The government has announced its intention to use new roadside breathalysers, in a move that could see a further 6,000 convictions per year for drink driving.
At the moment, the breath test procedure is carried out in 2 stages. A person who tests positive at the roadside will be arrested and taken to a police station for a further test to be administered. This is known as the ‘evidential test’ and is the one that forms the basis of any prosecution decision.
The gap in time between the first positive breath test and the one administered at the police station may be significant enough to ensure that a person blows a negative reading – this is due to falling alcohol levels over time (although in some cases the reverse can also happen).
While ‘back calculation’ tests can be carried out, the evidence base is such that they are seldom used for this scenario. Arguably, therefore, some drink drivers go free.
The legislation allowing for a definitive roadside evidential breath test procedure is already in place, but today the government has announced a competition aimed at device manufacturers, with the aim of ensuring that suitable devices are approved and in use by 2020.
Around 460,000 breath tests are conducted each year, with some 59,000 people providing a positive reading.
Approximately 6,000 people provide a positive reading at the roadside but are found to be under the limit when tested at the police station – this change will see those people prosecuted.
In many instances these will be people who have ‘gambled’ on the quick lunchtime drink or have not allowed quite enough time to sober up from the night before.
The changes will also reduce the scope for so-called ‘loophole defences’, popular due to the complexities of the police station procedure. It is expected that decades of case law will become redundant once the new devices have been rolled out. Experience tells us however, that as one legal challenge closes, another pops up!
The penalties for drink driving are severe, with minimum periods of disqualification, high financial penalties and punishing insurance premiums for many years to come. In many cases, offenders face the loss of employment. ‘One for the road’ often comes at a very high price.
How can we assist?
We are experts in all aspects of drink and drug driving law. This is one of the most complex areas of criminal law, and early advice should be sought in order to achieve the best outcome. Contact John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email@example.com.Read More
It may be an offence to fail to provide information as the identity of a driver when you receive a written request to do so from (or on behalf of) the police. If convicted, you face a hefty fine and 6 penalty points.
How long do they have to make the request?
A request must normally be served within 14 days of the offence being committed. There is case law where because a postal strike delayed the mail and it was delivered after the 14-day period, the offence was not committed.
If you have any doubt as to whether the notice was served within the requisite time, please contact us for further advice. In some circumstances a valid request can be made after the 14-day period, so do not ignore a request simply because you believe it to be out of time – always seek legal advice.
How long do I have to reply?
From the date the notice is served you have 28 days to reply, or “as soon as practicable after the end of that period”.
Right against self-incrimination
A number of case have dealt with this issue and, put simply, it doesn’t matter, the requirement to identify the driver does not affect your human rights. The court has said “those who choose to keep and drive a car can be taken to have accepted certain responsibilities” and those include the obligation to provide information upon request as to the driver.
What if I really don’t know who was driving?
If you genuinely do not know who was driving, you may have a defence to an allegation of failing to provide driver information.
The defence is that you “could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained who the driver of the vehicle was”. You need, therefore, to make all reasonable enquiries to find out who the driver was, and you will still need to reply to the request, providing what assistance you can. Again, it is best to seek early legal advice as a recent case involving the former politician Lord Howard, has opened up a number of interesting legal arguments.
I did not receive the request and now I have been summonsed, what do I do?
You may have a defence to the allegation. Please contact us for further advice.
What if I provide false information?
It can be tempting to name a spouse, or even someone abroad, in the hope of avoiding penalty points. To do so would amount to perverting the course of justice – which almost always results in a prison sentence. Chris Huhne, a former cabinet minister and his wife, Vicky Pryce, found this out the hard way. So, don’t do it.
It is a defence to show that there was no record kept of the driver and that the failure to keep a record was reasonable. The notice can be served by sending it to a secretary or a clerk, at the registered or principal office. It may seem obvious, but a company cannot be given penalty points, so the penalty here would be a fine.
In certain circumstances proceedings can also be brought against company directors, so a company cannot be used as a shield against prosecution for this offence. If your company operates a company car pool it would be wise to ensure that you have robust procedures in place in order to track vehicle usage.
Public funding may be available for such a case, so please contact us for further information.
How we can assist
The law concerning requests for driver information can be complicated. This article is intended to give only a very brief overview of the issues involved.
If you have any concerns or simply to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or firstname.lastname@example.orgRead More