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New Drink Driving Penalties Effective from Today (24/04/2017)

Drink driving penalties among changes made to magistrates court sentencing guidelines which come into force today (24th April 2017)

New sentencing guidelines from the sentencing council are to be used by Magistrates when sentencing offenders as from today. Drink driving penalties updated.

The guidelines which are referred to by Magistrates when deciding what sentence to impose on offenders convicted of various crimes have been updated and the new guidelines will now be used by Magistrates across England and Wales.

The penalties for several offences have been updated including:

  • Drink driving penalties (driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol)
  • Being in charge of a vehicle with excess alcohol
  • Failing to provide a specimen for analysis
  • Driving or attempting to drive while unfit through drink or drugs
  • Being in charge of a vehicle while unfit through drink or drugs
  • Speeding
  • Having no insurance
  • Failing to stop/report an accident
  • Driving while disqualified
  • Careless driving

Drink driving offences

Driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol

One of the main factors in determining the sentence to be imposed on a convicted drink driver is the amount of alcohol in their system at the time the offence was committed.

There are four sentencing brackets for drink driving offences and which sentence bracket a convicted drink driver falls under is determined by the level of alcohol in their system at the time the offence was committed.

The first and lowest sentence bracket is aimed at drivers who are over the legal limit but not by a large amount, sentencing guidelines suggest a fine and a 12 – 16 month driving disqualification should be imposed on drink drivers who fall within the lowest sentencing bracket.

The fourth and highest sentence bracket is aimed at drivers who are significantly over the legal limit, sentencing guidelines suggest a high level community order or up to 26 weeks in prison AND a driving disqualification of between 29 and 36 months should be imposed on drink drivers who fall within the highest sentencing bracket.

New guidelines allow for more lenient fines for drink drivers who are just above the legal limit and fall into the lowest sentencing bracket, guidelines previously stated a band C fine should be imposed which equates to 125% – 175% of an offenders weekly income. They now suggest Magistrates can impose a band B fine (75% – 125% of an offenders weekly income) OR a band C fine.

While drink drivers who fall within the lowest sentencing bracket could receive a lesser fine, those who fall within the next sentencing bracket up are not so lucky, they can now face a low level community order which was only previously recommended for drink drivers who fell into the third sentencing bracket.

In charge of a vehicle with excess alcohol

Sentences for this offence are determined by the amount of alcohol in an offenders system at the time the offence was committed and there are also four sentencing brackets, the same as driving with excess alcohol.

New guidelines allow Magistrates to impose a more lenient fine for offenders who fall within the first and lowest sentencing bracket, guidelines previously stated a band B fine should be imposed which equates to 75% – 125% of an offenders weekly income. They now suggest Magistrates can impose a band A fine (25% – 75% of an offenders weekly income) OR a band B fine.

Offenders who fall within the next sentencing bracket up can now face a higher fine, guidelines previously stated a band B fine should be imposed which equates to 75% – 125% of an offenders weekly income. They now suggest magistrates can impose a band C fine (125% – 175% of an offenders weekly income) OR a band B fine.

Offenders who fall within the third sentencing bracket can now face a community order which was previously only recommended for offenders who fell within the highest sentencing bracket.

Fail to provide a specimen for analysis

Offences of failing (or refusing) to provide an evidential breath, blood or urine specimen when required to do so are now categorized under the new sentencing guidelines. Category 1 offences are deemed the most serious, followed by category 2 and the least serious, category 3. Previous guidelines outlined three sentencing brackets for this offence.

New sentencing guidelines suggest that a community order be considered as a sentencing option for all convictions, regardless of which category the offence falls under. Previous guidelines suggested a community order should only be considered within the second and middle sentencing bracket.

A community order is an alternative to custody and can include unpaid work, curfew, supervision and various courses.

New Magistrates Sentencing Guidelines now state that when an offender receives a driving disqualification AND an immediate custodial sentence then the length of disqualification should be extended in line with imposing a custodial sentence.

Useful links:

Magistrates Court Sentencing Guidelines (Drink Driving Offences)

Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines

Online Fine Calculator