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Drink driving


The only safe limit of alcohol to have in your blood and drive is zero!

It is not advisable to even have one drink and drive as alcohol impairs your judgement and lessens your reflexes. The official amount of alcohol is 35 microgrammes per 100ml of breath reading, this cannot be translated into an exact amount of units as it depends on many factors, height and weight, the time when last drink was consumed etc, so the best advice is not to drink at all or to order a taxi.


You should report the person to the police or if you wish to do so anonymously via Crimestoppers (Please see the Crimestoppers website in Related Information). The information that the police require before they can act is the registration number of the vehicle involved, the person's name, description and if possible the address and details of any regular journeys that this person makes e.g. every Thursday night at approximately 2330hrs B leaves the pub and drives the same route home.

With the information you have provided, the police can then potentially wait for the vehicle somewhere along that route to stop the car.


There are three offences that you could possibly be charged with:

  • Drive a motor vehicle whilst over the permitted limit (OPL)
  • Attempt to drive a motor vehicle whilst OPL
  • In charge of a motor vehicle whilst OPL.

The third option may be the most relevant. You must show that there is no likelihood of you driving whilst you are over the limit, otherwise you will commit this offence.

It would depend on the circumstances in which you were found by the police that would determine which if any of the above charges would apply.


Sucking a copper coin or chewing gum will have no effect whatsoever on the breath test machine or on the results.


Yes, there is an offence of being in charge of a motor vehicle whilst being over the permitted limit. Each case would be judged on its own merits but the officers would be looking at

  • whether you had the keys for the vehicle
  • were you in the vehicle at the time
  • what were you doing at the time
  • whether there was anyone else in or near the vehicle
  • what evidence is there that you were intending to drive the vehicle


Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, you could still be over the legal limit the following morning and even into afternoon. Even if you feel fine and 'sober' it does not mean that you are not still over the legal limit.
There is no definitive answer as to when you would be under the legal limit as it depends on a lot of factors. Your body size and other factors in your genetic makeup affect this.

As a very rough guide for a healthy adult, ignoring the first hour you should deduct an hour for each unit of alcohol you consume. A unit is half a pint of normal strength lager/beer, a single measure of spirits or a standard glass of wine.

This is not a rule that should be relied upon but a warning as to how long alcohol can linger in your system and the possible consequences of driving the following day.
If you eat a meal whilst consuming alcohol this does help to soak up the alcohol and release it at a much slower rate (but eating much later after an evening of heavy drinking does not generally help).

However, lack of sleep and feeling unwell can affect your driving and there are other offences that you could commit if you drive after a heavy night out even if you are not over the limit.
You can purchase breathalysers, but we cannot recommend any brand or comment on how reliable they are.

If you are stopped the day after and are over the limit, you are classed as a drink driver and will face the same penalties. Ignorance of the alcohol level in your system is not a legal defence.


No, the police do not need any reason to stop any person driving a mechanically propelled vehicle or riding a pedal cycle on a road. The police can then require that you provide your name, date of birth (in certain circumstances), driving licence, insurance and MoT certificates. Failure to comply with any of these requirements is an offence.


If you take drugs and drive you may be guilty of the following offences:
  1. being unfit to drive through drink or drugs;
  2. being over the prescribed limit in relation to the levels of specified drugs in your blood – you can commit this offence even if your driving is unaffected by the drugs.
In relation to both offences, if the police suspect you have been taking drugs and you are driving, attempting to drive or are in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle (offence 1) or a motor vehicle (offence 2) on a road or public place, they have the power to require you to take a field impairment assessment or drug test.
A field impairment assessment consists of a series of tests e.g. touching the tip of your nose with the tip of your finger whilst your eyes are closed, that are designed to see if drugs are affecting your ability to drive properly.
A drugs test uses a specimen of sweat or saliva to detect the presence of drugs. If you – 
  • perform poorly in the field impairment test, or
  • give a positive drugs test, or
  • you fail/refuse to take either test and the police officer suspects drugs,
you can be arrested and taken to a police station.
At the police station, further tests and medical examinations may be carried out and you could ultimately be prosecuted for being:
  1. Unfit through drugs – note there are no lists of specified drugs or set levels in relation to this offence, but the police must prove that you are unfit to drive. Unfit means that your ability to drive properly is for the time being impaired.
  2. Over the prescribed limit in relation to specified drugs – note there are specified drugs and set levels in relation to this offence – see the table below.
 The table below specifies the controlled drugs and, in each case, the limit in blood for the offence of being over the prescribed limit in relation to specified drugs.
Controlled drug Limit (microgrammes per litre of blood)
Amphetamine 250
Benzoylecgonine 50
Clonazepam 50
Cocaine 10
Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol 2
Diazepam 550
Flunitrazepam 300
Ketamine 20
Lorazepam 100
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide 1
Methadone 500
Methylamphetamine 10
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine 10
6-Monoacetylmorphine 5
Morphine 80
Oxazepam 300
Temazepam 1000
The units of the thresholds are µg /L or micrograms per litre - it's important to realise that even relatively small amounts of the drugs can put you over the threshold. If you’re caught driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a vehicle with levels of illegal drugs above those shown in the table, you will commit an offence.
Unfit through drugs – in charge defence
It is a defence for a person to prove that at the time they are alleged to have committed the offence, there was no likelihood of them driving the vehicle while unfit. However, in determining whether there was such a likelihood, the court may disregard any injury to them and any damage to the vehicle.
Over the prescribed limit in relation to specified drugs – medical defence
It’s a defence for a person to prove that the:
  • drug was provided for medical or dental purposes;
  • drug was taken in accordance with any directions given by whoever prescribed the drug and in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions; and
  • possession of the drug immediately before taking it was not unlawful.
Over the prescribed limit in relation to specified drugs – in charge defence
It’s a defence for a person to prove that at the time they are alleged to have committed the offence the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of them driving the vehicle whilst the proportion of the specified controlled drug in their blood remained likely to exceed the specified limit for that drug. However, in determining whether there was such a likelihood, the court may disregard any injury to them and any damage to the vehicle.
If you’ve been prescribed medication that contains any of the drugs listed in the table or if you are unsure about whether your medication contains any of these drugs, you should talk to your doctor/dentist/health care professional about whether it's alright for you to drive – you can still drive after taking the medicinal drugs listed in table if:
  • you've been prescribed them and are following medical advice on how to take them;
  • they aren't causing you to be unfit to drive, even if you're above the specified limits.
Note that the police cannot give any advice on the dosage that would put you over the specified limits or how long after taking a drug you must wait before you a safe to drive. The reason for this is that there are just too many variables, everyone metabolises drugs differently and factors such as your height, weight and what you have had to eat will all play a part.
The penalties for drug driving are:
  • A minimum of a one year driving ban
  • An unlimited fine
  • Up to six months in prison
  • A criminal record


If a police constable reasonably suspects you are/have been driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or public road and:

  • You are under the influence of alcohol or drugs e.g. breath smells of alcohol, or
  • You have committed a moving traffic offence e.g. going through a red light, or
  • You have been involved in an accident

The PC can require that you take a preliminary breath test, field impairment test (FIT) or chemical drug test - PC must be in uniform to conduct these tests but not following an accident.

The police cannot stop a vehicle just to carry out a random breath test. They have to have a reasonable suspicion that the person has consumed alcohol or drugs. However, once the vehicle has been stopped for, perhaps, a routine check, this can be ascertained through the smell of alcohol, slurred speech or glazed eyes etc. Failure to comply with a request to carry out a breath test is an offence and the penalty is the same as if you had been convicted of being over the limit.


You can commit the offence of dangerous driving in one of two ways, either because:

  • the standard of your driving is very poor, or
  • your vehicle is in very bad condition

In relation to the standard of your driving, section 2A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 provides that you will be regarded as driving dangerously if:

  • the way you drive falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and
  • it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

It will be a matter for a court to decide whether your driving has fallen 'far below' the required standard but 'dangerous' refers to a danger of personal injury or of serious damage to property.

In relation to the condition of your vehicle, section 2A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 provides that a person is to be regarded as driving dangerously if it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its current state would be dangerous. The defects/condition must be able to be seen at first glance, otherwise they cannot be 'obvious'. However, if you drive knowing your vehicle has a serious defect, even if it is hidden, you can still commit the offence of dangerous driving.

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