Sunday, 30 August 2015

Recent case: Short distance driven

A drink driving conviction does not always mean you will lose
your driving licence - an expert solicitor can help

Drink driving is a serious crime that carries, what is normally, a mandatory driving ban; however, there are situations where a drink driving ban can be avoided.  I regularly speak to people who have spoken to other people or done their own research online and reached the conclusion that a drink driving conviction means that they will lose their driving licence no matter what.  Worryingly, I’ve spoken to criminal law solicitors (and even court legal advisors) who have no idea that it is possible for somebody to escape a driving ban following a conviction for drink driving.

Earlier this week we attended an unusual type of trial.  The Defendant had already confessed to the police that he was drink driving and had entered a guilty plea at this first court appearance.  His trial was not about whether he was guilty or not but whether he should be disqualified from driving.

His explanation was that he had driven to meet friends intending to drive home.  He parked legally but his plans changed and he decided to have some alcoholic drinks.  As he left the bar, he realised his car would be parked unlawfully come morning time; he was offered a permit to park overnight in a space reserved for the bar so decided to move his car the 150 yards to a space in the bar’s private car park.  He was seen driving without his lights on by the police who decided to speak to him.  He confessed that he had been drinking and told them that he was probably over the drink driving limit.

The Defendant made a full confession
to the PC who witnessed him driving
The question for the court was whether driving the 150 metres – about half of which was on a public road – to re-park his car was a special reason for not imposing the otherwise obligatory driving ban.  The case law says that the distance must be "measured in yards not miles" and most of the cases typically find in favour of the driver where the distance driven was 50 yards or less (for anyone who isn't sure one yard is close enough to one metre for us not to need to worry about the difference).

Nicholas Diable of London Drink Driving Solicitor appeared at the special reasons trial to represent the Defendant.  Nick argued that the court should apply the test in a 1986 case called Chatters v Burke where the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court identified seven matters that should be taken into account by magistrates when deciding short distance driven cases.  They are:
1.       How far the vehicle was drive;
2.       Whether the driver intended to go any further;
3.       The manner in which it was driven;
4.       The state of the vehicle;
5.       The road and traffic conditions at the time;
6.       Whether there was a possibility of danger to other road users; and
7.       The reason for the car being driven.

Nick cross examined the police officers who witnessed the Defendant driving and was able to get them to agree that the Defendant had been parking his car and told them at the time that he did not intend to drive anywhere else; that the car was driven normally (albeit with the headlights switched off); that they noticed nothing wrong with the car; there were no adverse road conditions at the time and, importantly, that there were no other vehicles or pedestrians present at the time.

Evidence from the Defendant and another witness was called to prove all the above points and that the Defendant intended to take a taxi once he had re-parked.

Having heard the evidence put forward, the District Judge trying the case ruled that he was left in no doubt that there was no risk to other road users and Nick was able to convince him that 150 metres driven was a short enough distance to count.

You can escape the driving
ban with the right help
As a result, the Defendant kept his driving licence and received a fine about 70% lower than he otherwise would have done.  His licence was endorsed with 10 penalty points.

In another similar case, Nick convinced a court to allow a young lady to keep her driving in very similar circumstance.  In that case, the Defendant received just four penalty points and a £100 fine.

The prospects of success depend very much on the particular facts of a case and not everybody will be able to rely on a special reason to avoid a disqualification – but there are lots of people who can.

Special reasons allow people to escape the driving ban in a number of other situations not just those involving short distances.  Common examples are where a person’s drink has been spiked with extra alcohol without their knowledge and when there is a genuine emergency that required them to drive.

If you have been arrested for drink driving or a similar offence in London contact London Drink Driving Solicitor on 020 8242 4440 or in the Thames Valley area, contact Oxford Drink Driving Solicitor on 01869 886 490 today for expert advice and representation.

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