Drink Driving - What Happens if You Are Stopped by The Police?
The human consequences of drink driving are obvious: the loss of life and devastation that it can cause is illustrated by hard-hitting adverts that we see on our radio and TV screens every Christmas time. However many people aren’t as aware of the legal ramifications that people who drink and drive face.
Who Can the Police Stop for a Breath Test?An officer in uniform can stop and request a Breath Test from any person who is driving, or attempting to drive, who is in charge of a vehicle that is on the road or in a public place such as a car park or a petrol station, if any of the following points apply:
- The police officer has a reasonable reason to think that you are committing or have committed a moving traffic offence, or
- Upon stopping the driver for an unrelated reason, the officer has reason to suspect that the person who is in charge of the vehicle has consumed alcohol, or
- The police officer suspects (with reasonable cause) that the driver has been driving a vehicle that has been involved in an accident.
I’ve Had the Test and the Result was Positive. What Will Happen Now?If the test is positive, you refuse or cannot give a sample; you will be arrested and taken to the police station where you will usually be required to provide the police with 2 samples of your breath that will then be analysed using the police equipment. If when tested the samples are different, the lower reading will be the one that they rely on – however if this or both readings are over the limit then you will be charged with committing an offence.
Contrary to popular belief you do not have a right to insist on supplying a sample of blood or urine instead. If you do not supply the police with a specimen of your breath and a reasonable excuse for not doing so, you will have committed an offence. Don’t think that by acting up you’ll get away with it either because being too drunk to supply a specimen is not an acceptable excuse. If you suffer from asthma or another medical condition which means that you cannot breathe strongly enough into the machine to get a sufficient sample, then this may be acceptable – but you MUST tell the police officers about this condition at the time, rather than rely on it later.
The Police are Asking for my Blood – Why?As an alternative to the breath test, the police can ask for a blood or urine sample if
- They are having problems with their automatic measuring device or it is not available, or
- They have taken medical advice that your condition maybe as a result of drug-taking, or
- The police are satisfied that there is a medical reason that you should not or cannot provide a breath sample.
What Happens After the Test Results?As mentioned earlier, the police will rely on the lower of your breath tests taken at the station to determine the levels of alcohol in your blood. If this test is 39 micrograms or below, then you should be released with either a caution or no charges made. If the test comes out at between 40-50 micrograms, then you must be offered the opportunity to provide an alternative specimen of either blood or urine. You can specify which you prefer but the police will choose which one they offer you. They cannot take a blood sample without your consent but if you refuse to allow them to take one they can rely on the breath sample they took earlier.
Every person in this situation has the right to ask for a second sample to be taken. Always take advantage of this.
If you are Found to be Over the Limit
- You will have the charge read out to you and you will be cautioned that anything you say may be used later as evidence against you.
- You will be given a Charge Sheet, asked to sign it and then be given a copy.
- It is likely that you will be bailed at this point and advised to attend Court on the date and time specified. Although you are free to drive until the date of your court hearing, you will usually not be allowed to drive from the police station.