Drink Driving – Think Before You Plead!

Having spent over 25 years in courts all over the country it has always surprised me how, on a daily basis, I see otherwise intelligent people throw away their driving licence after having had that extra drink before driving. I’m further surprised to see how willing they are to simply plead guilty without legal advice and without questioning whether or not they should plead guilty in the first place!

Most people charged with drink drive offences have no defence and should plead guilty at the earliest opportunity. However, mistakes can be made by the prosecution. To understand the position properly you have to understand the legal context in which these laws operate.

The basic position in English and Welsh law was that no person had to provide evidence against himself/herself. That basic right has been changed by legislation which forces suspects to provide a specimen of breath, etc where the police suspect certain offences. However, the basic law still guards our civil rights by insisting that the police stick to the letter of the legislation. If a procedural mistake is made then the courts are frequently obliged to return a not guilty verdict.

The starting point if you face such an offence is your first court appearance. Prior to then all you are likely to have received is the charge and bail notice and, possibly, part of any sample of blood you may have given. You may have met a lawyer at the police station but in any event it is open to you, before your first court date, to consult a lawyer of your choice. He/she will attempt to obtain fuller details of the case before your first appearance in court and may also take steps to have any specimen you have brought with you sent off for professional (and independent) analysis.

At court you should receive from the CPS a limited bundle of documents setting out briefly the case against you. Also at court, if you have not briefed your own lawyer, should be a duty solicitor who may assist. That lawyer may advice you that you have no defence and should plead guilty or apply to adjourn to fully consider the CPS case.

Remember, though you may have entered a not guilty plea, does not necessarily mean there will be trial. The CPS must continually review the evidence and, if there is cast iron defence, discontinue the proceedings. If they don`t then they run the risk of costs being awarded against them.

Most people facing such allegations are guilty as charged but everyone has the right to question the evidence. Just because a person has apparently been caught driving whilst over the limit or whilst unfit to drive, does not automatically mean they are guilty of the offence.

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