Hiring a solicitor to help with a drink driving conviction
- AuthorAndrew Wakeman
Being charged with a drink driving offence can be a devastating blow, especially if you rely on your car daily, as a driving ban is almost certain if found guilty.
That's why it's essential to get quality representation from a solicitor who specialises in motoring offences and is experienced in the process to ensure you get the best possible outcome.
How to handle a drink driving conviction
The first thing to remember is that a drink driving conviction is a criminal conviction that can result in hefty fines, a driving ban, or even prison, depending on the severity. It's a crime that carries such punishments because of the potential danger to the public of people driving under the influence of alcohol. So it can't be emphasised enough that driving while drunk should be avoided at all costs.
However, if you find yourself in this position, it's crucial to get the best advice possible, and that's where Talbots can help.
How can a solicitor help?
Your solicitor will be an essential guide, providing information and advice on any possible defence you may have. They'll also ensure the police and the magistrates follow the correct procedures, and when you appear in court, they can represent you.
Can I represent myself in court?
You can, of course, represent yourself in court. However, an experienced solicitor will examine the case and pick over the details you may miss. For example, checking that all procedures during the charging process were carried out correctly, that the machine used to measure your alcohol levels was calibrated correctly and that there are no mitigating circumstances that may lead to a lighter sentence.
For example, after listening to and understanding the time leading up to being charged with the offence, your solicitor may feel it would be better to plead guilty to the crime and then offer a plea in mitigation. This may, in some circumstances, lead to a more lenient sentence.
At Talbots, we have a duty to offer the best advice we possibly can to protect your licence and ensure all procedures have been followed correctly.
If I'm found guilty, what's likely to happen?
A drink driving offence carries a minimum disqualification of at least 12 months. But it can be much more severe than that.
If you're convicted twice within ten years, you can be banned for three years.
You can also face a prison sentence of up to six months and an unlimited fine.
What's more, if you're deemed "high risk" (i.e. you have been caught multiple times, had excessive alcohol in your blood when caught, or refused to give a sample), then you will need to pass a medical examination before getting your licence back.
Can I refuse to provide a specimen?
Very often, you'll get advice from unqualified friends, or even just rumours on the Internet that you can simply refuse to offer a sample, citing human rights or privacy as your reasons.
However, drink driving is such a severe offence that refusing to give a sample of breath, blood, or urine is also an offence, and this in itself could lead to six months in prison, an unlimited fine and a 12-month ban.
The consequences of a drink driving conviction
Bear in mind that this is a criminal offence, meaning you will have a criminal record that can have serious consequences for the future, including your chances of getting a job or even keeping the one you currently have.
If you drive for work, it's likely your employer will terminate your employment immediately, but when (or if) you eventually get your licence back, it will have a record of the conviction for 11 years.
This also means your insurance premiums are likely to be extremely high for a long time after the ban has expired.
Unfortunately, the problems don't end there.
Some countries won't let you enter if you have a criminal record.
If you want to go to the USA for a holiday, work, or study, you need to declare any arrest you have for any reason when applying for a visa.
Each case will be dealt with individually, and depending on the crime, and whether it resulted in a conviction, you may be banned permanently from entry.
Possible defences for drink driving
Defending a drink driving conviction will be difficult.
Convincing a magistrate that you had grounds to be driving while under the influence of alcohol will be challenging given the seriousness of the crime, so ideally, all arguments must be examined in detail by a solicitor with experience in drink driving cases.
An often-cited argument is the "hip-flask defence", which aims to prove that you were sober when driving the vehicle, only drinking alcohol after you'd stopped but before you were breathalysed by the police.
There are several reasons why this may be a totally legitimate defence.
For example, maybe you were driving home one night and noticed several potholes in the road that you narrowly avoided by swerving. When you get home, you pour yourself a drink, but a short while later, the police turn up and accuse you of driving erratically.
If they take a breathalyser sample, you'll probably be over the limit, but you may well have been entirely sober while driving.
Another reason may be that you were driving in an emergency.
Maybe you were at a party, and someone was taken ill. You decided that the best option was the drive the person to the hospital, and on the way, you were stopped, breathalysed and found to be over the limit.
The burden of proof would be on you, the defendant, to provide the factual evidence to convince the magistrate that the journey could not have been completed any other way.
In these cases, expert advice and representation by a qualified and specialist solicitor is absolutely essential.
Talking to Talbots
If you find yourself in the position of having to deal with a drink driving conviction, call us on 0800 118 1500, and we'll help you defend your licence and ensure you get the very best advice available to fight your case.