Friday, 11 January 2013

Christmas Drink Driving

This Christmas has seen 1,230 people arrested for drink driving across London according to London's Met Police.

Surprisingly the police report that more people are found to be drink driving in London between 6am and 11am (5 hours) than immediately after the pubs close between 11pm and 1am (2 hours).  This is no doubt because many people fail to realise that they can be over the drink driving limit when they wake up after drinking alcohol the night before.

This year the police in London have been stopping drivers almost at random and conducting breath tests.  As well as the normal breath tests the Met Police have also been conducting drug impairment tests, which aim to detect drivers who are unfit to drive because they have taken drugs, which could be anything from medicine you pick up at the chemist through to heroin or cocaine.

London based Met Police Chief Inspector Nick Hancock made it very clear that the police in London are out to get anybody suspected of drink driving and that they view it as a serious offence.  He said, "It is important to remind all drivers that regardless of the time of day they are caught - be it when they are taking children to school, popping to the shops or coming back from work - they will face the same serious consequences as someone who has chosen to drink heavily and driven at night. Ignorance about the drink drive limit is not an excuse that will stand up in court or change the outcome of a serious road accident caused by drink or drug driving."

He went on to say, "The tragedy is many well-meaning people who are very conscious of drinking and driving are hopping behind the wheel in the morning when they are over the limit and therefore unsafe to drive. Drinking the night before will impair their driving, make them unfit to drive and over the limit. This could cost them their job through - a loss of licence or a prison sentence - as well as endangering their own life and that of other road users."

The message is clear.  If the police think you were drink driving in London they will do all they can to prosecute you and, if possible, send you to prison.  But, you don't have to accept that the police are always right or that prison or a loss of a driving licence is inevitable.  Contact London Drink Driving Solicitor today and get a real expert solicitor on your side.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Can police conduct random breath tests?

The simple answer is no, the police cannot conduct a random breath test unless they suspect you of drink driving, you have committed another driving offence or you have been involved in an accident.

Nonetheless, a lot of people are confused about the lawfulness of random breath testing at the side of the road and most people simply do not understand their rights.  

The confusion arises because people do not appreciate the distinction between the police power to stop traffic and the police to administer a roadside breath test when they suspect somebody of drink driving.

Anybody who has a driving licence in the UK should realise that they must stop if a police officer in uniform tells them to stop.  We know this to be true because section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 tell us that it is a criminal offence not to stop when directed to do so by a police officer in uniform.

Because the power to stop vehicles is not tempered with any tests or justification that must exist prior to the stop being lawful it is possible for police to conduct a random stop on any vehicle they like.  But, section 163 does not give the police any other power once they have stopped you, so they still need to rely on some other power before they can require you to take a breath test.

The only power they have to require you to take a breath test is contained in section 6 Road Traffic Act 1988, which sets out when a police officer can require somebody to provide a specimen of breath at the roadside.  The s. 6 power requires police officers to either have a reasonable suspicion that you are drink driving or have committed a driving offence or have been involved in an accident.  This means that if police conduct a random stop under s. 163 and then after stopping you form the view that you were drink driving they can require you to take the roadside breath test.

In conclusion, the police can randomly stop you but unless they have some reasonable suspicion that you were drink driving or have committed a driving offence or been involved in an accident they cannot breath test you.

If you have been accused of refusing to take a roadside breath test you can get expert advice and representation from London Drink Driving Solicitors today.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Road side breath tests

If a police officer is investigating an allegation of drink driving on a public road he may require the person he suspects of drink driving to provide a sample of breath at the roadside.  The power to require you to take part in a roadside breath test are governed by section 6 of the Road Traffic Act.  This power actually refers to preliminary tests, which can include things such as breath tests and sobriety tests.  But for ease, we'll just talk about roadside breath tests.

The police do not have a blanket power to require drivers to provide a roadside sample.  This article will look at the circumstances in which the police can require you to provide a roadside breath sample.

When can the police make you take a breath test?

It may sound strange but the police do not have to be investigating an allegation of drink driving to make you take a roadside breath test.  There are four grounds for requiring a breath test, which are contained in section 6 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Although we use the word “driving” you should understand that driving in this context means, “driving, attempting to drive or being in charge of a motor vehicle”.

Drink driving

The test that triggers a road side breath test is when a police officer reasonable suspects that you are under the influence of alcohol of drugs.  You'll note that this doesn't mean drunk, incapable or unfit.  Nor does it mean that the officer must think that you are drink driving.  It is a deliberately low threshold intended to limit challenges to the lawfulness of the roadside breath test procedure.

The first reason for requiring a breath test is the police officer has seen you driving and suspects you to be under the influence of drink or drugs.  This reason would usually arise where your driving was erratic or unusual, e.g. you were swerving or driving unusually slowly, etc.

The second reason is that a police officer believes you were driving he can require you to take a roadside breath test.  A common example of this is where a vehicle registered to you is seen driving erratically or committing an offence but is not stopped.  Later, the police come to your home, find the vehicle outside your home and form the opinion that you are under the influence.

Traffic offences

The police may administer a roadside breath test where they suspect you are or have been driving and you have committed a traffic offence.  The police do not have to suspect that you were drink driving or that you were unfit drive in anyway; they do not even have to suspect that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Road Traffic Accidents

Where an accident occurs “owing to the presence of a motor vehicle on a road” and the police officer reasonable suspects that you were driving, attempting to drive or in charge of the vehicle at the time he may require you to provide a roadside breath test.

The wording of this section makes clear that your vehicle need not be involved in the accident, i.e. you don’t have to have crashed.  It is sufficient if somebody says that the accident occurred because of your car, e.g. you emerge from a junction suddenly causing another vehicle to swerve and hit another car.

Once again, the police do not have to suspect that you are drink driving to rely on this power.

Getting help

You can find out more about breath tests and get help with drink driving allegations from