Is it possible to challenge a drink/driving conviction in the UK after a positive breathaliser test?
As every British driver knows, the law regarding driving under the influence of alcohol is very strict. Being convicted of driving, or even attempting to drive, while under the influence of alcohol will result in a substantial fine, a fairly lengthy ban of at least 12 months and a possible imprisonment term. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, the prison term can be three months to as much as fourteen years if the offence involves a collision resulting in the death of someone. While, the vast majority of drink driving offences aren't serious enough to warrant a prison sentence, a disqualification period, is inevitable.
Challenging the Conviction
If you find yourself in this situation, you should know it's virtually impossible to successfully challenge the conviction itself as it will have been based on a roadside breathalyser test followed by a further breath test at the nearest police station to confirm the reliability of the first one. A number of loopholes have been found by lawyers in the past, but these have all been quickly closed. If some physical problem, such as an asthmatic condition, prevents you from being able to take a breath test, a doctor will be called out to the police station to give you a blood test. If all tests administered prove positive, then there's no way that you can dispute the evidence. You should then plead guilty so that you can focus on challenging the sentence instead.
Challenging the Sentence
When your court appearance comes up a few days later, the magistrate will consider the various factors of the offence such as its severity, your means and whether or not it's your first drink-driving offence. If you feel justified in doing so, you can challenge the sentence that will be handed down by the magistrate For example, if there was an emergency situation that arose that left you with no option but to drive your vehicle, you can enter that as part of an appeal. The case will then be adjourned and set for a later date. You would then be required to provide witnesses and you should also provide as much other evidence as possible to back your case.
Successful challenges have included: helping a seriously injured victim in an emergency by driving them to a hospital if there was no possibility of an ambulance reaching the victim in time, or to the nearest phone if there was no possibility of contacting an ambulance.
Drink-Drive Rehabilitation Course
A driving ban of twelve months or more can also be reduced if you agree to take part in a privately administered Drink-Drive Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS) course. You have to complete the course, after which the administrators will contact the court, which will then arrange to reduce the disqualification period by around 25%.
In summary keep in mind that any reduction in your sentence is purely at the discretion of the magistrate, so make sure you have as solid a case as possible.