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Avoiding Disqualification (Special Reasons) and Minimising Sentence

In some cases it may be that a defence is not available or quite simply that you accept the commission of an offence and you wish to plead guilty to it. In these circumstances we can assist you in mitigating (or minimising) any sentence which is imposed in connection with the offence, with an emphasis upon either avoiding or minimising the length of any disqualification imposed by the court.

In most cases (except Being in Charge of Failing to Provide a Specimen – in charge) the court is obliged to impose disqualification, however the court does have discretion not to disqualify if they make a finding of “special reasons”. Where special reasons are not available, we will seek to persuade the court to minimise any length of disqualification, including allowing you to attend on a drink drivers awareness course which reduces the length of any period of disqualification by 25%.

Special Reasons

The magistrates have a discretion not to disqualify from driving if there are “special reasons” in connection with an offence. These reasons must not relate to you (e.g. you will lose your job if you are disqualified) and must relate to the circumstances of the offence such that they are extenuating circumstances.

If the court makes a finding of special reasons, it may either not disqualify for the offence or may endorse penalty points in the alternative.

Below are some examples of what may be regarded as special reasons:

Laced drinks

It can be a special reason not to disqualify if the court is satisfied that the proportion of alcohol in a persons breath is attributable to the defendant unwittingly consuming alcohol or where a person has been misled as to the nature of a drink.

In such cases it will be essential to demonstrate to the court that:

  1. your drink has been laced
  2. you did not know it had been laced
  3. if your drink had not been laced the alcohol level in your breath, blood or urine would not have been “over the limit”

If the court is satisfied of all of the above requirements, then the court may exercise its discretion not to disqualify or may impose points in the alternative.

Shortness of distance driven

It can be a special reason if the vehicle was only driven for a short distance. Generally, in order for a distance to be short it must be capable of being measured in metres or yards and not miles. In addition to the distance driven the court will also have regard to the manner of the driving, any intention to drive further and also the risk of contact with other road users and pedestrians.

If the court is satisfied that the distance and circumstances of the driving does amount to a special reason then the court may not disqualify and may impose points in the alternative.

Emergency

An emergency can amount to a special reason if there is no alternative but to drive. Examples may include a medical emergency, where there is no ambulance available or other circumstances whereby an emergency may be considered as “real”. The court will also consider what a “reasonable and sober” bystander might have done.

If the court is satisfied that there was an emergency and circumstances of the driving does amount to a special reason then the court may not disqualify and may impose points in the alternative.

External factors affecting reliability of evidential breath specimens (mouth alcohol)

In certain cases whilst an evidential breath testing machine may be operating correctly, the presence of mouth alcohol at the time of the provision of a breath specimen may cause an elevated reading, such that whilst the proportion of alcohol in breath might have been above the prescribed limit (35mg per 100ml of breath), this is not reflective of the amount of alcohol consumed.

In the most obvious of cases, this may occur where a person has consumed alcohol in close proximity to the provision of a breath test, such that it is still present in their mouth. This situation is usually avoided by not taking a persons specimen of breath for a minimum period of 20 minutes after they have consumed alcohol or any alcohol based substance (e.g. mouth wash).

In some cases however, it is possible that mouth alcohol may still be present if either a person has false teeth or crowns fitted which may trap alcohol or if a person brings alcohol up from their stomach (gastric reflux or belching), the presence of which in a persons mouth then may cause an elevated breath alcohol reading.

If any of the above circumstances has occurred, the court can exercise its discretion not to disqualify if it can be shown that:

  • the amount of alcohol consumed in itself would in itself, have been insufficient, without more to exceed the legal limit;
  • that on each occasion when breath was given mouth alcohol had been present; and
  • that had it not been for the presence of mouth alcohol the proportion of alcohol in breath would not have exceeded the legal limit.

In all such cases we would instruct one of our experts to prepare a report into both the consistency of your breath alcohol reading with your recollected alcohol consumption and also whether it is likely that mouth alcohol has caused the proportion of alcohol in your breath specimen to be elevated.

If you think that you may have been effected by mouth alcohol, please contact us in order to discuss how we may assist you in your case.

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Mitigating your sentence

If you don’t have a “special reason”, there is still benefit in presenting strong mitigation to the court such that the court is persuaded to sentence you more leniently. The presentation of well prepared and strongly argued mitigation can result in benefits both with respect to the length of any disqualification imposed and also the nature of the penalty which the court applies; strong mitigation in more serious cases often meaning the difference between a custodial sentence and a community penalty (e.g. unpaid work, curfew or supervision) or the difference between receiving a fine and a community order.

We strive to obtain the best possible results for our clients and in advance of any sentence hearing we will discuss with you the effects of any disqualification upon you and others. This will include working with you to obtain letters and documents in support of your case, which will help in persuading the court to show leniency.

In all cases we will make submission to the court that you should be allowed to attend on a drink driver awareness scheme, which once completed reduces any period of disqualification imposed by 25%. This provides a significant reduction in the length of disqualification which is ultimately served and allows your licence to be returned early.

If you would like to discuss the sentence which may be imposed in your case and how we may help reduce that sentence, please contact us by telephone, request a call back or complete our email enquiry form.

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