Most common driving offences and penalties in a UK court

The Christmas season is all but upon us, and with it comes the temptation to have a drink with colleagues or friends before getting into the car. Clearly no one sets out with the intention to drink-drive, and the advice would be not to drink at all, but it is hard if do drink to gauge the exact point when you might be over the legal limit.

There can often be that very sobering moment when you are asked to blow into the breathalyser or are being tested on your cognitive abilities when you begin to consider the consequences of having that extra half-pint. So aside from just drink driving what are some of the most common driving offences and potential penalties?

Speeding offences

Speeding is undoubtedly the most common driving offence in the UK. If you are caught speeding then you’ll usually be sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution and will be required to inform the police who was driving the car at the time of the offence. If you plead guilty then you will not usually be required to attend court, unless the speed breach was of a serious nature and in this case you would need a speeding solicitor.

Drink driving

A breathalyser can measure how much alcohol is in your system. The legal limit for driving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland stands at 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath (in Scotland it is 22 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath). It is difficult to put a on how many drinks this is, as everyone is different, and there are clearly some people who get drunk much quicker than others! Should you test over the limit you will usually be taken to a police station for a second breath test, and if that returns a positive result, you will be charged. If you should refuse to give a roadside breath test then the police will arrest you and look to take a blood or urine sample. You can lose your licence if your test comes back positive, in this case it is best to consult a drink driving solicitor.

Drug driving

Similar to drink driving, there is a zero-tolerance approach taken to drug-driving regardless of level of driver impairment, so once more you will need a drug driving solicitor on your side. Use of cannabis, cocaine or amphetamine may be among the most obvious drug-driving offences, but drug-driving also refers to driving while under the influence of any narcotic substance, so could potentially include both prescription and over the counter medications which when combined can impair your ability to drive.

Careless driving

Careless driving can apply to a number of offences when drivers are not abiding by the rules of the road. Driving without due care and attention, hogging the middle lane, or reckless overtaking could all be considered examples that might lead to a charge or an on-the-spot fine which police are able to issue these days.

Other offences

There are a number of other offences that carry with them varying penalties, including vehicle insurance offences, vehicle registration offences, neglecting road regulations, using a handheld device while driving, being drunk while in charge of a vehicle, and failing to identify the driver at the time an offence was committed, which can all lead to punishments including penalty points, fines, disqualification and imprisonment, depending on the seriousness of the offence.

Testing drivers for drink or drugs

As mentioned above, drunk driving will usually be ascertained through a roadside breathalyser. Drug driving is harder to pin down, and often a police officer, alerted to the driver’s impaired condition through poor driving, will conduct a series of roadside tests. These include tests such as walking in a straight line, giving clear answers to a set of questions, and touching the tip of the finger to one’s nose to ascertain the driver’s cognitive abilities. Should the police not be reassured by these tests, they will take you to the station where they will look to obtain a saliva, urine or blood test.

What is the procedure when charged with a drink or drug diving offence?

As these are criminal offences you will be required to attend court in person. Regardless of whether you are pleading guilty or contesting the charge, you should instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf. Your legal representative will be able to argue your case, or present mitigation which may be able to achieve a more favourable sentence. A well-presented plea of mitigation can often make a difference to the period of disqualification or any potential fine.

What penalties could I face?

  • A drink or drug driving offence carries a mandatory 12 month driving disqualification. In addition to a ban, you could face a fine and up to 6 months’ imprisonment.
  • Causing death by dangerous driving while under the influence of drugs or drink can result in prison sentence of up to 14 years, a driving ban of at least two years (including an intensive driving test before your licence is reinstated), or an unlimited fine.
  • Should you refuse to supply a sample of breath, saliva, urine or blood, you may be detained, imprisoned for up to a year, lose your licence and face an unlimited fine.
  • For speeding offences, depending on how far over the speed limit a driver is, a speed awareness course may be offered, thus avoiding getting points on their licence. If not given the option then 3 points and a £100 fine would be likely. If the speeding offence is at the higher end of the scale then an unlimited fine and driving ban are a real possibility.
  • Careless driving offences can receive on-the-spot fines of £100 or drivers could also receive between 3 and 9 penalty points.

These are just a selection of the most common driving offences and penalties, but should you find yourself in legal trouble during the festive season, whether through drink driving or for any other motoring offence, do not take a chance with the outcome. Call for a driving solicitor to guide you through the process and ensure the best possible result for you.

Image cc by-sa Albert Bridge.