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Drunk in Charge Of A Vehicle

People are often shocked to hear that they could be found guilty of an imprisonable offence just by being in, or even close to, a stationary vehicle whilst over the legal alcohol limit.  The prosecution would have to show that you were “in charge” of the vehicle.  They would try to demonstrate this by showing that you had some control over the vehicle.  Factors that would go towards your being “in charge” would be, for example;

  • if the vehicle belonged to you
  • if you were in possession of the keys
  • if you were close to or inside the vehicle.

At Speeding Law Solicitors, we are very skilled at identifying and presenting defences to such allegations.


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Defences To An Allegation Of Being Drunk In Charge

The “Statutory defence”

The most common defence is that, although the accused was in charge of the vehicle and over the drink drive limit, there was no likelihood of them driving whilst over the limit.  The magistrates must be persuaded of this defence on the balance of probabilities.  This means that if the magistrates, at trial, are over 50% sure that the accused would not have driven whilst over the legal alcohol limit then they must find them not guilty.  In making their decision, the magistrates will take into account many factors including the position of the accused in the car, where the keys were, was the engine running, etc.  However, Mr Hatvany, our specialist motoring law solicitor, has won trials even when the accused was found sleeping in the driver’s seat after a night out because they had unexpectedly found that they had nowhere to stay.  In some of these cases, Mr Hatvany has argued successfully that the reason for the engine running was because the client was cold and they were running the engine purely to heat themselves up whilst they were resting and not because they were about to drive.  The court will want to know, however, when the accused intended to drive again.  In order to make such a defence more robust, a scientific report should be obtained to show that by the time the accused said they were next going to drive, they would be below the legal alcohol limit.

Other possible defences:

There are a number of other defences that may be relied on including;

  • the vehicle was not on a road or a public place
  • the breathalyser machine at the police station, that determined that the accused was over the proscribed limit, was not working properly.
  • the correct police procedure for taking a specimen of breath at the police station was not followed.

The Penalty For Being Drunk In Charge

At Speeding Law Solicitors we have a very high success rate at defending allegations of this type.  However, we believe solicitors should be up-front and if no defence can be found, we will tell you at an early stage.  We can still have an important role because the magistrates can sentence you in a wide variety of ways, and what we say on your behalf in mitigation, when we ask for leniency, has a huge affect.  For this offence, the magistrates can disqualify you for any length of time.  If they choose not to disqualify you then they have to impose 10 penalty points on your driving licence.  If the imposition of these points brings the total amount on your driving licence to 12 penalty points or more then the magistrates are meant to disqualify you for at least six months. However, even where there has been this accumulation of penalty points, Mr Hatvany, our specialist solicitor, has a success rate of over 90% (average over the last 10 years) for saving people’s licences by successfully arguing exceptional hardship.  The magistrates also can impose a fine of up to £2,500.  In the most extreme cases, the magistrates can order a prison sentence of up to 3 months.

Why You Should Use Speeding Law Solicitors

We have a great deal of experience in defending clients facing allegations of this type.  The law is technical and defences can involve scientific reports which we can acquire from our select group of experts.

We always offer our clients fixed fees as opposed to them having to pay by an hourly rate, where the final bill always seems to be more than they originally thought. This is particularly important in relation to trials, where extensive preparation has to be carried out, as it means we don’t have to “watch the clock” if we need to put in extra hours.

However, always check to see if you have legal expense insurance. A lot of people have this without even realising. So please check all your policies especially your car insurance, home insurance and car breakdown cover policy. If you do have such insurance your legal expense insurers will probably say that you have to use one of their solicitor firms from their panel. They will say this because it is cheaper for them. This is not the case and you should insist on using our services.

Mr Hatvany, our specialist motoring solicitor, has vast experience of the different Magistrates Courts and regularly travels to Southampton, Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, Reading, Birmingham, Coventry and Oxford Magistrates' Courts.  He also often attends London Magistrates Courts. Even if your case is being heard at a court in a more distant locality, we can still assist you by using one of our experienced barristers from our select panel, who are located throughout England and Wales, and who operate under Mr Hatvany’s close supervision. In such cases Mr Hatvany would still carry out all the preparation in relation to the case. If you face such an allegation, please contact Mr Hatvany for a FREE telephone consultation on FREEPHONE 0800 909 8110.