Excess alcohol : driving

This is often referred to as "drink driving", and the charge of driving with excess alcohol usually leads to a driving ban, unless we can argue that special reasons apply.


You may have been stopped by the police at the roadside and required to take a breath test.

The police do not have to be able to prove that you have done anything wrong in order to stop you and take a breath test, they only need be able to prove they had reason to suspect your driving might be influenced by alcohol consumption. 

If the breath test result was negative, you may still find you are charged with some other offence that caused the police to stop you in the first place, for example, driving through a red light or driving without due care.


If the result was positive, you will probably have been taken to a police station and subjected to further tests (which could be any combination of breath, blood and urine tests). The results of these tests may be used in evidence against you.

As in all cases where a prosecution relies on evidence from a device, the device must be of a type approved for its purpose; must be in working order, and must be properly operated.

The procedure for the administration of evidential breath testing is complicated and defeating a prosecution because of defects in the procedure will often require the use of expert evidence.

Take a look at this video of me explaining this in more detail.



Prosecutions are sometimes based on a "back calculation" of the amount of alcohol in your breath or urine at the time of driving. Expert evidence will be an important part of such prosecution and defence cases.

You may have been detained and then charged and released on bail, with a requirement either to return to the police station to receive the results of the further tests or to attend court. If either of these is the case, you should seek advice as soon as possible.


Penalties for Excess Alcohol

The maximum sentence is six months' imprisonment

Disqualification for a minimum of twelve months is mandatory and may be accompanied by a fine, community penalty or even a gaol sentence.

If you are disqualified for this offence and have been disqualified for the same offence in the preceding ten years, then the minimum disqualification is 36 months.

The length of disqualification will depend on the your circumstances and those of the offence. Of key importance is the degree to which you were over the limit - but there are many factors to be taken into account in each case and the most serious offences can attract community penalties (for example, supervision or unpaid work) or even sentences of imprisonment. For these reasons, I would urge you to seek advice on your particular circumstances, rather than rely on any kind of "ready reckoner" for sentencing.


"Special Reasons" 

If we can persuade the court that there are special reasons not to disqualify you or impose penalty points, it can chose not to do so. The special reasons can only relate to the offence and not to your personal circumstances, which means that the consequences on you, your family or your business are considered irrelevant.

Possible examples of special reasons in an excess alcohol case include driving in a genuine emergency for no more than the necessary distance, or a genuine belief that you were not over the limit, where your drinks have been deliberately interfered with ("spiked") by another person.

If you believe there may be such special reasons not to disqualify in your drink driving case, you should seek advice at the earliest possible stage as your success or failure may depend on taking early steps to secure necessary evidence.