Drink Driving FAQs

Drink driving and the motoring laws that govern DUI offences can be confusing & complex. Below are commonly asked questions answered by an experienced motoring law solicitor.

Q: What is the legal alcohol limit for drivers?

A: The alcohol limit for driving in England & Wales is:

  • 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
  • 107 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine

In many other countries, including Scotland, the limit is even lower.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to say exactly how many drinks this equals, how much you can drink and stay below the limit, or how long it will take to drop below the limit.

It is different for each person and depends on a number of factors. These include the type and strength of alcohol, as well as your weight, age, gender and metabolism.

Many drivers do not realise that you could still be over the legal limit many hours after your last drink, even if it’s the ‘morning after’.

Q: I have been caught drink driving. What is the minimum ban?

A: The minimum ban if convicted of drink driving is usually 12 months. However, the ban may be longer, depending mainly on how far over the limit you were. The court will also take into account other factors, such as any bad driving and any previous convictions. Much will depend on the mitigation put forward.

In most cases, if you agree to attend a drink driving rehabilitation course any ban will be reduced by 25%.

If you have a previous drink driving or drug driving conviction within the last 10 years, the minimum ban is usually three years and may be longer.

In some cases, it may be possible to put forward “special reasons” to avoid or reduce a ban. For example, if you were driving in an emergency then you may avoid a ban. In practice, special reasons can be difficult to establish.

Q: Are the police allowed to conduct random roadside breath tests on drivers?

A: The police are allowed to stop cars at random, but they are not allowed to require random breath tests. In practice, the distinction is not always obvious. The law is that a police officer may require a breath test if he reasonably suspects that the driver has alcohol in his body, or has committed a moving traffic offence, or has been involved in an accident. Failure to co-operate is an offence. Similar rules apply to drug driving and “in charge” cases.

Q: I wasn't driving, but a police officer told me I had to give a roadside breath test? Was he entitled to?

A: An officer may require a roadside breath test from someone who isn’t driving if he reasonably suspects that the person has been driving with alcohol in his body and still has, or that the person has committed a moving traffic offence, or been involved in an accident whilst driving. Failure to co-operate is an offence. Similar rules apply to drug driving and “in charge” cases.

Q: How long does a drink driving conviction stay on my licence?

A: Eleven years from the date of conviction. If you commit another drink driving offence within ten years, there is in most cases a minimum three-year ban. The ten years are counted from the date of the offence.

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