Driving under the influence of alcohol is a criminal offence in the UK (and most of the world), and if you’re found guilty, the repercussions are serious.
We’ve all seen the adverts that warn us to stay sober behind the wheel, but how seriously do you take them? Think a quick pint or large glass of wine won’t really matter? Think again. According to Drinkaware, even a small amount of alcohol can push you over the limit, so the only safe amount if you plan to drive is none at all.
According to drink driving law, the legal limit for alcohol is 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, which can be tested if you’re stopped by the police, or 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. You can be stopped by a police officer if he has reason to suspect that you are driving under the influence, but you may also be stopped if you’re speeding or if you commit a driving offence and the officer then suspects you might be over the limit.
Don’t think that you can play for time by asking for a blood or urine test and hoping the results are more favourable if you’ve had a few. It’s also an offence to refuse to give a breath sample, unless you have a very good reason, such as a medical condition that might make it hard for you to give a large enough sample of breath.
Over the Limit?
When you take the breath test, the result you’re hoping for is less than 39 micrograms. This will result in you being released. However, if you’re slightly over, between 40-50 micrograms, you should be offered the option of a further blood or urine test – if you’re not, you have a defence against any charges brought against you.
If you’re over the limit, you’ll be charged and sent home – although you won’t be able to drive home until you’re sober. You’ll have to go to court and you’ll get a driving ban. In most cases you’ll be disqualified for up to a year and you may also be fined up to £5000. In some cases you could also be sent to prison, depending on how far over the legal limit you were. If you’re caught more than once in ten years, expect a three year ban. You could also get up to ten points on your licence.
If you’re caught twice in ten years, or were 2.5 times or more over the limit, you could also have to prove to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s Medical Branch that you don’t have an alcohol problem before you can have your licence back.
In some cases you might be able to get any disqualification reduced if you agree to take a Drink Driving Rehabilitation course – this can reduce your disqualification period by as much as 25%. You would need to be referred to an approved course by the court.
If you lose your licence, it’s not just a case of finding someone else to drive you to the pub.
Losing your job is not considered a good enough reason to avoid losing your licence – the courts see that as a ‘foreseeable consequence’ of your decision and won’t have any sympathy for you at all.
If you drive for a living you could lose your job. You can argue for a reduction in the period of disqualification, but this only applies to three-year bans, which can be reduced after two years if there are extenuating circumstances and there have been no further offences.
You might not have to drive for a living, but some employers will still fire you if you have a criminal record. You might find it hard to get to and from work, and if you do lose your job, finding a new one with a criminal record will be harder.
You will find it hard to get insurance when your licence is returned, and the cost will be sky high if you have a drink driving conviction on your record. Some rehabilitation courses also work with approved insurers to get better rates if you’ve completed a course.