New machines target drink drivers with roadside breath tests
The government has announced its intention to use new breathalysers to administer roadside breath tests. This move could see a further 6,000 convictions per year for those who drink and drive.
Roadside breath tests followed by evidential tests
At the moment, breath test procedures are in two stages. Those who test positive during roadside breath tests will be arrested and taken to a police station. This is for a further test to be administered. The second test is known as the ‘evidential test’. It is the result of this test that forms the basis of any prosecution decision.
The gap in time between the first positive roadside breath tests and the ones administered at the police station may be significant enough to ensure that a person blows a negative reading. This would be due to falling alcohol levels over time. In some cases, however, the reverse can also happen.
Although the law permits ‘back calculations’ to be undertaken, the evidence base is such that they are seldom used by the prosecution in this scenario. As a result it has been argued that some drink drivers go free.
The legislation providing a procedure for definitive evidential roadside breath tests is already in place. In June 2018 the government has announced a competition aimed at device manufacturers, with the aim of ensuring that suitable devices are approved and in use for roadside breath tests by 2020.
Around 460 000 breath tests are conducted each year. Approximately 59 000 people providing a positive reading.
Approximately 6 000 people provide a positive reading at the roadside but are later found to be under the limit when tested at the police station. This change will see those people prosecuted.
In many instances these will be people who have ‘gambled’ on a quick lunchtime drink or have not allowed quite enough time to sober up from the night before.
The changes will also reduce the scope for so-called ‘loophole defences’. These have been made popular due to the complexities of the police station procedure. It is expected that decades of case law will become redundant once the new devices are being used.
Experience does, however, tell us that legal challenges will continue to be developed even when other avenues of law are closed to suspects and defendants.
The penalties for drink driving are severe. There are minimum periods of disqualification. These can be combined with high financial penalties and punishing insurance premiums for many years to come. Prison sentences will be imposed in the most extreme cases. As a result, many offenders face the loss of employment.
How can we assist?
Our motoring solicitors are experts in all aspects of drink and drug driving law. This is one of the most complex areas of criminal law. Early advice should be sought to ensure that you achieve the best outcome in your case.
In some recent cases we have successfully argued a medical defence to failing to provide a specimen, argued special reasons to avoid a disqualification from driving and conducted a trial securing a not guilty verdict for our client facing drug driving charges.
In some case, such as this one, our clients accept that they are guilty but wish to mitigate the usual effect of a conviction, such as a disqualification.
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