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Being Drunk in Charge

Being Drunk in Charge of a Motor Vehicle

The offence of being Drunk in Charge is committed if:

a person is in charge of any motor vehicle on a road or other public place after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit he is guilty of an offence”

Whether or not a person is in charge of a motor vehicle is or the facts of each individual case, the key question being whether the person is in control of the vehicle and whether in the circumstances there is a realistic possibility of him taking control of the vehicle. These cases will usually arise in circumstances where a motorist who is above the prescribed limit is found inside a car, but is not driving. The unwitting motorist can easily stumble into this situation, where they enter their car for the purpose of sleeping or with the intention of removing belongings.

What is the penalty for Being In Charge?

  • Fine and/or imprisonment for a maximum of 6 months
  • Endorsement of 10 points or disqualification from driving (usually up to 12 months)

What are the defences?

If it is alleged that you were “in charge” of a motor vehicle whilst the proportion of alcohol in your breath/blood/urine was above the prescribed limit or you were “unfit”, then you will have a defence if you can show that there was no likelihood of you driving your vehicle whilst you remained in excess of the prescribed limit or unfit.

This type of defence will often present itself where a person decides to sleep in their car after a night out or after finding themselves unexpectedly without a place to sleep. In these circumstances whilst you may be in charge of the vehicle and may even have switched the engine on to get warm, you will be acquitted of the offence if you can show (the burden of proof is on the defence) that you would not have driven the vehicle whilst still over the limit.

In order to prove this defence, expert evidence will be required addressing your breath/blood/urine reading (or unfitness) and the rate at which you would have eliminated (metabolised) alcohol, so as to establish at what point in the future you would have been fit to drive. By way of example if you had consumed alcohol up to 12pm and then slept in your car with the intention of driving when you woke at 7am, a report would be required showing that by 7am the proportion of alcohol in your system would have been below the prescribed limit.

In addition to this defence there are a number of more general defences which may be argued surrounding the factual circumstances of the offence, the accuracy of the breath specimen and other procedural defences.

As specialists in drink driving we have a detailed knowledge of the defences which may be argued and a comprehensive list of these is provided on our page Drink Driving Defences.

How we can help

As specialist drink driving solicitors we have the technical expertise to advise you on all aspects of your case and will provide you with an open and honest appraisal of your case at the outset. In the majority of cases relating to Being in Charge, we will be able to clearly advise you of any defence at the outset of your case. In other cases where a defence is not immediately apparent, for instance where we are seeking to challenge a technical or procedural issue, we may advise that further investigations need to be made in order to identify any defence. By way of example, we may need to obtain a copy of the cctv footage of the evidential breath testing procedure at the police station in order to determine whether or not the police have made any procedural errors which may lead to your acquittal.

If we believe that there is no defence available to you we will advise you of the best approach to mitigating (minimising) your sentence, including where possible the avoidance of disqualification on the grounds of “special reasons” and minimising the length of any disqualification imposed. For more detailed consideration of these issues please see our Mitigation page.

In certain circumstances, you may inform us that in view of the consequences of the loss of your licence, including a possible loss of employment and the impact on your family, that you simply wish to delay the process and “buy yourself” time. If this applies to you, please feel free to discuss this with us, as this may be achieved without any increase in the length of disqualification ultimately imposed and in some cases may lead to the discovery of a hidden defence.