Drink or Drug Driving


Convictions in drink driving cases usually lead to automatic disqualification from driving for at least 12 months or longer depending on whether there are any aggravating features such as the manner of driving.

If you are convicted of driving with excess alcohol there are different levels of disqualification depending on the levels of alcohol found in your breath.

  • 36-59(mg) – Band C fine and disqualification between 12-16 months.
  • 60-89(mg) – Band C fine and disqualification between 17-22 months.
  • 90-119(mg) – Low to high level community order and disqualification between 23-28 months
  • 120-150(mg) (and above) – High level community order to 26 weeks’ custody and a disqualification between 29-36 months.

Sentences can be aggravated if this is a second offence within a ten-year period which more than doubles the disqualification length.

If an individual is accused of drink driving and the police can prove that they were driving, the burden of proof is on the individual to show that they were not over the drink limit.

At Nicholls & Nicholls we are highly experienced at representing such cases in the Magistrates’ Court and can assist with ensuring the fairest outcome for you. Furthermore, we work with a number of experts who can undertake the necessary scientific back calculation to show the level of alcohol in your system whilst driving.

Duress and automatism are both full defences to the offence of driving with excess alcohol. In some cases, even if you are guilty of the offence, your advocate can ask for a special reasons hearing where your advocate will put forward extended mitigation and will call upon you to give evidence for reasons why you should not be disqualified from driving.

Special reasons are limited to:

  • the reason for driving;
  • the distance driven;
  • the manner of driving;
  • the condition of the vehicle driven;
  • whether or not it was the driver’s intention to drive any further;
  • the road and traffic conditions at the relevant time; and
  • the possibility of danger to other road users.

It is unlikely in cases of driving with excess alcohol that the need to drive for work or for family commitments would be considered a special reason. However, each case turns on its own facts and at Nicholls & Nicholls we will be able to advise you of the best course of action in these circumstances.

We can always mitigate on your behalf and suggest to the Court that you undergo an awareness course, which reduces your sentence by up to 25%, at the discretion of the Magistrates. Good mitigation is crucial, and Nicholls & Nicholls are well placed to assist with advocacy at court to ensure you receive the fairest and most suitable sentence.


New legislation has now been introduced regarding driving whilst under the influence of drugs. This also includes standard prescription medications. Furthermore, there are some key differences in relation to legal advice for drug driving compared to drink driving.

Firstly, the sentencing guidelines are not yet definitive and there are different limits for different drugs, including prescription drugs.

In addition, it is a defence under Section 5A(6) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 for the defendant to show that at the time they are alleged to have committed the offence, the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of the defendant driving the vehicle whilst the relevant limits of the drug in their system were exceeded. As with drink driving, the usual burden of proof is reversed and it is for the defence to show, by way of an expert report, that the levels of a particular drug remained below the required level at the time of driving.

Unfortunately, unlike drink driving, there is no 25% reduction available at the discretion of the Magistrates.

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