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Drunk in Charge of a Motor Vehicle

Drunk in Charge of a Motor Vehicle

If you are found drink driving in the United Kingdom you are subject to a number of penalties, according to the severity of the offence. However, one should also be mindful of the fact that the law prosecutes a number of types of activities related directly or indirectly to operating a vehicle if inebriated. This also includes the act of being in charge of the vehicle while above the legal drinking limit. When caught in charge of a vehicle if unfit through drink, one is subject to fines, a possible driving ban and, in severe cases even a limited imprisonment time. Understanding the applicable limits, as well as the conditions under which one can be penalized, is important and our team of drink driving solicitors in London can assist you if you have been charged with a drink-driving offence. 

In this article, our team discusses the situation in which one is in charge of a vehicle while above the legal drink drive limit. However, if you are in need of more information as well as legal aid in other situations, please feel free to reach out to our driving offence solicitors in London.

 Quick Facts  
Offense type   Merely being in charge of a vehicle while unfit through drink is one of the drink-driving offences in the UK.

 Drink-drive alcohol limits in the UK

35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath 

 Types of specimen used for analysis

Breath, blood, or urine. 

 Fine Up to £2,500 
 Driving ban 

Yes, possible. 


 3 months

Other consequences of being found guilty of a drink-drive offence  

 Increased car insurance costs, conviction will appear on license, other issues.

 Pleading not guilty

 Possible if the defendant can show that there was no likelihood for actually driving the vehicle, despite being in charge of it.

 Refusal to provide specimen for analysis

Punishable by a driving ban of at least 1 year, an unlimited fine, 6 months imprisonment. 

 Aggravating factors for drink-driving Previous convictions, carrying passengers, involvement in an accident, and others. 
 Mitigating factors in drink-driving cases

No previous/recent convictions, spiked drinks, serious medical conditions for the driver, the driver is the sole provider for the family, etc. 

Guilty plea 

The Court should take into account a reduction for a guilty plea. 

 Drink-drive rehabilitation course

Can be an option to reduce the driving ban for drink-driving if the ban is for 12 months or more. 

Other types of drink-drive offences 

Depending on the actions undertaken by the offender while being in charge of the motor vehicle (driving or attempting to drive, causing damage or death while drink-driving). 

Assistance from our drink drive solicitors in London   Our team offers legal support and assistance in Court for individuals found guilty of being in charge of a vehicle while unfit through drink.

How is “in charge of a motor vehicle” defined?

Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal drink driving limit is not clearly outlined in the legislation at hand. This is to say that one does not necessarily have to be operating the vehicle per se in order to be charged by the police if he is found in the vehicle while in the unfit through drink state.

This means that the police will judge each case depending on circumstantial factors and one may be accused if he is found in the car even if he had yet to engage in the actual act of operating the vehicle. The fact that the law leaves room for interpretation is the most important reason why you should seek legal aid, such as the one provided by our drink drive solicitor. The real argument, in this case, will lie in the ability to prove that the offender had the intention to drive when he was found in charge of the vehicle and that his or her state at the time would have deemed him/her unfit according to the current drink drive limits in the UK.

Some of the key elements that are used to define this offence are the following:

  • the defendant was over the applicable legal limit for alcohol (irrespective of the type of test, be it blood, urine or breath);
  • he was in charge of the vehicle;
  • the vehicle was in a public place/a place in which the public has access.

For the purpose of the accusation, the Court will take into consideration several factors when determining whether or not the involved party was in charge of the vehicle. There are several issues that can be considered:

  • if the accused was in the vehicle or, if this is not applicable, how far he was from it;
  • what actions he was engaging it at the time of the accusation;
  • whether or not the car keys were in his possession; 
  • evidence if there was any attempt to take control of the vehicle;
  • the presence of any other persons in or around the vehicle (and their actions at the time, as applicable).

One important issue to note is that an individual can be prosecuted for this offence even when he was not sitting in the driver’s seat or, if he was in the driver’s seat, if he fell asleep. 

One manner in which the accused can prove his innocence is if he is able to show that he entrusted the vehicle to someone else or that there was no realistic manner in which he could have resumed control of the vehicle in his state. Our drink drive solicitor can help with more information on the available defences as the burden of proof (showing that he was not in charge) remains on the lawful owner of the vehicle.

Being in charge of a motor vehicle can be interpreted and one should be mindful of this fact. The act of sitting in the vehicle, the ignition switch position and evidence that suggests the intention to drive will all be taken into consideration. If you are unsure of how your situation may be presented if you were accused of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle, we suggest reaching out to our team of drink driving solicitors in London.  

What are the penalties for being in charge of a vehicle whilst inebriated?

Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal drink drive limit may result in:

  • imprisonment of up to 3 months;
  • a fine with a maximum value of 2,500 £;
  • a possible driving ban.

The penalties for this offence are the lightest in the drink driving category. Others, such as the actual act of driving while above the legal limit are punishable by an unlimited fine, a longer driving ban as well as 6 months’ imprisonment, in the most severe of cases.

Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis is also punishable and an individual who refuses the test can get 6 months of imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a driving ban for at least one year. The magistrates who hear the case are the ones who decide the final penalty and it all depends on the severity of the offence. Our driving solicitors can give you more details about these penalties.

Convictions for drink driving also affect the insurance costs and can cause problems for those who seek employment that relies on driving (as the employer will be able to see the conviction on the licence). Moreover, in some cases, a conviction for drink driving may also pose problems when traveling to other countries. 

How can our drink driving solicitors help you?

Our team is here to help you understand the penalties that can apply for being drunk in charge of a vehicle as well as driving the car or causing damages (and, in worst cases, death) nu careless driving while in an inebriated state.

If you were in the vehicle, our drink driving solicitors in London can help you build your case on the allegation that you had no intention to drive, despite the fact that you were inside the vehicle. This is one of the possible defences, along with contesting the accuracy of the alcohol detection method and our team is ready to provide you with expert assistance if you are in this situation. 

The penalty, in this case, will depend on the quantity of alcohol that was found in the sample. In the UK, the level of alcohol that is permitted in case of breath tests is 30 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath. The limits for the other two types of tests are 90 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood and 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine. Please note that these limits apply to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and that the limit for Scotland lower in all three cases. 

An individual who is banned by a UK court for drink driving is not allowed to drive anywhere in the UK.

One should be mindful of the fact that alcohol affects everyone differently according to age, weight, sex as well as the type of alcohol, one’s metabolism and whether or not you have been drinking and eating at the same time. It is important to keep in mind that you could be accused of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle if you attempt to drive after you drink even if you believe that you are in a state that allows you to do so. 

We invite you to watch a video on this type of drink-drive offense:

According to a UK Government report, as per the data made available by the Department for Transport, the following data is available on drink driving in the Kingdom:

  • 5,700 total accidents in 2017, out of which 4,370 were slight ones;
  • 5,900 total accidents in 2018, our of which 4,570 were slight;
  • out of the total number of drink driving accidents in 2018, 210 were fatal and 1,120 serious.

Sitting in the car after having had a few drinks, sheltering from the rain in the vehicle or simply staying inside for a nap, hoping to remit the effects of the alcohol can be seen as attempts to operate the vehicle, unless they can be proven otherwise. Working with our driving solicitors is fundamental if you have been accused of being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit. A solicitor will rely on issues such as the metabolization rate for eliminating the alcohol from your body in order to prove when you would have been able to drive, in those cases in which the accused had fallen asleep in the car. In addition to this, the solicitor can also argue that the breath specimen was not accurate as well as use other types of defences in your case.

Constructing a valid defence is something an experienced solicitor, such as someone from our team, will be able to accomplish and you will be able to persuade the court that you did not drive, nor did you intend to drive while in the state.

Our team of solicitors who specialize in these types of cases are able to assist you as soon as possible after you have been charged. In fact, it is advisable to seek help immediately in order to make sure that your case is approached in a correct manner and, whenever possible, that the imposed sentence is minimised (also referred to as mitigation). In some cases, when avoiding certain penalties is not possible due to the circumstances of your case, our team can still be able to mitigate the consequences, for example allow you to delay the process or the final accusation so that you may sort certain pressing issues (such as when you rely on your driver’s license for employment and its loss would clearly impact your family and finances).

Drink-drive rehabilitation courses

In some cases, it may be suitable or even preferable to take a drink-drive rehabilitation course. However, this option is not voluntary, it needs to be offered if you have been found guilty of a drink-drive offence, including but not limited to being in charge of a vehicle while unfit through drink, driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit and in other cases.

The course can become available when the driving ban is for 12 months of more and it costs approximately £250. The course does not cancel the driving ban completely, it merely reduces it, however, for many who have been found guilty, it will ne preferable to attend the course and take the reduction rather than having to wait for the period to pass before they can drive again.

This type of course can reduce the driving ban by up to 25%, for example, when one has received a ban of 12 months, it can be reduced to 9 months.

The offender is the only one who decides if the course is a suitable option or not, however, the decision cannot be revised and it has to be taken in court, during the procedures that take place once you have been found guilty. Our drink drive solicitor who will represent you in court will be able to provide you with details on whether or not you will be offered this option and how to proceed further if you do decide to accept.

The drink-drive course is offered by a third-party provider and the applicant may choose to take the course with a different one, should other dates suit him best. The course consist of in-person meetings, totalling 16 hours and it includes several participants, all persons who have been found guilty of drink-drive offences. The course relies mainly on two subjects:

  • Understanding the impact of alcohol use when driving;
  • Changing alcohol use in relation to driving;

Participants are first encouraged to understand how their behaviour is problematic. However, the course is not intended for those who have a drinking problem as defined by the World Health Organisation (they do not engage in drinking practices that are well over the drinking limits described by the government). This means that the drink-drive rehabilitation course is in no way similar to therapeutic or clinical courses that aim to stop the participants from drinking altogether. For the purpose of this course, the recommended limits for alcohol consumption, as presented by the National Health Service, are no more than 14 units a week on a regular basis for both men and women (the equivalent of 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine).

The goal of the course is to help participants understand how they use alcohol in relation to driving and, in turn, this may help them understand their use of alcohol in general, as well as the implications on their health. The focus is on developing awareness on using alcohol related to offending behaviour in the context of their safety and the safety of others.

Some examples of the topics covered are: the understanding of one’s drinking behaviour in relation to driving, understanding the potential impact of drink driving on oneself and others, understanding the law related to drink driving and how alcohol reduces the ability to drive in a safe and responsible manner, accepting responsibility and accountability for the actions that lead to the conviction (this was the result of their decisions).

Once the course is complete, then a certificate is issued that will be presented to the court and it will reduce the driving ban.

High-risk drink-drive offenders

The law can apply differently for repeat offenders even if they take a drink-drive rehabilitation course. These types of offenders will not get their license bank until they can prove that they are fit to drive again, which means also passing a medical examination with a doctor appointed by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in the UK.
A high-risk offender is someone who:

  • was convicted of 2 drink driving offences in 10 years;
  • refused to provide a specimen sample;
  • was driving with an alcohol level of at least 87.5 microgrammes per 100 ml of breath, 200 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or 267.7 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of urine.

If you are a high-risk offender, you will need to apply for a new licence. The medical examination will include a physical examination, blood tests as well as a questionnaire about one’s medical history and use of alcohol.

If you wish to take this course, our driving offence solicitors can give you information on and recommendations concerning approved drink driving rehabilitation course providers.

The alcohol level as well as your intention to drive a vehicle while inebriated will be clearly looked upon and will determine the outcome of the accusation, however, each motorist has the right to receive legal advice and representation from a solicitor irrespective of the particular circumstances of the case.

Contact our drink driving solicitor in London for more information on the drunk in charge of a vehicle offence and how we can assist you.