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Driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs

Driving whilst unfit

The offence of being Driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs is committed if:

a person, who when driving or attempting to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs”

A similar offence is committed if a person is “in Charge” of a vehicle whilst unfit through drink or drugs.

This offence will be committed where the prosecution prove that a person was “unfit” at the time of driving owing to their consumption of drink or drugs. In order to prove that a person is “unfit” the prosecution will be required to produce evidence of impairment, which will usually be done by way of the evidence of a police officer completing a preliminary impairment test and a police doctor giving evidence of impairment. Beyond evidence of “unfitness”, the prosecution will also be required to prove that this “unfitness” was the consequence of the consumption of alcohol or drugs.

It should be noted that reference to “drugs” is not a reference solely to illicit street drugs, but also refers to medications which are prescribed. This could include drugs such as valium and diazepam, which may be prescribed for a number of medical conditions but which could also cause driver impairment.

What is the penalty for Driving Whilst Unfit Through Drink or Drugs?

  • Fine and/or imprisonment for a maximum of 6 months
  • Obligatory Disqualification for a minimum period of 12 months (usually 12 – 36 months)
  • If second disqualification within 10 years, obligatory disqualification for a period of 3 years

What are the defences?

There are a number of factual defence which may be argued in connection with an offence of driving whilst “unfit” through drink or drugs. These include:

  • Alcohol or drugs had not been consumed
  • You were not impaired
  • You were impaired but this was not caused by the drug but by another factor e.g. tiredness

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 Driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs, 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, 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 your medical records and obtain an independent expert report in order to establish your defence.

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.