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Drunk in Charge of a Vehicle

Expert solicitors for drink diving offences


If you are charged with being drunk or unfit whilst in charge of motor vehicle then it is important you seek advice at the earliest opportunity. Receiving advice early can make a huge difference to the final result and will hopefully put some of your concerns to rest and make you feel better about the position you have found yourself in.


It is important that you realise from the outset that whilst you may have provided a sample that was above the limit, this does not always mean that you can (or should) be convicted however in cases of being “in charge” the police do not always require a positive sample depending on the charge brought.


We provide free initial telephone advice and would be happy to help so please contact us on 020 7923 4020 to discuss.


You must be confident in your representation and if our statistics are not enough to convince you of our expertise, we invite you to review our web pages, client testimonials and case studies.


Many motorists have never head of this offence and are often surprised when charged. In UK law it is illegal to be in control or “in charge” of a vehicle whilst either over the limit or unfit through drink or drugs.


If you have provided a positive sample we would urge you to read the relevant page depending on whether you provided breath or blood/urine.


In the event you have not provided a positive sample the officers must have evidence or be able to prove that you were “unfit” or “impaired” which the Prosecution often find difficult to establish as being related to drink or drugs.


It is not uncommon for motorists who approach us to assume that they have only one option – to plead guilty. It is understandable to assume that you must be guilty if you have provided a positive test however this is not always the case. As specialists in motor law, there are a number of unique strategies and techniques that enable us to successfully defend you and we urge you to contact us on 020 7923 4020 so we can explain your options in detail. Being charged with this offence can be an intimidating process and we want you to be able to make informed decisions on how best to proceed with your case.


What makes us different from the rest?


When we are instructed in a case, there are a number of avenues that we scrutinise which include but are not limited to:


  • The police station procedure conducted by the officers involved in your case. It is vital that some aspects of the procedure are conducted correctly and we often find serious breaches in procedure that result in an acquittal.
  • The equipment used to breathalyse you if you provided a breath sample. There are 3 different machines used to breathalyse suspects in the UK and we work alongside the leading experts who specialise in each device. Together we have found ways to challenge the reliability of the device used and often find that the equipment is poorly maintained.
  • How the sample was taken and analysed in cases where you provided a sample of blood or urine.
  • Is the evidence itself strong enough? To secure a conviction in the UK the court must be satisfied that you are guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. To a non-specialist drink driving lawyer the evidence against you may seem substantial however when we review the strength of the case we almost invariably find flaws and have evidence thrown out. The result? The case against you simply isn’t strong enough to convince the court that you are guilty.
  • Whether all evidence has been disclosed is another area that results in acquittals. It is vital that you receive a fair trial and there are many cases where this is simply not possible due to certain evidence not being disclosed to us. At trial, we have successfully argued that this means you cannot receive a fair trial and the case has been dismissed.
  • Whether special reasons apply.


A non-motor law specialist would (in most cases) not know the various possible defences that may be available and advise you to plead guilty. This is why we would strongly recommend contacting us on 020 7923 4020 even if you have spoken to non-specialists to ensure you get the most accurate advice.


What are “in charge” offences?


The most common circumstance we encounter is when a motorist has consumed alcohol and wants to do the right things by not driving their vehicle. With no other way to get home, they decide to “sleep it off” in their car before driving home. If you are discovered by officers and are found to be above the prescribed limit or they consider you to be unfit though drink or drugs then they can bring charges against you.


The legal definition of “in charge” is not as straight forward as one may think and the court will consider a number of factors such as:


  • Where you were in relation to your vehicle at the time
  • Where you were sitting if you were inside the vehicle
  • Where the keys were
  • Whether the engine was on
  • Any evidence that suggests an intention to drive


It may come as a surprise to a lot of people that even if you are asleep in your car you can still be found guilty of being drunk in charge.


How Do We Win Cases of Drunk in Charge?


To secure a conviction, the Crown Prosecution Service must be able to prove not only that you were in fact “in charge” of the vehicle (with the definition of this not being as straight forward as you may think) but also that you were over the limit. Proving both elements of this offence can be a difficult task which is why it is essential to seek advice.


“I wasn’t planning to drive!”


One possible defence to this allegation is if there was no intention of driving. If you are merely sat in your vehicle (for whatever reason) but do not intend to drive then you should not be found guilty of this offence however convincing the court of this can be a challenge.


A defendant must be able to prove that they had no intention to drive so long as he remained unfit/over the limit to do so. This is what is called as a “statutory defence” and is established in The Road Traffic Act 1988.


I Was Not Over The Limit!


Methods used to detect alcohol in a person’s system that are used in England and Wales are not infallible and we are often able to successfully challenge the reliability of breath/blood/urine samples. If you think that you did not consume enough alcohol to be above the prescribed limit then this in itself is worth investigating. In cases where a sample was not provided the prosecution be able to establish that your impairment not only existed but also that it was as a result of drink or drugs.


Why Instruct Duncan Lewis Solicitors?


Road Traffic Law is a very niche area of criminal law and there are very firms with genuine expertise in this area. As specialists, there are a number of strategies and techniques that have been developed and fine-tuned over the years that result in successful acquittals but what makes us different from the rest?


We provide free initial telephone advice and would be happy to help so please contact us to discuss. In cases where you have attended hospital, we are often able to establish whether or not you have a defence early on in the proceedings!


If you have been given your own sample of either blood or urine we strongly urge you to send this away for independent analysis and details can be found on our pages relating to this type of case.


Potential Penalties and Consequences


“In charge” offences are not quite as serious as drink or drug driving but the penalties can still be severe for motorists and include a disqualification. At the lowest end of the spectrum, being in charge of a vehicle can result in 10 penalty points being endorsed on your licence which may make you “tot up” however the court will consider a disqualification depending on your drug/alcohol level or level of impairment.


In more serious cases where there is a high alcohol reading/level of impairment or you are a repeat offender, then disqualifications can be as long as 5 years and you may also be at risk of a prison sentence or community order. You can find out more about the factors that the court consider when imposing penalties here


There is also a Level 5 fine attached to this offence which can be anything up to £2500.00


A conviction will go onto your record as a criminal one but there are more far reaching consequences that are not immediately apparent such as:


  • A negative impact upon your chosen career or employment
  • Adverse effect upon your freedom to travel to certain countries
  • Significantly increase the costs of your vehicle insurance for at least the next 4 years
  • The social stigma attached to those who are ultimately convicted of drink driving


Let Us Help You


Being drunk in charge is one of the most daunting offences a motorist can be charged with as for many, the consequences can be catastrophic due to the driving ban they face. Our lawyers will not judge you and we understand the impact that a conviction can have upon a person's life. This process can be a distressing time yet having representation can help you deal with the situation you are in.


We would recommend writing down everything you remember about the day/night in question and include as much detail as you can. Smaller details that may first appear minor can often have a significant impact on a case and how it is prepared so ensure that you cover your movements on the day, what you had to drink and at what times and also as much as you can remember about what happened from the moment the police became involved and what they said to you.


How Much Does it Cost


The costs of representation will largely depend upon whether you decide to plead guilty or not guilty.


Your first court date will be when you must attend and confirm whether you are pleading “guilty” or “not guilty”.


If you plead guilty to the charge then in most cases only one hearing is required and we can agree a fixed fee of between £1000 – 1500 + VAT. If you plead not guilty, then it may be several months before your trial date and the fees incurred will be influenced by:


  • How complex the case is; and
  • The number of hearings involved/duration of the proceedings


For more detail about the fee structure and payment options contact us on 020 7923 4020 to discuss your case in more detail.


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