Thursday, 14 April 2016

Case report: successful submissions to the prosecution

EG was found drinking at the wheel of her car

A few weeks ago, Nick Diable of London Drink Driving Solicitor was instructed to represent a woman, who we’ll call EG, accused of drink driving.

The allegation was that on a recent Friday night she was drink driving her car while she had 64mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath.

Nick met EG before the first hearing took place – we always try to meet our clients well before court as that gives us the best opportunity to understand their account and gives them a chance to meet and ask questions of the solicitor who will represent them in court.  EG’s account was that she had driven to a night out with some friends.  The friends had been drinking during the journey and, although EG had consumed alcohol prior to driving she did not believe she would have been over the drink driving limit.  Once at their destination, EG parked her car and accepted some drinks from her friends.  This is called the hip flask defence and is so named because in the past men frequently carried hip flasks from which they would drink after crashing their cars.  It was said they did this to calm their nerves but it also effectively prevents a court finding against them in a drink driving trial, so who knows the real reason behind its origins.

EG accepted that she had been in her car with the lights on and engine running when she became over the drink driving limit and that she may have driven again that evening while she remained above the drink driving limit.  Nick advised her that on this account she was guilty of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle but that the penalty would be either a short driving ban or 10 penalty points, i.e. far less harsh than a sentence for drink driving.  EG stated she was happy with 10 penalty points and would plead guilty to being drunk in charge if the prosecution could be persuaded by Nick to offer it.  A plan was agreed that Nick would obtain and consider the prosecution evidence.  If appropriate he would make representations that they should drop the case against EG.

We immediately asked for the prosecution evidence and received it the week before the first court appearance.  After analysing the evidence, it was clear that the prosecution lacked sufficient evidence to secure a conviction but could gain a conviction for being drunk in charge.  We made immediate representations to the prosecution that they should discontinue the drink driving charge – we deliberately did not ask them to substitute a charge of being drunk in charge because we are here to represent our client’s best interests not to advise the prosecution on potential charges they could bring against our client.  It has to be said that if they thought they could get a drink driving conviction based on the evidence they sent to us then you have to question whether they are at all familiar with drink driving law.

A prosecution solicitor who was clearly more familiar with drink driving law reviewed the evidence at court and agreed to substitute the drink driving charge for one of being drunk in charge.  This is a significant difference.  An alcohol reading of 64mg in breath on a drink driving charge would mean a 17 to 22 month driving ban plus a fine of 150% of EG’s weekly income.  Whereas a guilty plea to being drunk in charge would mean at worst a short driving ban and a fine of 100% of weekly income.

EG was very happy to plead to being drunk in charge as she accepted that she had committed the offence and should not have done so.

Nick Diable represented EG in court, telling the court that EG is a professional woman who recently graduated from university, holds a good job and has never been in trouble before – this is called personal mitigation.  Nick explained the circumstances of the offence and that EG fully accepted her guilty and offered the court her genuine apologies for committing the offence – this is mitigating the offence.  Learning how to mitigate is a very important skill for any criminal law solicitor and one I have discussed previously in other blogs.

The District Judge listened carefully and agreed to significantly reduce the sentence.  Instead of the short driving ban the judge could have imposed, he awarded 10 penalty points.  Instead of the 100% of weekly income fine that he would normally impose, the judge more than halved the fine.

EG was very happy with the sentence.

So, we can see that when a solicitor takes time to meet face to face with a client to discuss their case in detail, examines the prosecution evidence properly and acts on that information spectacular results can be achieved.

It’s always worth asking at the end of a case, how else could this have been approached?  The most obvious answer is that we could have kept quiet about the flaws in the prosecution case and gone to trial on the drink driving charge.  That was an option explained to EG, but she had very clear goals: first to end the case as quickly and cheaply as possible; secondly to keep her driving licence.  Taking the drink driving charge to trial would have been very good for us because it would allow us to charge EG more money, but that does not fit with EG’s stated goals.  One thing we will always do at London Drink Driving Solicitor is to work with a client to find out what they want to achieve in a case and then present the best options for achieving those goals, even if it means we can’t charge as much money because providing sound, honest advice is what we are all about.

If you would like to discuss a drink driving or drunk in charge case with Nick Diable get in touch on 020 8242 4440 or visit our website.

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