A Police Officer Holding A BreathalyserA client was accused of drink driving in a car park, driving without an MOT and with a bald tyre. He had been arrested and his vehicle was impounded by two police officers. He came to us for help with his case.

We took his detailed instructions and obtained the evidence against him. We immediately noted that there was no evidence he had driven on a road or in a public place. At the first hearing, we represented him and advised him to plead not guilty to all charges. Lucy Whitaker represented him in the Magistrates Court.

Drink Driving

The offence of drink driving must be committed on a ‘road’ or in a ‘public place’. This means you can be convicted of drink driving in a car park.

For an offence of drink driving, the prosecution must prove that you drove a vehicle on a road or public place while over the legal limit. Video footage of driving is not required. The police can tell the Court what they saw and the Court will decide whether to accept their evidence.

Upon conviction, the offence carries up to 6 months’ imprisonment and a minimum disqualification period of 12 months, or 3 years if you have been convicted of a relevant offence in the preceding 10 years.

MOT and Defective Tyre

The offences of driving without an MOT or with a bald tyre can only be committed on a ‘road’.

Driving with a defective tyre can result in 3 points and a fine. Driving without an MOT carries a fine but you cannot receive penalty points.

Road or Public Place

The Road Traffic Act 1988 defines a road as “any highway and any other road to which the public has access, and includes bridges over which a road passes.”

Whether a place is a “public place” is a question of fact for the court. The prosecution has to prove that the public has access to the area. It is insufficient to show that the public has theoretical access; actual use has to be proved.  The underlying purpose of the legislation is the safety of the public.

Car parks may still be public places, even if privately owned. It may depend on whether the public uses the car park and if they do, whether they are using it legitimately. If the public has ignored signs or barriers suggesting they should not use it, it is less likely to be a public place.

in our case, the car park belonged to a business. Our argument was:

  • The car park is dedicated to use by authorised vehicles only. Only employees and owners of the business may use the car park.
  • The business has gone to the trouble of erecting signs to deter parking by anyone unauthorised.  Anyone who parks there is doing so in defiance of the prohibition.
  • It was not a shop or a business that advertises to, or encourages the public to visit the premises.
  • There was no evidence that pedestrians would walk across the car park.

Two police officers attended court to give evidence against our client. They also had video footage of the incident which they intended to play in court. The video footage was helpful to our defence as it showed the vehicle never left the car park.

Just before the trial, the police officers conceded that there was no evidence our client had driven out of the car park. He had therefore done nothing wrong.

The prosecution offered “no evidence” at the trial and the Court dismissed all three charges. The Court also made a Defence Costs Order to allow our client to get some of his legal costs back.

Our client was very grateful and pleased that he came to us for legal advice about drink driving at an early stage. He kept his licence and therefore his job which was his biggest concern.

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