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Special Reasons in Drink Driving Cases

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The Basics

Drink driving is an offence that carries a mandatory driving ban unless special reasons exist.

special reasons drink drivingSpecial reasons do not automatically enable you to escape disqualification or endorsement.

Where special reasons are found it means that the court has the discretion to disqualify you for a shorter period or not at all. However, special reasons can enable you to avoid a ban completely.

Special Reasons are not a defence

A special reason is not the same as a defence. For this reason, if you were intending to put forward special reasons, you would normally accept that the offence was committed.

You would enter a guilty plea but inform the court of your intention to put forward special reasons.

There are exceptions to this where for example you intend to put forward an argument which could constitute both a defence or a special reason such as emergency (necessity or duress of circumstance).

A Summary of Special Reasons

It is important to remember that special reasons must relate to the commission of the offence itself and not the individual’s own circumstances. This means that financial hardship or previous good character cannot be used as a special reason.

With drink driving cases involving special reasons, the most common arguments involve an explanation of either:

  • how the driver came to be over the drink-drive limit, or
  • those which explain why he drove whilst over the limit.

See also our FAQs on special reasons in drink driving cases below.

Special Reasons Summary

Legal Definition

To amount to a “special reason” a matter must:

  1. a mitigating or extenuating circumstance;
  2. not amount in law to a defence to the charge;
  3. be directly connected with the commission of the offence; and
  4. be one which the court ought properly to take into consideration when imposing sentence.
Lucy Whitaker

Lucy Whitaker


Give me a call to discuss your driving case. I have many years’ experience dealing with all sorts of driving offences. You can read more about me here.

What we do


If you think you may have a special reasons argument and need advice, we can help. Speak to us if you think there are special circumstances that the court should take into account. We can advise you on how to prepare for court and give yourself the best chance of success.

Magistrates' Court Hearings

We can represent you at a drink driving special reasons hearing. The hearing itself is similar to a trial and you will have to give evidence.

Our solicitors only deal with motoring offences so you will get the best advice. If you have an upcoming Magistrates’ Court hearing and need representation or advice on preparation, let us help.

Drink Driving Special Reasons FAQs

If someone spiked my drink, is that a special reason?

Spiked drinks can be a special reason.

There have been numerous cases where the driver has been unaware of the alcohol in his drink. This may be because his drink had been spiked without his knowledge, or it may be that he had been given a different drink from what he believed he was consuming. The level of alcohol in the person’s system and any symptoms present are important because they may alert the driver to the possibility that he would have alcohol in his system. This could lead the court to conclude that the driver ought to have been aware that he was at risk of being over the drink-drive limit.

If you are alleging that your drink was spiked, you must also establish that the spiked drink was the cause of you being over the drink-drive limit. It will often be necessary to provide medical evidence from an expert in support of this. It will also be necessary to prove that your drink had been spiked and you were genuinely unaware of this.

What about emergencies?

An emergency can be both a special reason and also a complete defence depending on the severity of the emergency. To rely on emergency as a defence, you must show that there was a risk of serious injury and that the decision to drive was proportionate to that risk.

The High Court has emphasised that before an emergency can constitute a special reason, you must first show that there was no alternative other than for you to drive and that you had considered this fully before driving.

It is also important to consider whether you had only driven as far as necessary. For example, it will usually be extremely difficult to establish special reasons for driving home from a hospital after an emergency has been dealt with.

What if I did not drive very far?

If you drove such a short distance that you were unlikely to be brought into contact with other road users, and therefore the risk of danger was minimal, that can be a special reason.

The courts have accepted that special reasons exist where a driver has moved his car a matter of feet at the request of a third party.

The court should take into account the following factors:

  1. how far the vehicle is driven;
  2. in what manner it was driven;
  3. the state of the vehicle;
  4. whether the driver intended to go further;
  5. the road and traffic conditions prevailing at the time;
  6. whether there was a possibility of danger by coming into contact with other road users or pedestrians;
  7. what the reason was for the car being driven.

Of the above factors, 6. is considered to be the most important.

As well as the examples above, there are many other circumstances which can amount to special reasons. Each case will turn on its own facts and it is advisable to seek advice before putting forward special reasons in drink-driving cases.

How do I argue Special Reasons?

You will need to put the court on notice that you intend to argue special reasons. The court will usually want to know the basis of your special reasons argument. It is also important to consider whether you will need any prosecution or defence witnesses to give evidence in support of your case. Usually, the court will require you to state which facts are and are not in dispute. This is often done at a Case Management hearing and the matter will then be listed for a full hearing some weeks thereafter.

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