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.

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