In England and Wales, around 750 people receive a drink driving ban every week. Nearly 4 out of 5 of those people later regret pleading guilty. Based on this, is it worth getting a solicitor for drink driving charges?
In short, yes. If the ability to drive is important to your life in any way, it is always worth at least talking to a specialist drink driving solicitor as soon as possible.
Remember that pleading guilty to drink driving comes with an automatic driving ban of at least 12 months. It can also come with a fine. For repeated offenders, you may get community service or even prison time.
But being found to be over the alcohol limit doesn't automatically mean you will be found guilty. That's where a drink driving lawyer comes in. Here's how it works:
Why do I need a solicitor for a drink driving offence?
It is important to understand that, thanks to years of government cuts, the UK court system is incredibly overworked. This means that the entire system – the police, the courts, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) – wants you to save everyone time and effort by pleading guilty.
Of course, this makes everyone's life simpler. You plead guilty. You get an automatic driving ban of a minimum of 12 months. Everyone moves on to their next case and you get to go home (walking or by bus) knowing you can't drive for the next year.
But the second thing it's important to understand is that your blood alcohol level often has little to do with whether you are found guilty or innocent.
At your first court hearing, the prosecution might not even produce any evidence against you. It costs money and time, so they try to avoid it.
This means that if you accept the ban right away, you may never even know if they actually had the evidence they needed to prosecute you.
Without legal expertise on your side, you will also never know whether there was a possible defence you could have used.
What can a specialist drink driving solicitor do for me?
The most important thing a specialist solicitor will do for you is explain all of your options, look at the evidence, and advise you as to the best way to proceed to get the best possible outcome.
This might involve:
- Checking statuary procedure has been followed (if there are errors, there may be grounds for having your case dismissed).
- Investigating the evidence against you (to make sure it was gathered legally and correctly shows your alcohol level).
- Forcing the CPS to disclose the evidence against you (costing them time and money and potentially leading to disclosures that there are weaknesses in that evidence).
- Exploring any so-called “special reasons” for having your sentence mitigated or dismissed.
- Structuring a plea of mitigation if there is no other option than to plead guilty.
Do I need a solicitor if I have been caught drink driving?
A solicitor is exactly the person you need on your side if you have been caught drink driving. If you don't have a solicitor when you enter the police station, it's probably a good idea to exercise your right to remain silent until you do. Your solicitor can help you:
1) In the police station
The police should ask you if you want a solicitor present. You can request the free duty solicitor, but do not be surprised if they simply recommend that you plead guilty and suggest you might be able to mitigate your plea later.
One thing it is important to note – even if you do exercise your right to remain silent, you cannot refuse to give blood, breath, or urine samples. This can potentially be a separate crime in itself.
Your best bet will always be to find a specialist drink driving solicitor who can guide you in what to say and start to build your defence right from the very start.
2) In building your defence
If you aren't a legal expert, it is very difficult to know the options open to you. Without this, you basically have the options of “guilty” or “not guilty”.
Yet even if you have been caught drink driving, your best strategy might still be to plead not guilty. Equally, pleading guilty may be the only way. Only someone with expert legal knowledge of motoring law can determine this.
3) In court
The other place it is absolutely vital to have a solicitor represent you is in court.
You can represent yourself, of course, but this is a very risky proposition. Not only does it require someone who is good at public speaking, but there are also compulsory procedures to follow. Nor will a magistrate be “persuaded” by even the most charismatic individual if their defence is essentially a sob story.
However, with your best defence determined in advance and the ability to review all of the evidence against you and examine it for holes, a specialist solicitor will always be worth it for drink driving offences if you want the best possible chance of avoiding conviction.
Want to talk through your drink driving charge with an expert?
DFR Solicitors has extensive experience successfully defending our clients against drink driving convictions.