Drink Driving Laws in the UK

Drink Driving Police Procedure

Drink Driving Laws - Frequently asked Questions

A Guide to appearing at Magistrates Court for Drink Driving offences

NEW DRINK DRIVING LAWS - EFFECTIVE FROM 1st June 2013

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THE LEGAL DRINK DRIVING LIMIT

UK LEGAL DRINK DRIVING LIMIT = 0.08%
The BAC (blood alcohol content) drink driving limit in the UK is:

35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath
OR
80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
OR
107 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine

Drink driving laws in the UK are strictly enforced and the penalties upon conviction can be severe. In the UK it is illegal to:

  1. Drive or attempt to drive with excess alcohol (while exceeding the legal limit)
  2. Be in charge of a motor vehicle with excess alcohol (while exceeding the legal limit)
  3. Drive or attempt to drive while unfit through drink (alcohol) or drugs
  4. Be in charge of a motor vehicle whilst unfit through drink (alcohol) or drugs
  5. Fail to co-operate with a preliminary road side breath test when required to do so
  6. Fail to provide an evidential specimen (blood, breath or urine) for analysis while driving or attempting to drive a vehicle
  7. Fail to provide an evidential specimen (blood, breath or urine) for analysis while in charge of a vehicle
  8. Fail to give permission for a laboratory test of a specimen of blood taken while that person was incapable of consenting

Upon conviction of any of the above offences a person will have a criminal record.

Depending on the offence committed, a person may also face an obligatory or discretionary driving disqualification and if no disqualification is imposed, penalty points.

Other penalties could include fines, community orders, a requirement to re-take a driving test and in serious cases a prison sentence.

Depending on the offence and/or the level of alcohol in a persons body at the time the offence was committed, that person could also face being classed as a 'high risk offender'. High risk offenders are required to satisfy the DVLA of their fitness to drive once their driving disqualification has expired by taking and passing a DVLA medical before their driving licence will be issued.

The law regarding drink driving related offences is complicated and due to the potential severity of sentences imposed, expert legal advice from a solicitor with experience of drink driving laws is always recommended.

Tooltip


Drink Driving Offences & Maximum Penalties

  Maximum Penalties  
Driving Offence Prison Sentence Fine Driving Ban Penalty Points Endorsement Code
Driving or attempting to drive while unfit through drink or drugs 6 months £5,000 Obligatory Tooltip 3-11 Tooltip DR20 (drink)
DR80 (drugs)
Driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol 6 months £5,000 Obligatory Tooltip 3-11 Tooltip DR10
In charge while unfit through drink or drugs 3 months £2,500 Discretionary Tooltip 10 Tooltip DR50 (drink)
DR90 (drugs)
In charge with excess alcohol 3 months £2,500 Discretionary Tooltip 10 Tooltip DR40
Failing to co-operate with a preliminary test - £1,000 Discretionary Tooltip 4 Tooltip DR70
Failing or refusing to supply an evidential specimen while driving or attempting to drive 6 months £5,000 Obligatory Tooltip 3-11 Tooltip DR30
Failing or refusing to supply an evidential specimen while in charge 3 months £2,500 Discretionary Tooltip 10 Tooltip DR60
Failing to allow a specimen to be subjected to a laboratory test 6 months £5,000 Obligatory Tooltip 3-11 Tooltip DR31 / DR61
Causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs 14 years Unlimited Obligatory Tooltip 3-11 Tooltip CD40 (drink)
CD50 (drugs)
CD60 (excess alcohol)
Causing death by careless driving and then failing to supply specimen for analysis 14 years Unlimited Obligatory Tooltip 3-11 Tooltip CD70

Frequently asked questions on UK drink driving law

When can the police require a breath test?

What happens if I fail the preliminary road side breath test but pass an evidential breath test at the police station?


When can the police require a breath test?

Any person who is or was driving, attempting to drive, or who is or was in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or any public place (e.g. a pub car park or a garage forecourt) may be required by the police to provide a breath test to ascertain whether or not the alcohol in their system exceeds the maximum prescribed legal limit.

The request must be made by a police officer in uniform but can only be made if one of the following situations apply:-

  1. the police officer has reasonable cause to suspect that the person has committed or is currently committing a moving traffic offence; or
  2. the police officer has reasonable cause to suspect that the person driving/attempting to drive/in charge of the vehicle has consumed alcohol; or
  3. the police officer has reasonable cause to believe that the person driving/attempting to drive/in charge of a motor vehicle was involved in an accident.

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What happens if I fail the preliminary road side breath test but pass an evidential breath test at the Police station?

The preliminary road side breath test is, in essence, a screening test that is carried out in order to provide an indication as to whether the proportion of alcohol in a persons system is likely to exceed the maximum prescribed legal limit. If a person fails the preliminary road side breath test, they will be arrested and taken to the police station in order to provide an evidential specimen.

The evidential breath testing machine at the police station is much more accurate and it may be possible, in certain circumstances, that readings from an evidential breath testing machine may prove that the alcohol in a persons system does not exceed the maximum prescribed legal limit, despite the fact a preliminary road side breath test indicated that this may not be the case. This is especially true if the time between providing a preliminary breath test and an evidential specimen is considerable or the accused was only fractionally over the limit at the time of the road side breath test.

In scenarios like this where a person provides an evidential breath specimen that proves the alcohol in their system does not exceed the maximum prescribed legal limit, despite failing a road side breath test, no charges will usually be brought against them. However, in serious cases (such as a serious road traffic accident resulting in serious injury or fatality) the police may seek to prove that a driver whose level of alcohol in their system was under the maximum legal prescribed limit at the time an evidential specimen was obtained, was nevertheless above the maximum legal prescribed limit at the time of the incident. This is known as a 'back calculation'.

More information on drink driving police procedure

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