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Frequently Asked Questions

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UK LEGAL DRINK DRIVING LIMIT = 0.08%


The BAC (blood alcohol content) drink driving limit in the UK is:

35 micrograms 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 limits worldwide



PLEASE NOTE: This page is currently in the process of being updated and some of the information may not be up to date.

When can the police require a breath test at the roadside?

What happens if my alcohol reading is close to the limit?

What happens if I fail the roadside breath test but pass at the Police station?

What happens if you are charged?

What if the identity of the driver is unclear?

What if I am actually the passenger

If I get a ban can I get my licence back before the ban ends?

Am I classed as a high risk offender?

I have been charged with drink driving and am now on bail, what does this mean exactly?

I have been caught drink driving, do I need a solicitor?

Why do I need a solicitor?

Do I have to pay for a solicitor?

What are possible defences to a drink driving charge?

Can I avoid a drink driving ban if I was driving due to an emergency?

What should I do in preparation for my drink driving court case?

What will happen on the day of my drink driving court case and what should I do?

What is a pre sentence report?

What sentences are available for magistrates to impose for drinking and driving?

What is a community order?

What is a compulsory unpaid work requirement?

What is a curfew requirement?

What is a supervision requirement?

What is an alcohol treatment requirement?

Can I appeal against my sentence or conviction?

How long does a drink driving endorsement stay on my license?

How long does a drink driving conviction stay on my record?

Will my drink driving conviction show up on a DBS check (previously known as a CRB check) and do I have to disclose my conviction(s) to POTENTIAL employers?

Does everybody get the chance to go on the drink driving rehabilitation course?

What will I be doing on the drink driving rehabilitation course?

How long will my driving ban be reduced by if I complete the drink driving rehabilitation course?

What other benefits will I receive by completing the drink drive rehabilitation course?

How long does the drink driving rehabilitation course last for?

How much does the drink driving rehabilitation course cost?

What do I receive when I complete the drink driving rehabilitation course?

Do I have to complete the drink driving rehabilitation course by a certain date?

If I have and accident and I was over the drink drive limit will my motor car insurance be invalid and void?

Will I be able to get car insurance if I have a drink driving conviction?

Will I have to pay a fortune to get car insurance if i have a drink drive conviction?

How long will I have to pay increased car insurance premiums for if I have a drink drive conviction?

When can the police require a breath test at the roadside?

The police have the power to stop vehicles at random, however they cannot perform completely random breath tests.

A preliminary roadside breath alcohol test can be required if a police officer reasonably suspects that a person:

a) is currently driving, attempting to drive or is in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or
b) has been driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or
c) has committed a traffic offence while driving a vehicle that was in motion regardless of whether or not the police officer reasonably suspects a driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A police officer will administer a preliminary breath alcohol test as routine if they reasonably believe a person was driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a vehicle at the time of an accident on a road or other public place.

It is an offence to fail to co-operate with a preliminary roadside breath test.

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What happens if my alcohol reading is close to the limit?

After providing an evidential breath test at the police station, what will happen will depend on the result and level of alcohol detected.

Breath test result Course of action
35 or below Suspect will not be charged
between 36 & 39 Suspect should be released with caution or without charge (in serious cases back calculation is considered)
between 40 & 50 Suspect has the right to request to provide an alternative specimen for analysis (blood or urine) aka the statutory option
51 or higher Suspect will be charged accordingly
unreliable results Suspect may be required to provide an alternative specimen for analysis (blood or urine)
device unavailable Suspect may be required to provide an alternative specimen for analysis (blood or urine)

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What happens if I fail the roadside breath test but pass at the Police station?

In theory, you should be released without charge and no further inquiries will be made. However, in certain circumstances, the police could seek to prove that you were over the legal prescribed limit at the time of the alleged incident. In this case a forensic scientist will be instructed to 'back calculate' your blood alcohol content to the time of the alleged incident based on the results of any breath, blood or urine test and any other factors that could influence a persons BAC level. Back calculation is used in serious cases only.

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What happens if you are charged?

If a person is charged with a drink driving related offence, they will be bailed to appear at a magistrates court at a later date to answer to the charge(s) brought against them. Failure to appear at court is an offence.

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What if the identity of the driver is unclear?

If there is more than one person in the vehicle and no one admits to driving, the police can legally require a breath test from any occupant who they have reasonable cause to suspect could be the driver or the person "in charge" of the vehicle.

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What if I am actually the passenger?

If you are a passenger and fail to identify the driver, and the police cannot establish the identity of the driver, you could be prosecuted for being "in charge" of the vehicle.

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If I get a ban can I get my licence back before the ban ends?

A person disqualified for more than 2 years, if they have not been ordered to re-sit their driving test, may after 2 years, apply to the court that imposed the driving disqualification to have the remaining period of disqualification removed. More information can be found here.

A person may also be offered the chance to complete a drink driving rehabilitation course by the sentencing courts. Completing the course will reduce the length of any ban imposed by up to 25% of the total period of disqualification. A person cannot demand to be allowed to complete the course, it is at the discretion of the courts whether they give a person the opportunity or not.

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Am I classed as a high risk offender?

Introduced in 1983 was the ‘High Risk Offender’ (HRO) scheme. This scheme is intended to
manage convicted drink drivers who may have a drinking problem.

After a high risk offenders period of disqualification has expired, a high risk offender must satisfy the DVLA of their fitness to drive before their driving licence will be issued to them. This is achieved by taking and passing a DVLA medical.

High Risk Offenders are drivers who:

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I have been charged with drink driving and am now on bail, what does this mean exactly?

Bail can be granted by either a court of law or the police. Where bail is granted, a person is released from custody until the next date they have been instructed to attend court or the police station. Any person released on bail will be given a bail sheet containing this information.

It is an offence not to attend on the date instructed without reasonable excuse and any person who does not attend on the given date will be in breach of their bail. Breach of bail is a criminal offence and people who breach bail may be prosecuted for this offence alongside any original offence(s).

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I have been caught drink driving, do I need a solicitor?

It is always a good idea to consult with a motoring solicitor / road traffic solicitor regardless of whether or not a person intends to plead 'guilty'. They are experts in the relevant laws and procedures surrounding drink driving cases and will be able to examine all evidence to ensure correct procedure has been followed at all times.

If a person pleads 'guilty', hiring a solicitor is always recommended. Motoring solicitors will be able to construct and put forward a well structured plea of mitigation in order to help secure a lenient sentence.

If a person intends to plead 'not guilty' then expert legal representation will be needed in order to put forward any defence.

 

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Why do I need a solicitor?

If you get charged with a drink driving related offence by the police you should seek expert legal advice from a solicitor as soon as possible. Your solicitor will advise you about any possible defence you may have and will represent you in court. Even if you think you do not have a defence, your solicitor will advise you on many things including putting forward a plea of mitigation in order to help secure a lenient sentence and ensuring correct procedure has been followed at all times.

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Do I have to pay for a solicitor?

This depends on which solicitor you would like to represent you. Some solicitors work on a private fee paying basis only while other solicitors undertake legal aid work. In order to qualify for legal aid a person must pass two tests.

A financial means test that tests a persons financial eligibility for legal aid and a test of merit (interests of justice test). A solicitor will be able to advise you on the test of merit as this will differ with each specific case.

If you want to apply for legal aid then please make sure when contacting any solicitor that they actually do legal aid work before you make an appointment. At your first appointment your solicitor will help you fill out all the necessary forms in order to apply for legal aid. For more information on legal aid and your eligibility please see www.legalservices.gov.uk.

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What are possible defences to a drink driving charge?

Expert advice and representation from a solicitor specialising in drink driving law is crucial in preparing the best possible defence to a drink driving charge.

The hip-flask defence: A person should not be convicted of drink driving when they can prove that any alcohol consumed AFTER any alleged offence and BEFORE they provided a specimen for analysis resulted in them being over the legal prescribed drink driving limit. The burden of proof is on the drink driving defendant to prove beyond reasonable doubt that this was the case. The sentencing court is entitled to assume that the alcohol level at the time of any alleged offence was not less than that at the time of any evidential blood alcohol content test.

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Can I avoid a drink driving ban if I was driving due to an emergency?

There may be certain circumstances where a driver was over the drink drive limit and does not have a defence but can still avoid a driving ban if he has a special reason for driving. Once the driver has pleaded guilty to drink driving, the court must be convinced that there are special reasons not to disqualify the driver.

Special reasons could include:

  1. The journey being an emergency. If the driver can satisfy the court that the journey was what amounts to an emergency, then a driving ban may be avoided.

  2. Being guilty of drink driving as a result of a persons drinks being laced with alcohol (spiked) without their knowledge.

  3. Moving the vehicle to prevent a hazard or an accident.

If a driver was under EXTREME duress, for example if the driver was driving while over the prescribed drink drive limit due to death threats or the fear of EXTREME physical injury and was literally fleeing for his life, this can possibly be used as a special reason not to disqualify when convicted of drink driving. There must be good cause to fear death or extreme physical injury, this defence will only succeed if the danger was immediate or imminent. Once the threat or danger becomes ineffective, the driver must stop driving, if he fails to do so he will be guilty of drinking and driving. Once this defence has been raised in court it is up to the prosecution to disprove it.

Special reasons not to disqualify

The case law regarding special reasons is a complicated area and it may be essential to consult and call forward expert scientific witnesses in order to try and prove your case. Expert legal advice and representation from a road traffic solicitor specialising in drink driving law is crucial.

Expert legal advice from a motoring solicitor is required to distinguish between a defence to drink driving and special reasons for not disqualifying after a conviction of drink driving.

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What should I do in preparation for my drink driving court case?

You should:

  1. Consult with a motoring solicitor as soon as possible regardless of whether or not you wish to plead guilty to the drink driving offence. A solicitor will be able to examine all evidence to ensure correct procedure has been followed at all times. They are able to offer expert legal representation at court and will be able to put forward a well structured plea of mitigation in order to help secure a lenient sentence. You may be able to get a legal aid solicitor, if not you will have to retain a private solicitor.


  2. You should find out which court you have to appear at and how to get there. Courts do not take kindly to people who turn up late.

  3. Read our Guide to appearing at Magistrates Court for Drink Driving offences

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What will happen on the day of my drink driving court case and what should I do?

You should:

  1. Arrive on time. Usually this is anytime before 9.45am, however, your solicitor may have arranged to meet and consult with you earlier than this.

    DO NOT ARRIVE LATE - it shows disrespect to the court.

  2. Show respect to the court and presiding magistrates by dressing smartly and being polite and courteous towards them at all times. It also helps if you are genuinely remorseful as this will show.

  3. Bring your driving licence with you as the chances are you will be receiving a driving ban and your driving licence will need to be surrendered to the courts/DVLA.

On your first appearance in court you will be asked to enter your plea of 'guilty' or 'not guilty'. If you plead 'not guilty' then the court case will be adjourned until a later date for trial.

If you plead 'guilty' or are found guilty after a trial then you may:

  • Receive your sentence immediately; or

  • Be remanded in custody and summoned to return to the courts for sentencing at a later date; or

  • Be released on bail to return to the courts for sentencing at a later date pending pre-sentence reports

Either way, if you plead guilty or are found guilty, you will be required surrender your driving licence to the courts/DVLA and will more than likely be subject to an interim driving ban which means you are effectively banned from driving as from that date and any driving ban received will run from that date. When magistrates adjourn sentencing to a later date it is usually because they have requested a pre sentence report to be carried out, they also usually tell you what kind of sentence they are considering imposing on you.

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What is a pre sentence report?

When deciding what sentence to impose, magistrates have to take into account the facts of the case and the circumstances of the offender. A pre-sentence report is carried out by a probation officer and is an impartial report assessing the offenders background, reasons for offending and risk to the public. It also assesses the offenders suitability for various sentencing options the court may be considering imposing.

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What sentences are available for magistrates to impose for drinking and driving?

Magistrates can impose the following sentences for drinking and driving:

Imprisonment is used for more serious offences and high risk repeat offenders. The seriousness of the offence depends on lots of factors including but not limited to: the level of the alcohol reading, whether or not any accident occurred, whether or not any damage was caused to property and/or anybody was injured, whether or not the offender has previous convictions.

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What is a community penalty order?

A community penalty order is an alternative to a custodial prison sentence. It can combine punishment with rehabilitation. There are a range of requirements available and requirements are often combined to make a bespoke community order which is relevant to a particular individual offender. The range of requirements available include:

Compulsory unpaid work requirement (aka Community Service)

The compulsory unpaid work requirement requires offenders to carry out unpaid work (between 40 and 300 hours) on projects that benefit the community and under close supervision. Offenders can be given individual placements such as working in a charity shop or a community care home. They can also be given group placements where a group will be supervised by an unpaid work supervisor. Group placements can involve tidying up local parks and beauty spots, painting and decorating community centres, cutting grass and various other tasks.

Unpaid work must be completed within 12 months of the sentence being imposed and will take place at least once a week for at least six and a half hours.

Curfew Requirement (Electronic Tagging)

The curfew requirement is a punishment and is similar to house arrest. An offender is required to stay indoors (usually at their home) between certain hours of the day i.e. 7pm until 7am. An electronic tag is attached to the offenders ankle or wrist and monitoring equipment is installed in the offenders home which alerts a monitoring service if the offender is absent during curfew hours.

Supervision Requirement

The supervision requirement requires the offender to attend appointments with an offender manager (probation officer) at their local probation office. The length of supervision and frequency of contact varies. The offender manager will work with the offender to ensure the risk of future offending is kept to a minimum. An offender manager may delegate supervision to another person who can provide the offender with specialised help, support and advice.

Alcohol treatment requirement

The alcohol treatment requirement provides access to tailored alcohol treatment programmes that are aimed to reduce alcohol dependency. The offender must express a willingness to comply with the requirement and work at reducing their alcohol addiction.

Failure to comply with any requirements imposed may result in an offender appearing at court again for breaching their community order. The original sentence will then be reviewed and further punishments can be imposed and this includes imprisonment.

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Can I appeal against my sentence or conviction?

Yes. If the conviction is appealed against then there will be a re-trial at the crown court in front of a judge and two magistrates. If only the sentence is in dispute then the crown court will consider your appeal. The court may decide to increase the sentence, reduce it or leave it as it is.

Your solicitor can advise you on the possibility of appealing against a sentence and/or conviction.

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How long does a drink driving endorsement stay on my license?

A drink driving endorsement will stay on your licence for a period of up to 11 years from the date of conviction. The exact time period it will remain on your driving licence for will depend on the particular offence you are convicted of. See below:

Drink Driving Related Endorsements
Offence
On driving licence for
DR10 - Drive or attempt to drive with excess alcohol
11 years
DR40 - In charge of a vehicle with excess alcohol
4 years
DR20, DR80 - Drive or attempt to drive while unfit through drink or drugs
11 years
DR50, DR90 - In charge of a vehicle while unfit through drink or drugs
4 years
DR30 - Failing to provide a specimen for analysis while driving or attempting to drive a vehicle
11 years
DR60 - Failing to provide a specimen for analysis while in charge of a vehicle
4 years
DR70 - Failing to co-operate with a preliminary roadside breath test
4 years

However, endorsements usually only affect your motor car insurance premiums for a period of 5 years from the date of conviction. List of other motoring related endorsements and offences.

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How long does a drink driving conviction stay on my record?

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 enables some criminal convictions to become 'spent', or ignored, after a 'rehabilitation period'.

A rehabilitation period is a set length of time from the date of conviction. After this period, with certain exceptions, an ex-offender is not normally obliged to mention their conviction when applying for a job or obtaining insurance, or when involved in criminal or civil proceedings.

The length of the rehabilitation period depends on the sentence given - not the offence committed. For a custodial sentence. Custodial sentences of more than 2 1/2 years can never become spent.

SENTENCE
REHABILITATION PERIOD
Imprisonment or detention in a young offender's institution (previously known as youth custody) between 6 months 2 1/2 years
10 years
Imprisonment or detention in a young offender's institution (previously known as youth custody) of 6 months or less.
7 years
A fine or any other sentence for which is a different rehabilitation period is not provided (e.g. a compensation or community service order, or a probation order received on or after 3rd February 1995).
5 years
An absolute discharge
6 months

Except for an absolute discharge, all of the periods above are halved if the person convicted was under 18 at the time.

The rehabilitation period for a driving ban is the length of the driving ban. However if another sentence is imposed such as a fine, community penalty order or imprisonment then the longer period of rehabilitation applies.

Click here for more information on the The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 from the Criminal Records Bureau.

Click here to view The rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 in full.

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Will my drink driving conviction show up on a DBS check (previously known as a CRB CHECK) and do I have to disclose my conviction(s) to POTENTIAL employers?

The CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) is now known as the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service)
CRB checks are now known as DBS checks

The Disclosure and Barring Service Website

Do you have to disclose any criminal conviction(s) to potential employers?

It will depend upon the job you are applying for, the level of disclosure required (if any) and whether or not your conviction is classed as 'spent' under The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 as to whether or not you need to disclose criminal convictions to potential employers. Please click here for details on rehabilitation periods.

If the job you are applying for is not classed as exempt and:

Your conviction(s) ARE NOT classed as 'spent'

If your drink driving conviction (or other criminal conviction(s)) ARE NOT classed as 'spent' and any potential employer asks you if you have any criminal convictions, you must disclose your conviction(s).

Your conviction(I) ARE classed as 'spent'

If your drink driving conviction (or other criminal conviction(s)) ARE classed as 'spent' then you do not usually have to disclose your conviction(s) to potential employers when applying for jobs. However, certain areas of employment are exempt The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 rules (see below).

RUN A BASIC CRIMINAL RECORD CHECK ON YOURSELF
APPLY FOR A BASIC DISCLOSURE LISTING ALL OF YOUR UNSPENT CONVICTIONS

If a job applicant has a criminal conviction that has become 'spent', any potential employer must treat the applicant as if the conviction has not happened. A refusal to employ a rehabilitated person on the grounds of a 'spent' conviction is unlawful under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 unless of course the job in question is exempt (see below).

What is a DBS check (previously known as CRB check) and will my conviction(s) show up on a DBS check?

DBS checks are only available where an employer is entitled to ask an exempted question under The Exceptions Order to The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

There are multiple umbrella bodies that can process DBS checks. You can search for a particular umbrella body here.

Employers can require, for certain positions, that successful applicants give their permission for a DBS check to be carried out. This involves the employer contacting the Disclosure and Barring Service for more information on an applicants criminal history. There are three types of disclosure:

  • STANDARD DBS CHECK / DISCLOSURE: Standard DBS checks contain information about an individuals criminal history including any convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings that are recorded on the police central database. Both 'spent' and 'unspent' convictions are revealed.

  • ENHANCED DBS CHECK / DISCLOSURE: Enhanced DBS checks contain the same level of information as a standard DBS check in addition to any information that is held locally by police about an individual.

  • ENHANCED DBS CHECK / DISCLOSURE & BARRED CHECK (child): This enhanced DBS check contains the same level of information as an enhanced DBS check alongside information form the DBS's children’s barred list. This level of check is relevant for individuals who are engaged in a regulated activity with children and a number of posts listed in the police act regulations (e.g. potential adoptive parents)
  • ENHANCED DBS CHECK / DISCLOSURE & BARRED CHECK (adult): This enhanced DBS check contains the same level of information as an enhanced DBS check alongside information form the DBS's adults barred list. This level of check is relevant for individuals who are engaged in a regulated activity with adults and a number of posts listed in the police act regulations.
  • ENHANCED DBS CHECK / DISCLOSURE & BARRED CHECK (adult and child): This enhanced DBS check contains the same level of information as an enhanced DBS check alongside information form the DBS's children’s and adults barred list. This level of check is relevant for individuals who are engaged in a regulated activity with both children and adults alongside a number of posts listed in the police act regulations.

More information on Disclosure and Barring (DBS) checks including cost and how long they take from GOV.UK

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Does everybody get the chance to go on the drink driving rehabilitation course?

Not everybody will be given the opportunity to go on the drink driving rehabilitation course, it is entirely up to the sentencing court whether or not they will offer a person the opportunity. However almost all first time offenders will be given the opportunity and sometimes even second time offenders will get the opportunity to complete the course.

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What will I be doing on the drink driving rehabilitation course?

The purpose of the drink driving rehabilitation course is to teach you about the effects of alcohol consumption. A range of issues will be covered, including information about alcohol and its effect on the body; the effect of alcohol consumption on performance, particularly driving ability, and behaviour; analysis of drink/driving offences; alternatives to drinking and driving future action and sources of advice. The content of courses run by different organisers may vary but is likely to involve short lectures; group discussion; role play; assessment of personal drinking habits and presentations by policemen, solicitors or doctors.

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How long will my driving ban be reduced by if I complete the drink driving rehabilitation course?

Completion of the drink driving rehabilitation course will entitle you to a reduction in the length of your disqualification period. The length of the reduction will be a minimum of three months and up to 25% of the total disqualification period . In the case of a 12 month driving ban the reduction will be 3 months. The court will decide the length of any reduction for longer periods of disqualification.

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What other benefits will I receive by completing the drink drive rehabilitation course?

Along with having your driving ban reduced, you may also benefit from reduced car insurance premiums as many car insurance companies recognise and take into consideration the completion of this course by convicted drink drivers. You should be given a list of several such companies on completion of the course. We also provide very competitive insurance for convicted drivers.

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How long does the drink driving rehabilitation course last for?

The course lasts for approximately 16 hours over three to four days in a two/three week period. The course may be run in the evenings and/or the weekends.

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How much does the drink driving rehabilitation course cost?

The drink driving rehabilitation course costs vary but can be between £100.00 - £250.00. Concessionary rates may be available to those on benefits, state pension or full time students. All fees must be paid in advance.

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What do I receive when I complete the drink driving rehabilitation course?

When you have completed the course you will be given a Certificate of Completion to present to the court. The court will then notify the DVLA of your reduced disqualification period.

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Do I have to complete the drink driving rehabilitation course by a certain date?

Yes. The issuing court will have given you a date by which you need to complete the course by. This is usually at least two months before the end of the reduced period of disqualification to allow the DVLA time to take account of the reduction. The DVLA cannot deal with your application for the return of your driving licence until the court has advised them of the reduced period of disqualification.

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If I have an accident and I was over the drink drive limit will my car insurance be invalid and void?

Many people are under the false impression that if they have an accident while over the legal drink drive limit their car insurance policy will become completely invalid and void. This is untrue.

All insurance companies are obligated to cover the costs incurred to any third parties that the insured is liable for under the The Road Traffic Act 1988, regardless of whether the insured was over the legal limit.

An insurance policy may have a drink and drugs clause whereby in the event of any claim the insured was convicted of an offence relating to drink or drugs their fully comprehensive status will be invalid (not the entire policy). This means they cant claim for any loss or damage incurred to themselves. However, a third party can still claim off a drink drivers insurance policy for any loss or damage incurred to them. The clause usually also states that the insurance company reserve the right to recover the cost of the settlement of any such claim off the insured.

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Will I be able to get car insurance if I have a drink driving conviction?

Yes. Some insurance companies will not insure drivers who have a drink driving conviction. However a lot of insurance companies do and some insurance companies even specialise in providing car insurance to people who have been convicted for drink driving and other motor offences.

Convicted Driver Insurance

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Will I have to pay a fortune to get car insurance if I have a drink driving conviction?

Obviously your insurance premium will a bit more than it was before you were convicted of drink driving. However some insurance companies specialise in providing competitive rates for those convicted of drink driving, so it may not be as much as you think!

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How long will I have to pay increased car insurance premiums for if I have a drink drive conviction?

All car insurance companies ask if you have any claims, convictions or endorsements in the last five years. You can safely answer no to this question if your drink drive conviction was more than five years ago and your drink drive conviction will not affect your insurance premium if this is the case.

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