|Being drunk in charge is a serious motoring offence but you can defend|
yourself if you are accused of it
When the police cannot prove that somebody has been drink driving they will often charge with an offence of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle instead. The offence is just as it sounds, the prosecution must prove that the defendant was over the drink driving limit and that he was in charge of a car or other vehicle.
Parliament included a defence to being drunk in charge when they created the offence – it is a defence if there is no likelihood of the defendant driving while he remains above the drink driving limit. In 1989, the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court heard a case known as DPP v Watkins in which the court said that magistrates should consider the following:
1. Whether the defendant was in the vehicle – and if he was where inside the vehicle he was – if he were not inside then how far from the vehicle was he;
2. What he was doing at the relevant time;
3. Whether he was in possession of a key that fitted the car’s ignition;
4. Whether there was evidence that he intended to take control of the car; and
5. Whether any other person was in or near the vehicle at the time.
In our case, the Defendant had been found asleep in his car with the engine running by police officers following a tip off from a member of the public. He had immediately explained to them that he had not been driving and had decided to sleep in his car because he had got drunk and knew that if he went home it would cause an argument with his wife, which he wanted to avoid.
Despite giving an innocent explanation from the very first moment he awoke, our client was arrested and charged with being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle while the alcohol in his breath exceeded the prescribed limit.
Nick Diable prepared his case and represented him at trial. As part of the preparation, Nick spoke with the people the Defendant had been drinking with and took statements from the person with whom he left that confirmed that the Defendant had said he intended to walk home and had indeed set off on foot. Another statement was taken from the Defendant’s wife who confirmed that there had been some problems in their marriage and that she had asked him not to come home after he had a drink.
At the trial, Nick cross examined the two police officers about the events on the morning they found and arrested the Defendant. One officer initially denied knowing why the Defendant had been in the car; however, Nick got her to admit that the Defendant had immediately explained why he was in the car in some detail – the second officer accepted this had happened very quickly when questioned about it. Both officers denied knowing how far from the scene of the arrest the Defendant lived; however, in cross examination both were shown a map and identified the scene as being within 100 metres of the Defendant’s home.
Nick questioned the Defendant as to his motives and gave him the opportunity to explain why the car’s engine had been running when the police found him.
At the conclusion of the trial, the District Judge said that the Defendant’s case “could only have been improved if he had been directly outside his own home.” The judge found the Defendant not guilty and awarded costs in his favour.