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Don’t be a Turkey the morning after the night before.

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is fast approaching and parties are in full swing. Also in full swing is the Police drink and drug driving campaigns. This time of year the Police will carry out random stop checks on more motorists than any other month of the year.

Many of the people prosecuted are those heading to work the following day after drinking the night before. How much alcohol remains in your system can depend on many factors including your own height and weight. Therefore if you have drank any alcohol the night before you should be very careful when driving the following day.

What happens if you are stopped by the Police?

You will be requested to blow in to a small device which will measure the alcohol level in your breath. If you refuse or fail to provide a sample of breath you commit a separate offence. The legal limit for drink driving is 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. If the device indicates you are over this limit you will be arrested and taken to the Police Station. In addition to that age old tradition, you will also be requested to provide a sample of saliva via a mouth swab, this is then provisionally analysed at the roadside which takes around 8 minutes to complete. If this swab indicates the presence of cannabis and cocaine you will be arrested. Again, it is an offence to refuse to provide a sample.

Is it only cocaine and cannabis that apply?

The roadside testing kits only test for these drugs but there are a large number of other illegal drugs which are included and have set limits as to how much you can have in your system when driving. Unlike drink driving, the drug driving limits are set on a zero tolerance basis. They allow a very small margin for potential accidental consumption only.

Is it only illegal drugs that apply?

No there are a number of prescription drugs which apply too including amphetamine (eg dexamphetamine or selegiline), clonazepam, diazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, methadone, morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs (eg codeine, tramadol or fentanyl), oxazepam, temazepam. If you are taking these and intend to drive, you must take them strictly in accordance with professional medical advice and only drive if they are not causing you to be unfit to drive.

If I am arrested, what happens next?

For drink driving you will be required to provide two further samples of breath at the Police Station using the intoxilyser machine. This is a much more sophisticated machine than the one used at the roadside. The lowest of the two samples provided will be the one used as evidence. If this reading is below 40 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath you will not be prosecuted due to the current Home Office Guidance. In some cases you may be requested to provide a blood or urine sample instead of a breath sample.

In respect of drug driving investigations once at the Police Station you will be requested to provide a blood sample. You will then be released from the Police Station to await the outcome of the blood being forensically analysed. If your blood shows that there are illegal drugs or prescribed drugs above the relevant limits (N.B. different limits apply for each drug) then you will usually receive a requisition via post requiring you to attend court.

What happens if I am prosecuted and have to go to court?

There are some possible defences to these type of offences but they occur very rarely. If you do not have a defence the circumstances of your offence could give rise to a possible “special reasons” argument, which if successful could allow the court not to disqualify you from driving. This area is complex and you should seek expert legal advice to discuss this at the earliest possible stage in proceedings.

If you plead guilty to either drink or drug driving, in the absence of any of the above, you will be the subject of a mandatory minimum disqualification of 12 months. If you have a similar previous conviction within the last 10 years, the minimum disqualification is 3 years. This could be longer depending on whether there are any aggravating features in your case such as if you were carrying passengers, had an accident or there is evidence of poor driving.

The penalties for both drink and drug driving range from a fine to a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months. The penalties imposed will depend on whether there are any aggravating features.

Can I get Legal Aid?

Our firm hold a Criminal Legal Aid contract and may be able to represent you under the Legal Aid Scheme. This will depend on your household income and the circumstances of the allegation.

Should you wish to discuss any matters relating to this article please contact Ian Barnes Director and Head of our Criminal Team on 01978 291000 or by email [email protected]

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Allington Hughes Law is a trading name of Allington Hughes Limited. Registered office is 10 Grosvenor Road, Wrexham LL11 1SD

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