Drink Driving

You’ve been charged with drink driving and been given a court date. What should you do now? Don’t panic. Yes, this is a difficult and embarrassing situation. Yes, you will have to go to court. But, the worst thing you can do now is to make hurried and ill-considered judgments. You will find that a calm and considered approach will serve you better.

How should you plead?

The most important decision for you to make is whether you propose to admit or deny the charge. You should be mindful of the fact that although there is usually a way to contest even the strongest of cases that this does not always serve the best interests of the Defendant to do so. You need to make a preliminary assessment of the case and ask yourself whether there is a realistic prospect that you can win the case if you plead, ‘Not Guilty’. If the reality is that the evidence is strong and, in your heart, you know that you did commit the offence ask yourself whose interests are served, other than the lawyers’, by contesting the case?

Credit for a 'Guilty' Plea

If you plead ‘Guilty’ at the first hearing you are entitled to ‘credit’ for the plea ie a 1/3 reduction in the severity of the punitive element of the sentence. For example, this could mean the difference between an immediate prison sentence and a suspended sentence or between a community service order and a fine. Disqualification from driving for at least a year is mandatory unless you can prove that special reasons apply. (If you do seek to submit special reasons for not disqualifying you should bear in mind that they will not be accepted without a trial of the issue in which the burden of proof will rest upon the defence.)

Pleading 'Not Guilty'

Of course, if you are innocent you should plead ‘Not Guilty’. Such cases include those with substantive defences such as those in which the Defendant states alcohol was only consumed after driving but before the police administered a breath test. (This type of case usually arises following a collision after which the Defendant claims he drank alcohol to calm his nerves and is colloquially known as the ‘hip flask’ defence). However, a practice has grown up in which some motoring offence lawyers encourage Defendants to contest cases on the basis that the police might have made a procedural error which could result in a ‘loophole’ defence. Before you are tempted to this route you should consider the increase in costs in terms of legal fees, stress, and delay. In the final analysis, if you are convicted following a trial you will also have lost ‘credit’ for the plea and can expect a harsher sentence from an unsympathetic court. (You should bear in mind that unsympathetic courts tend to disqualify motorists for longer periods.)

'Guilty' or 'Not Guilty'

Most motorists find themselves in this situation only once in their lives. Consequently, they are at a loss as to how to approach it. Even if they know how to plead they don’t know how best to represent their interests in a court room. If you can find a lawyer who gives sound and straightforward legal advice from the outset combined with skilled court room representation this is likely to result in a markedly more favourable outcome. You may find that just because a national firm has paid for ‘Ads’ to ensure it comes out first in a ‘Google’ search does not necessarily mean that it would come out top in a ‘Which’ magazine survey. So, how do you choose a lawyer?

Conclusion

No one wants to find themselves reading an article like this. Now that you are you need to make the most of your situation. So, it makes sense to obtain the best legal advice you can find from the earliest stage of proceedings. You probably do want to speak to the lawyer who would actually advise and represent you before you make up your mind. If so, don’t hesitate to contact Kent Traffic Law as you’ll be able to speak to an experienced lawyer who specialises exclusively in motoring cases without charge or obligation for an initial discussion as to where your best interests lie.

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