Drink Driving Offence

About Drink Driving Offences

Drink driving or driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol is a serious offence for which you can go to prison. However, it would be extremely unusual for the court to send someone to prison on a first drink driving offence unless someone was seriously injured.

Drink driving carries a mandatory driving ban of at least 12 months unless you can put forward a successful special reasons argument. Being drunk in charge is a less serious offence but it still carries a potential prison sentence.

Other names for drink driving DUI, driving under the influence, driving with alcohol above the prescribed legal limit, excess alcohol, drunk drive.

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What happens in drink driving cases?

If you have been stopped by the police on suspicion of drink driving, it is likely the first thing that will happen is that you will be breathalysed at the roadside. If you fail the roadside breath test, you will be arrested and taken to the police station. The roadside breath test is only used to confirm the police officer’s reasonable suspicion that you were driving while over the limit. The roadside reading cannot be used as evidence of your drink driving. An evidential reading will be requested at the police station. You will be asked to provide two samples of breath, and the lower of the two readings provided will be taken as the level of alcohol in your breath. If there is a reason why breath cannot be provided, you will be asked for blood or urine. You cannot choose which type of sample to give.

If you would like to know more please contact us today.

Drink driving limits

The 2020 legal limit in England is:

  • 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath (with a policy in place for a prosecution to begin at 40 microgrammes);
  • 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood;
  • 107 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine.

Drink driving limits are based on the level of likely impairment. The sentence imposed often depends mainly (but not exclusively) on the level of alcohol in a person’s system.

If you would like to know more please contact us today.

Drink Drive Rehabilitation Courses

If you are disqualified for 12 months or more, the court may offer you the drink-drive rehabilitation course. If you complete this successfully, it will reduce your drink driving ban by 25%.

For more information please see our FAQs on drink driving offences below.

Drink Driving Summary


Legal Definition

You commit an offence if you drive or attempt to drive (or are in charge of) a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, and; that you do so after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit.

Main Legislation

S.5 of the Road Traffic Act 1988


Maximum Penalties

Driving Penalties:
If driving or attempting to drive – a disqualification of at least 12 months.
If in charge – 10 penalty points or a ban, usually of up to 12 months

If driving or attempting to drive – unlimited
If in charge – £2,500



Magistrates Court only (unless an appeal)

Imprisonable? If driving or attempting to drive – up to 6 months’ imprisonment. If in charge – up to 3 months’ imprisonment.

Do you need help with a drink driving offence?

Talk to us today about how we can help you.

Relevant Cases

Drink Driving Offence FAQs

What defences are there to drink driving?

If you have a possible defence to drink driving, we’ll find it. Below is a summary of the types of defence which we have used successfully.

No evidence that you were driving or attempting to drive

If the police didn’t see you drive or attempt to drive a vehicle, they may not be able to prove you drove the vehicle. This can depend on whether there are other witnesses and the strength of their evidence. If the police cannot prove you drove the vehicle, then you should not be convicted of drink driving.

Insufficient evidence that the alcohol level was above the limit at the time of driving

If there is an issue with the equipment used to analyse the specimen, then the reading produced may be unreliable. If you give a breath reading, you should be offered a copy of the printout produced by the machine. The police do not have to ensure you take the printout, but they do have to offer it to you. This is important as it is the evidence of the machine’s calibration as well as the reading. Without this, the police may be unable to adduce evidence of a reliable reading.

Technical Defences

There are also several more ‘technical defences’ such as if the police fail to give you the statutory warning. The statutory warning is wording that makes clear that you are required to provide a specimen and that if you do not provide a specimen, you could face prosecution for ‘failing to provide a specimen’. This requirement must be made either at a police station or hospital and it must be made by a police constable in uniform. The police officer must also have reasonable suspicion that the person that an offence was being committed or that the person was involved in a road traffic accident.

Evidence that the level of alcohol was below the limit at the time of driving
If you’ve consumed alcohol after driving the vehicle but before you were breathalysed, then you may have a defence. This is often referred to as the ‘Hip Flask’ defence. The police should ask you if you have consumed alcohol after driving and can affect your credibility if you do not mention this at the time.

Unless your case is that you had not drunk any alcohol before driving, an expert witness would usually be required to provide a ‘back calculation’ to demonstrate that the later drinking is what put you over the limit.

Other options

Medical reasons for being over the limit are not generally considered defences. These fall under the category of Special Reasons. This means that you are technically guilty, but there are circumstances which the court should be aware of which can give them discretion over the sentence imposed.

If you believe that you have a defence to drink driving, or that special reasons may apply, you really should discuss this with a solicitor before taking it any further.

How much can I drink before driving?

One of the most frequently asked questions is “How many units can I drink and still be legal to drive”. Everyone is different so there is no way of calculating this easily. It depends on several factors including your body weight and makeup, how quickly your body metabolises alcohol and whether you drink regularly.

We use expert witnesses when a calculation of this nature is required.

Beware the old “two-pint rule” as you may still be over the legal driving limit.

When can the police require me to give a breath sample?

The police can stop motorists at random, but they cannot require breath tests at random. There must be something which gives rise to a reasonable suspicion that the driver has been drinking. In practice, the police usually say that it was the smell of alcohol on the motorist’s breath which gave rise to that suspicion. There may also be mentions of your demeanor such as ‘glazed eyes, slurred speech, unsteady on your feet’.

What if I don't provide a breath sample?

If you fail without reasonable excuse to provide a breath sample, you are guilty of an offence. If you fail to provide at the roadside, you face 4 penalty points being endorsed on your licence. If you fail to provide at the police station, you risk similar penalties to those which would have been imposed had you provided a sample which was above the limit. Of course, they won’t know what your real limit is, but if you appear intoxicated, the police will be sure to make a note of this on the documentation, and the prosecutor is likely to mention their comments at court.

If you want to put forward a defence that you couldn’t give the sample, you will usually need to be able to back this up with medical evidence.

The guidelines for a first offence of failing to provide a specimen (without reasonable excuse) suggest the following penalties:

Bottom end

A fine and a ban of 12-16 months


26 weeks’ custody and a ban of up to 36 months

Previous offences

The penalties are increased significantly if you have committed a drink or drug driving offence within the previous 10 years. In that case, the minimum period of disqualification is 36 months.

Can I choose to take a blood or urine test instead?

No, this option was removed in April 2015. It was previously available as an option for those who blew a reading of between 40 and 50. You should still be offered blood or urine as an alternative if the police consider that you may have a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to provide a sample of breath. The police decide whether to request you to provide blood or urine.

If you have a reasonable excuse for not providing a sample you may have a defence. If you do not mention the reason for not providing at the time, it can make it more difficult to establish a defence. Depending on the circumstances, it may still be possible to raise a defence, particularly when you did not know that you had the reason at the time.

Can I challenge the accuracy of the intoxilyser?

It is possible is some cases but not all. If you would like us to ascertain whether the police have made a mistake somewhere or to provide evidence that the intoxilyzer is inaccurate, then we are more than happy to do so. You need to be aware that we may or may not find something which can be used in your defence and if there is an issue with the intoxilyser machine, an expert witness will usually need to become involved.

The prosecution doesn’t have a duty to disclose all the evidence before you enter a plea, which means that at the very least, a not guilty plea has to be entered for the case against you to be disclosed. If you plead guilty at the earliest opportunity, you usually receive one-third discount on your financial penalty and if you subsequently change your plea to guilty at a later time, you’ll have lost some of your credit.

That’s not to say that you should plead guilty if there is insufficient evidence against you, but you must make an informed decision and are aware of the implications. We’ll do our best for you whatever you decide to do, and we promise to provide honest advice at all times.

What is the Drink Drive Rehabilitation Course?

The court has the discretion to offer this course to those convicted of drink driving offences. If completed by a certain date, it will reduce the imposed driving ban by 25%. For this reason, most people want the opportunity to attend a course. The court may not offer the course if they do not consider it appropriate. Sometimes it will not be offered to people who have completed a course before, but it will depend on the circumstances.

The course lasts 3 days with at least one week’s gap between each day. They vary in cost depending on the provider with some offering discounts for those who pay early.

If you want to go on a course, you will need to ask the court and confirm which provider you want to use. You can search for course providers here.

You don’t have to complete the course, but if you do not, you will have to serve the full length of the driving ban imposed.

Can I use Exceptional Hardship to avoid a drink driving ban?

No. Exceptional Hardship can only be argued to avoid a totting disqualification. That is when a person is going to reach 12 points or more within three years and faces a minimum six-month ban. It cannot be used to prevent a ban from being imposed where the disqualification is obligatory for the offence itself such as drink driving.
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Mission DanMission Dan
09:07 25 Jun 22
Absolutely saved my business. Took on my case, were direct from the start, kept me informed and worked behind the scenes to push my case and get my license returned, despite a somewhat archaic court house. You can tell pragma are specialists in this field and i genuinely recommend them 100% (thanks to lucy, david and claire) you saved my bacon
hayley smithhayley smith
12:14 15 Jun 22
Lucy was extremely thorough , professional and very emphatic. She always took the time to make everything totally clear and gave excellent guidance throughout.My son was facing a charge of death by dangerous driving. His sentenced was reduced to a suspended one with the help of Lucy and her teams expertise.This is a rare outcome.We are enormously grateful for her support and patience throughout the case, and can not recommend her highly enough!
Atanas CAtanas C
18:51 26 May 22
Just out of few miles.As we wheel around we do step at times on the lines labelled as traffic law. You could be fine at the moment but the sweet moment does not last. Out of just a few miles, the minute problem starts snowballing to a self-unmanageable level. Paper from traffic police paper from the court, bitter mouth, the clock is ticking and nothing sensible comes to mind of what to write to the court rep. When a problem starts simmering and climes we tend to run out of fit ideas. Some call it panicking and I agree. Pragma law has a different set of remedies for similar situations. And I am sharing this from experience. Lucy from Pragma listened to my story and said the problem is not as big as my mixed at the time mind thought it was. ‘’Leave with me and answer my emails timely and don’t worry’’ she said. Six weeks later I was out of the mud. Just like that, …out of a few miles.
Combe ClovisCombe Clovis
09:51 26 May 22
I just want to say thank you so much for your support for your help and advice, I really appreciate your services I was panicking, i couldn't sleep for properly because the thoughts l couldn't imagine losing my licence or getting banned for 6 months because l drive for living getting banned for 6 months means loosing my income for 6 months therefore loosing my home and get into really hardship so I really appreciate prgma low and special thanks to Mr David swingler who was there for me and advice me and defend my case really well and win the case for me instead of 6 months disqualification I got 14 days this for me it was big win thanks to David Swingler and Pragma Low.
Ismail KhanIsmail Khan
15:13 03 May 22
Very diligent, professional and helpful. Lucy prioritised us as our case was time-sensitive and was very prompt and accessible at all times whenever we needed to communicate with her. She helped us get the best possible outcome. Highly recommended!
Neil BrittonNeil Britton
14:33 23 Apr 22
Their pricing is less than that of other specialists.David did a great job of defending me in court.They communicated well and went out of their way to help.Couldn't recommend these solicitors enough.10/10
Michael GillespieMichael Gillespie
17:09 21 Apr 22
Fantastic service and representation. Great result.
Fahd The REAPER MoenisFahd The REAPER Moenis
19:24 20 Feb 22
Lucy is really professional and i was so relaxed and happy to deal with her
shaun allmanshaun allman
17:51 02 Feb 22
Great service, communication and informative with all the advice given to me. Very much will recommend to all my family and friends should they ever need a trustworthy and professional solicitor to help with advice and proceedings with motoring offences.
Filip Rares-NicolaeFilip Rares-Nicolae
18:17 24 Jan 22
Absolutely amazing from start to finish.Was extremely worried about a situation I had got myself in.Was a very very nervous time for me as losing my license would have meant I lost everything including my job.Pragma Law team was helpful, professional, clear and thorough from the outset.It was Lucy Whitaker who represented me in court and I cant stress enough how fantastic she was in that court room. I received the best possible outcome and kept my license. Without her I would of undoubtedly lost my license.As far as I am concerned this was a one off and will never ever happen again, however if I ever was in any situation of this kind in the future there is no where else I would turn.Can not recommend highly enough!
a tanasa tanas
18:02 25 Nov 21
Working with Lucy Whitaker as my lawyer has been the best thing I could have ever done. She sorted out my problem as BEST and i truly recommend her to anyone that needs to solve car problems.Flavia Campilli
Joseph PaynterJoseph Paynter
16:18 12 Nov 21
I recently had a case involving an E-Scooter, unfortunately I committed an offence that I didn't even know was illegal. I contacted Pragma Law after reading reviews and outcomes of similar cases, and was put into contact with Lucy Whitaker. Lucy was very professional throughout the whole process, and was very realistic with me about my outcome from the initial phone call. The consultation was extremely through and well carried out, and Lucy was always available to contact if I had any questions. I couldn't have asked for a better outcome from the court after Lucy's representation- from the potential of a suspended sentence reduced to a ban on the lower end of the range, and without a community order. In the court room Lucy was very good at explaining to the Magistrates that the seriousness of the case was nothing like what the sentencing guidelines were designed to punish for (driving a car) and this is what got my punishment reduced. The prices are reasonable, and transparent from the initial phone call with no hidden costs. Would definitely recommend.
Tim NVTim NV
14:43 14 Oct 21
Was really impressed with PL and Lucy. Was given great advice (which I wouldn’t have been able to obtain without guidance) throughout the whole process. Every time we communicated over the phone it was followed up with a written email with actions, next steps etc. was also fortunate enough to work with her colleague David too who represented my case where I avoided a ban of 6 months.
Abi CorsiAbi Corsi
16:39 14 Sep 21
Lucy is the best lawyer I could have possibly found. I unexpectedly received a letter from the police who at the time intended to prosecute me for driving an electric scooter without insurance, and without a license. I was terrified as if found guilty, I would receive 6 penalty points and would have lost my drivers license. Other solicitors I called said unfortunately there was nothing they could do. Lucy on the other hand immediately reassured me and wrote a letter to the police which persuaded them to drop the charges completely. I honestly can’t recommend her enough. Thank you Lucy!
Aziz AbilovAziz Abilov
15:29 31 Aug 21
I contacted Pragma Law when I wanted to appeal against a decision made in the Magistrates court. Lucy had picked up my case and advised me on the next steps. She helped me with everything that was required, advised me on all possible outcomes of the appeal, helped me get my licence back until the appeal hearing comes along, and then went ahead and got the appeal accepted in the Crown court. She is not only the best solicitor I’ve worked with, but she is also a wonderful human being. Very lovely and easy to work with, even the judges loved her! I 100% recommend you to contact them with any issues you have.
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15:41 21 May 21
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Bobby CharlesBobby Charles
19:05 07 Feb 21
I have had an extremely positive experience with Lucy Whittaker. She is very knowledgeable, very proactive and always explains things in a clear and precise.She was able to convince the court to drop a driving without due care charge despite the police and the CPS disareeing.I would hesitate to recommend Lucy and Pragma Law anyone who needs assistance.
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15:53 16 Dec 20
Fantastic Service provided by Lucy, very profesional and quick at getting you answers and providing the help you might need! I will definitly be recomening Pragma Law to anyone I know that has a motoring proplem please do the same...
Jobin Mathew JosephJobin Mathew Joseph
18:11 25 Nov 20
Absolutely brilliant! 100 percent reliable! The case was related to driving matter and I had initially approached few other solicitors for help with my case. They all denied saying we would not win the case. But Lucy happily took the case and help me win the case with the best possible outcome.She puts you at ease and confidence. Very responsive in your queries. She genuinely care for case and very pleasant to deal with. Always well prepared and wins you the best possible outcome. Very Very Strongly recommend. Thanks much Lucy.
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11:12 05 Nov 20
I highly recommend Pragma Law for any motoring problem. They were very efficient and professional even with little time to prepare.
A Google User
A Google User
14:30 04 Jul 20
What can I say about pragma law and Lucy whitaker, 1st class absolutely brilliant!!!. I had my licence revoked last October due to vasovagal syncope (faint) from the word go Lucy was brilliant, and I only dealt with her, she explained everything, in every stage extremely professional in everything she does, and had my licence back. What a result!!! thank you so much Lucy.
hannah vanessahannah vanessa
15:45 15 Jun 20
I suffer with anxiety (as many) and this incident completely took over my life for months until I met Lucy. I was super comfortable and confident in her work as she was very professional and was always available to help. Really helped take the stress away - thanks Lucy and thanks Pragma!
Wayne DaviesWayne Davies
14:51 08 Jun 20
What can I say about pragma law and Lucy whitaker, 1st class absolutely brilliant!!!. I had my licence revoked last October due to vasovagal syncope (faint) from the word go Lucy was brilliant, and I only dealt with her, she explained everything, in every stage extremely professional in everything she does, and had my licence back. What a result!!! thank you so much Lucy.
Rukhsar LatifRukhsar Latif
13:59 19 May 20
Lucy genuinly cares about her clients she took on my case dealt with everything herself and won my case I couldn't be happier with the results and the service. I will definitely be using Pragma Law again if needs be.
Vicky ClarkeVicky Clarke
20:16 03 Mar 20
I couldn't have hoped for a better solicitor. Lucy did everything she could to get the best possible outcome for me, and I can't thank her enough
Paul MercerPaul Mercer
17:19 31 Jan 20
Lucy Whitaker provided an impressive, cost effective service. She was objective, responded quickly to questions and, I believe, offered the best advice before efficiently dealing with a case as it came to court.I would have no hesitation either in using Lucy again, should the need arise, or recommending her services.
Rebecca HodkinsonRebecca Hodkinson
16:33 19 Nov 19
Lucy represented me in a driving case and I couldn't be happier. She was friendly, professional and pragmatic without giving me false hope. The outcome was a more positive one than I expected and that's down to her advice and detailed preparations. Would highly recommend! Thank you Lucy!
Gary SykesGary Sykes
22:12 04 Oct 19
We were so impressed with Lucy Whitaker. She represented our son in an unusual driving case which thanks to her knowledge, care & understanding, ended in a much better than expected outcome. Clear, concise & professional, we highly recommend her... can't thank her enough!!

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