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Drink Driving in the UK

Special Reasons not to endorse or Disqualify

The Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, s. 34(1) [1] provides legislation relating to special reasons not to disqualify or to disqualify for shorter period, it states:
(1) Where a person is convicted of an offence involving obligatory disqualification, the court must order him to be disqualified for such period not less than twelve months as the court thinks fit unless the court for special reasons thinks fit to order him to be disqualified for a shorter period or not to order him to be disqualified.

In certain circumstances defendants convicted of drink driving offences may be able to have any mandatory period of driving disqualification significantly reduced or totally avoided if 'special reasons' not to endorse or disqualify are successfully established.

Driving licence endorsements & penalty points can also be avoided if special reasons are successfully established.

Special reasons must be put forward by the defence using evidence and may be subject to cross examination and evidence in rebuttal from the prosecution.

When special reasons not to disqualify are successfully established, it is no guarantee that disqualification or endorsement will be avoided. It remains at the sentencing courts discretion whether or not the special reasons put forward make it proper not to disqualify or endorse.

Arguing that any period of disqualification imposed will cause extreme hardship to an offender or their family WILL NOT amount to a special reason.

What are special reasons?

Special reasons must relate to the commission of the drink driving offence in question and in order to constitute a special reason the Court of Appeal has established that any matter put forward as a special reason not to endorse or disqualify must:

  • be a mitigating or extenuating circumstance;
  • not amount in law to a defence to the drink driving charge;
  • be directly connected to the commission of the drink driving offence;
  • be one which a court of law ought to properly take into consideration when considering what sentence to impose.

What must the court consider?

When special reasons are put forward in drink driving cases the sentencing court must consider the following factors:

  • the reason for driving the motor vehicle;
  • the distance the motor vehicle was driven;
  • the manner in which the motor vehicle was driven;
  • the condition of the motor vehicle which was driven;
  • whether or not it was the drivers intention to drive the motor vehicle further;
  • the road and traffic conditions at the time the offence took place; and
  • the possibility of danger to other road users at the time (most important factor)

Possible Special Reasons

  • Very short distance driven (moving car a few yards to safety)
  • Driving due to an emergency (medical or otherwise)
  • A drivers drink being laced or spiked without their knowledge

The onus of establishing special reasons is on the defence/defendant.

Establishing special reasons is a complicated and technical area of law where there is a great deal of case law available as to what amounts to special reasons. It is advisable to take advice and counsel from a solicitor advocate who specialises in drink driving and motoring law in order to establish if arguing special reasons is plausible.

Drink Driving Legal Advice


[1] Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988

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