Avoiding a drink drive disqualification

By Chris Bailey

More often that not a conviction for driving a motor vehicle whilst over the prescribed limit of alcohol or a drink-drive conviction as it is more commonly known, will result in an automatic disqualification. However, there are ways in which to avoid a disqualification such as:-

  • A defect in police station procedure

  • Special Reasons

When a person is arrested on suspicion of drink driving it usually follows a road side breath test procedure. The police will take the suspect to the police station in order to be properly breathalysed using a government approved breathalysing machine. When breathalysing as suspect, the police must complete a complex form and quite often, mistakes occur. In some cases those mistakes may result in the breathalyser results being ruled inadmissible by the Court. If this is the case then an individual may avoid a drink drive disqualification.

Another way in which a drink drive conviction can be avoided is by putting forward a "special reasons" argument. This is where the suspect puts forward a reason or explanation for driving and argues that because of this reason special circumstances exist for not disqualifying them. Examples of Special Reasons are as follows:-

  • Medical Emergency
  • Shortness of Distance
  • Laced Drinks

An example of a medical emergency is where say the suspect lives in the countryside. His wife suffers a heart attack. He calls the emergency services but they are unable to locate his home due to its remote location. In the circumstances, he takes the decision to drive despite having consumed alcohol earlier in the evening. The Court may in these circumstances accept that he had no alternative but to drive and not disqualify him. It is important to note that to be successful in this regard the suspect must have considered every available option open to him before he takes the decision to drive.

In some cases, the Court may choose not disqualify a suspect if the distance he has travelled is very short. It cannot, however, amount to a special reason unless the shortness of the actual distance driven by the suspect is such that he is unlikely to be brought into contact with other road users and danger would be unlikely to arise. The distance itself must be very short indeed and there have been cases where it has been held that a distance of 40 yards would qualify but a distance of 200 yards would not. There are also a number of other factors which have to be taken into account such as whether the driver intended to go any further.

Where a suspect can establish that his drink was laced, that he did not know or suspect that his drink was laced and if his drink had not been laced the alcohol level in his blood would not have exceeded the prescribed limit the court is entitled to find special reason and not disqualify the suspect. Such cases must be backed up with scientific/medical evidence.

In conclusion, there are ways in which a person charged with drink driving may escape a disqualification. However, there are limitations.