to comply with a Community Order can often lead to imprisonment for non-compliance.
Imprisonment for driving with excess alcohol is rare but can be considered in a variety of cases.
The main groups at risk of imprisonment are:
- Those with very high breath/alcohol or blood/alcohol readings
- Those with previous convictions for driving with excess alcohol or other serious motoring offences such as dangerous driving or driving whilst disqualified
- Those who have caused accidents or driven at high speed
- Those who drive with children in the car
This list is by no means exhaustive and the magistrates may take a dim view of any circumstances that they feel have aggravated the offence.
Unless you have a special reason (and that is extremely unlikely), the magistrates will be obliged to disqualify you from driving for a minimum period of twelve months.
If you have a previous conviction for driving with excess alcohol or failing to provide a specimen of breath within the last ten years then the magistrates will be obliged to disqualify you from driving for a minimum period of three years.
The period of disqualification will depend upon your breath/alcohol or blood/alcohol level and will take into consideration any aggravating features present as well as any personal mitigation including the effect that the disqualification may have upon you.
Remember that the fact that you will lose your job may reduce the period of disqualification but it cannot be used to persuade the magistrates not to disqualify you at all, nor to disqualify you for less than the legal minimum.
In most cases, the magistrates will offer you a chance to attend a driver rehabilitation course which, upon successful completion leads to a quarter reduction from the disqualification imposed.