Excess alcohol: "in charge"

If you are found in a car and over the limit you can still find yourself in trouble, even if you are not driving.


There are circumstances in which you can be charged with an offence of excess alcohol even if you were not driving a vehicle at the time. This is where you are considered as having been "in charge" of the vehicle at the time.


It is an offence to be in charge of a vehicle on a road or in a public place with alcohol in excess of the prescribed limits in blood, breath or urine.


"In charge" has a wide meaning: for example, there is NO necessity for the car's engine to be running, the keys to be in the ignition or the accused even in the car provided that the bench conclude that the accused acted in a manner that showed he had assumed control of the vehicle or intended to do so as a preliminary to driving it. 


The prosecution must prove that the location in which the vehicle was found was indeed a road or a public place; that you were "in charge" of the vehicle; and that you were subject to excess alcohol.


The defence options are similar to those for driving with excess alcohol. In addition, it may be possible to persuade the court that there was no likelihood that you would drive the vehicle whilst the concentration of alcohol in your blood/breath/urine remained over the limit.


The court will not only need to be persuaded that you would not have driven the car at the time when you were found to be in charge of it, but also that the concentration of alcohol in your breath/blood/urine would have fallen below the legal limit by the time at which it is accepted that you were likely to drive. This will usually require expert evidence.


Penalties for "in charge" 

 The maximum sentence is three months' imprisonment.  Disqualification is discretionary, but if the court does not disqualify you, it must impose a minimum of ten penalty points. 


The decision whether to disqualify or impose points is influenced principally by the level of the concentration of alcohol in your breath/blood/urine, as is the level of the accompanying fine or other punishment.


Only offences at the extreme end of the scale are likely attract sentences of imprisonment.

Because of the mandatory minimum endorsement of ten points, many drivers convicted of this offence will face the possibility of losing their licence through the "totting up" provisions.