Case at Court Stage

It is common for the first court date following a drink driving or failure to provide a specimen charge to be within a week to 10 days of being charged.

This doesn’t leave you with much time to seek advice and make important decisions about what to do from here. For this reason Geoffrey Miller Solicitors are ready to deal with your case as a PRIORITY.

Many clients who contact us think that because a breathalyser machine has produced a reading that is over the drink driving limit, their only option is to plead guilty. We may confirm this to be your best option when you call, but not always.

GUILTY

If you are contemplating pleading guilty but you think that the Magistrates will be lenient and impose points rather than a ban when they hear about how much you or others depend on your licence, THINK AGAIN!

Disqualification

See here for all the information about drink driving sentencing guidelines and costs.

NOT GUILTY

If you wish to fight your case from the outset, it would be wise to enter your Not Guilty plea at the first hearing. There are many defences to alcohol related charges. Every case is different but the more common defences are set out below:

1. Duress

This is a pretty difficult defence to be made out. The court would have to be satisfied that you drove solely to remove yourself or someone else from the risk of injury or a potentially life-threatening situation.

However, if there was another way that you could have got away from example, someone who had threatened to injure you, like calling in to a shop that was open, the Magistrates are unlikely to accept a duress defence.

The most recent case that decided the criteria that must be met in duress cases is CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE v BROWN (2007)

This case involved a man who drove while under the influence of drink but who believed that he was going to be beaten up after receiving a threatening telephone call. The High Court decided that he could not rely on the defence of duress of circumstances because by the time he was stopped by the police he was not being pursued and there were no grounds for him to think that he was being pursued.

Therefore, to succeed with the duress defence, you must have driven to the point where you were out of danger and once out of danger, stopped to find some other way of getting to your intended destination.

2. Hip-Flask Defence

If the reason for the excess alcohol reading is the fact that alcohol was consumed after you drove, but before you provided a specimen, this may be what is commonly known as the “hip-flask” defence. It is important to note that the burden of proof on the defendant is not ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ as is the burden on the prosecution. Instead, you must prove your defence is more likely than not and must overcome the burden of proof on the balance of probabilities.

Specifically, you must show:

  1. that you consumed alcohol before you provided the specimen; and
  2. after the time of the alleged offence (if an offence is alleged to have been committed); and
  3. after you had ceased to drive, attempt to drive or be in charge of a vehicle on a road or other public place; and
  4. had you not done so the proportion of alcohol in your system would not have exceeded the prescribed limit; and if it is alleged that you were unfit to drive because of alcohol, the level of alcohol would not have been such to impair your ability to drive properly.

This defence will not succeed without scientific evidence being presented to the court, commonly known as a ‘back calculation.’ There are recognised experts who are able to produce this kind of evidence with whom we regularly work.

It is also crucial that there is some kind of corroborative evidence of the post-driving drinking. If you did not mention it when at the police station, this is most likely to be fatal to your defence unless you can show there was good reason not to tell the police about the post-driving consumption.

3. Faulty Machine/False reading

Whilst the technology behind the equipment in use is very sophisticated, machines are not infallable! There is significant room for error, especially where human input is involved.

There are a number of breath testing machines in use in the UK that are “type approved.” This means they have undergone stringent testing that meet with Home Office requirements.

The most common machines in use are:

  • Intoximeter EC/IR
  • Lion Intoxilyzer 6000 UK
  • Camic Datamaster

The technology behind this equipment is very sophisticated and so if you are thinking about challenging a case by stating the reading must be wrong, it is essential that you have the support of an expert drink driving lawyer who understands that technology.

Jeanette Miller, Senior Partner of Geoffrey Miller Solicitors goes to great lengths to ensure that her knowledge of the equipment used by the police matches that of some of the most eminent scientists in the UK.

The companies responsible for producing the breath testing equipment in the UK are generally very defensive about the reliability of their equipment, staunchly denying any possibility that it could produce a false reading.

However, in Ohio, America, the owners of the Datamaster, John Fusco and Dave Radomski were only too happy to welcome Jeanette to their operator course in February 2008.

Jeanette now has the status of a trained operator on the Camic machine having spent 3 days of intensive training with her American attorney colleagues. We have dedicated a page on this site to outline details of Jeanette’s trip along with photos taken whilst on the course.

4. Police impropriety

The police can often make mistakes in following procedure. Sometimes, however, their mistakes are so serious or even deliberate that the court could not convict you based on the evidence gathered by the police.

We have won in many cases where there has been evidence of the following:

  1. Prosecutor coaching of witnesses
  2. Doctoring of records
  3. Collusion by officers when giving evidence
  4. Failure to ensure a client’s right to legal advice was offered and acted upon
  5. Misleading information/advice about procedure being given to a suspect whilst at police station
  6. Destruction of evidence (such as CCTV)

It can be difficult to succeed in proving this type of defence as there is likely to be a strong desire to maintain an officer’s or prosecutor’s integrity. In a case in Coventry Magistrates’ Court in 2006, not only were we successful in showing that the officers had inappropriately colluded when preparing their statements, they then proceeded to lie about their joint enterprise when giving evidence.

After succeeding in the case, we took legal action against the Crown Prosecution Service and prosecutor involved in the case and received this letter of apology:

View Letter

5. Mistaken identity or lack of identity

There must be evidence beyond all reasonable doubt that you drove or attempted to drive to secure your conviction for most drink driving offences.

If there were no witnesses who can confirm you drove or attempted to drive, this may have a significant bearing on your case. It is important that you do not lie or mislead the court about this. We will not under any circumstances mislead the court by putting forward a defence we know to be untrue. However, there is a difference between making the prosecution prove their case and putting forward a false defence.

We will make the prosecution prove all elements of an offence including the fact that the accused was actually the driver of a vehicle.

Costs When Found Not Guilty

If you plead Not Guilty and are acquitted at trial or the case is discontinued before trial (quite a rarity in alcohol cases) apart from the obvious relief you will have as your name remains clear and you can continue to drive, there will be a second bonus! You will be most likely to be entitled to an order for your legal costs to be paid back by the Court.

A Defendant’s costs order is not an automatic entitlement and does not mean that you will necessarily receive all of your legal costs back. However, it is likely you will be reimbursed a large proportion of your legal costs if found Not Guilty.

IF INTERESTED IN PURSUING THIS OPTION, PLEASE CLICK ON THE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT PAGE FOR MORE DETAILS ON HOW TO PROCEED

PRIORITY INVESTIGATION

Show/Hide Section "Priority Investigation"

This option is part of a two staged process. Many potential clients approach us not knowing what to do for the best. They are not sure if they should simply enter a guilty plea and take the severe punishment that would follow, or explore the possibility of defending a case.

The downsides of defending a case are in most cases likely to be financial and psychological. It is stressful going through a court case, even with the country’s leading experts fighting your corner for you! A defended case will probably take between 2 to 6 months to reach a trial date although could be longer than this. You may wish to know more about your chances of success before launching into a strategy to fight the prosecution to trial.

The legal fees to defend an alcohol charge can be significant, most cases costing between £3000 to £10,000. Geoffrey Miller Solicitors are not the most expensive lawyers specialising in this field but we make no excuse for also not being the cheapest. If you are looking for a cut price job, you will not find it here! However, we totally understand that you may want to know a little bit more about the strategy we will adopt if you fight your case, before committing to fully defending it.

Our priority investigation option enables you to have an idea of the issues we will be focussing on in your defence and the merits of those issues. The priority investigation is typically priced at between £750 plus VAT to £1000 plus VAT.

This option involves our taking a detailed statement from you and possibly from the witnesses you could identify at this stage. We would also scrutinise the evidence gathered by the CPS and then advise you of the defences we have been able to identify. It is rare for a case to have no prospects of a successful defence. However, some defences are more risky than others and we believe you should have a fully informed idea of the merits of the strategies we outline before deciding on the route you wish to take.

If in doubt, we would always urge you to opt for this investigation as unless you have us look at your case, you may not know whether there could have been a way to save your licence!

IF INTERESTED IN PURSUING THIS OPTION, PLEASE CLICK ON THE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT PAGE FOR MORE DETAILS ON HOW TO PROCEED

How can XALC help you from here?

Please take your time to browse through this site and to look at our video interviews with previous clients if you have not done so already.

If you would like to ask us more specific questions about how we may be able to assist you with your case, we are happy to communicate with you in via the 3 options listed below. WE DO NOT CHARGE FOR THE INITIAL ENQUIRY.

  1. Call us for a "no strings" chat on freephone 08000 85 27 84
  2. Email us via our contact us page
  3. Or simply email us for a call back by leaving your own name and contact number