4 leaf clover made from hand cuffs with warning not to drink and drive

St Patrick’s Day

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

To those of you heading out to celebrate, have a good night and remember not to drive if you are planning to drink – maybe that sounds like strange advice from a solicitor who specialises in defending drink drivers?  I don’t think it is, because as solicitors our job is to ensure those who are accused of a crime receive the very best legal advice and representation when they are accused.  That doesn’t mean we are here to encourage anybody to put themselves or others at risk.

But, the truth is a lot of people commit offences unintentionally.  Very few drivers we represent went out planning to drink drive; most misjudge the amount of alcohol they can safely consume and remain under the drink driving limit.  That’s why we say not to drive if you plan to have anything to drink.  We also see a lot of people who wake up the morning after a night out, get behind the wheel feeling fine only to be stopped by police and discover they are over the limit.

Thames Valley Police have recently been celebrating the success of their Christmas drink driving campaign in which more than 300 people were arrested between 1 December 2015 and 1 January 2016.  Comments from individual officers in the run up to St Patrick’s Day suggest that police across Oxfordshire – indeed across the whole Thames Valley area – have been conducting a mini-drink driving campaign.  You can expect police officers to be on the look out for anybody they think might be drink driving throughout St Patrick’s Day and all over the weekend.  Don’t be surprised to see more officers than usual on the streets and a spike in drink driving arrests across the whole weekend.

We hope you don’t find yourself accused of a crime you never intended to commit, but if you do then do not hesitate to call us on 01869 866 490 for the best representation available from expert and experienced drink driving solicitors.

Special reasons: a case study

The following is a case study based upon news reports, the subject of this story was NOT represented by Oxford Drink Driving Solicitor

According to news reports this week, Alan Otterburn appeared at court in Norwich accused of drink driving.  He told the court he had received an urgent call to get to the hospital quickly as his mother had just hours to live.  He rushed to see her, but was stopped by the police for speeding and they quickly realised he had been drinking.

Man accused of drink driving blows into a hand held breathalyser

Special reasons can save a driving licence if you blow over the drink driving limit

He was arrested and at the police station was found to have 82 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, which is well over double the drink driving limit of 35µg per 100ml.

At court he pleaded guilty and asked the court to take the circumstances into account as a special reason.  If the court agreed this was a special reason it would mean that the judge would no longer be required to disqualify Mr Otterburn from driving.

So, what is a special reason?  Lord Goddard was asked to decide this question in 1946 and, presumably having better things to do with his time, decided to adopt a definition from Northern Ireland, which is: “… a mitigating or extenuating circumstance, not amounting in law to a defence to the charge, yet directly connected with the commission of the offence.”

We can see that Mr Otterburn’s explanation for drink driving is a mitigating or extenuating circumstance.  It is not a defence in law to drink driving and it is directly connected with the commission of the offence – had he not received the call he would not have been driving.  So, on the face of it Mr Otterburn has a special reason to avoid disqualification.  However, District Judge Peter Veits ruled against Mr Otterburn finding that there was no special reason and thus that he was obliged to disqualify him from driving.

Given that Mr Otterburn’s explanation fulfils the requirements for a special reason why then did the district judge find against him?  The answer to that lies in the evidence given by Mr Otterburn and the case of R v George John Baines, which was decided in 1970.

In Baines case, he argued that he should not be disqualified as he had only driven to help his wife’s elderly mother who had run out of petrol after midnight and a long way from home.  Mr Baines came unstuck because he failed to consider whether there might be another way he could help his mother-in-law that did not involve him drink driving.  The court will only grant a special reason where driving is the only option, Mr Baines lost his case.

Rows of taxis waiting at a taxi rank

If you claim special reasons the court will want to know why you could not use some other form of transport

46 years after Mr Baines lost his case through his failure to think through his options, Mr Otterburn gave evidence telling District Judge Veits that, “I didn’t think about getting a taxi.”  The news report goes on to say that he did not think he could use public transport nor get a lift from a neighbour, the suggestion being that no effort was made to discover whether he could have travelled to the hospital by another means.

The moment the court heard that there had been no real exploration of other options Mr Otterburn’s case was doomed to fail in the very same way Mr Baines case had done nearly half a century before.

I am sure that Mr Otterburn’s solicitor advised him about the likelihood of his winning the special reasons hearing based on his instructions, but this case shows why it is so vital that solicitors have a strong grasp of the law when they appear in drink driving cases.