Drunk in charge

This charge is brought by the prosecution where there is no evidence that a vehicle has been driven by the defendant. A common way to commit the offence of being drunk in charge might be where a motorist takes a sensible decision not to drive having drunk alcohol so sleeps in their car.  If, however, there was a risk that the motorist might have driven the car while still over the drink drive limit then they will be guilty of the offence. In considering whether a person was ‘in charge’ of their vehicle at the relevant time the court will be asked to consider a number of factors.  These will include:

  • Where the motorist was in relation to their vehicle
  • Where they were sitting if inside the vehicle
  • Where the keys were
  • Whether the engine was on
  • Any evidence of an intention to drive the vehicle

The official drink drive limits for being drunk in charge are the same for drinking and driving:

Level of Alcohol                                                         

Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath – 35

Milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood – 80

Milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine – 107

The Statutory defence to an allegation of being drunk in charge

Where a defendant can prove that they had no intention of driving the vehicle while over the legal limit to drive then they will have established a defence to the charge. Such a defence may involve instructing an expert witness to confirm whether, on the instructions you give, you would have been under the legal limit when you planned to drive.

Other defences to being drunk in charge

Other defences to the charge of being drunk in charge do exist.  For example, a successful argument might show that the motorist was in charge of the vehicle on private land rather than a road or other public place. A procedural error might be identified in the police handling of the arrest or the taking of samples.

Sentencing for drunk in charge offences

The sentencing powers for the offence of drunk in charge are different from those for drink drive offences.  The court is able to impose 10 penalty points rather than an automatic driving ban, although there is the discretion to impose an immediate disqualification. Should you already have points on your driving licence, then the 10 points will make you liable for a totting disqualification.  You can read more about how such a ban works and whether it can be avoided here. Both penalty and whether there is a disqualification will depend upon a number of factors including:

  • How much you were over the limit
  • Any features that make the offence more or less serious
  • Anything about your personal circumstances that suggest you ought to be dealt with more leniently
  • Whether you pleaded guilty to the offence

The court has the power to impose a prison sentence of up to 3 months. Our solicitors are experienced in both defending and mitigating in offences of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle.  If you instruct one of our expert road traffic lawyers, they will help identify whether you are able to defend the charge or alternatively how best to present mitigation to keep any penalty to the absolute minimum.

We will always investigate the circumstances of your case and see whether legal aid is available for your free representation in your motoring law case before the Magistrates’ Court.  You can read more about the legal aid scheme here.

If you are not eligible than we will provide representation in your road traffic case for a fixed fee.  This will allow you to know about and budget for the cost of your legal fees.  You can read about these fees here.

For more information regarding these issues or to arrange an appointment with one of our expert lawyers please contact your nearest office here or use the email form below.

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