You may be able to avoid a drink driving ban if you only intended to drive a very short distance. This is a special reason accepted by the courts.
If you have been charged with drink driving, please contact us at Ashmans Solicitors for free legal advice. We will provide an honest assessment of your case, explaining the options open to you.
I was only driving a short distance
Imagine the scenario: you’ve had a few drinks and are almost certainly over the legal limit. However, you realise then your car is parked on the street. If you do not move it, you risk getting a parking ticket. So, you find your car, get in the driver’s seat and start the engine. You only intend to move it 200 yards up the road to a free parking zone, but you are stopped by the police and breathalysed. The device shows that you are over the legal drink drive limit and you are charged. You now face a mandatory driving ban for at least 12 months, all because you drove your car round the block.
This sort of thing happens on a surprisingly regular basis. Not all stories are exactly the same, of course. You might have been moving your car from one car park to another, or from a car park onto the street, or from the street onto your driveway. You might even have been reversing or parking the vehicle for someone else who did not feel confident doing it themselves. Yet the fact remains the same: the police have caught you operating a vehicle while over the legal limit and are pursuing a prosecution.
If you are facing a similar situation, you might be wondering whether there is anything you can do.
Could you plead special reasons?
If you are charged with drink driving, we always recommend that you get expert legal advice. Our motoring defence solicitors represent clients across England and Wales. We can assess your case and advise how to proceed. The best-case scenario is that you have complete defence – meaning you have a defence that would see a not guilty verdict returned by the court. If not, you might be able to plead special reasons instead due to the short distance driven.
What are special reasons?
Special reasons are mitigating circumstances that would make it unfair or unjust to impose a 12-month driving ban, despite the fact that you are guilty of drink driving. This is an important point, so it is worth emphasising: special reasons involve you entering a guilty plea. Because of this, we recommend that you speak to our motoring offence solicitors before choosing this route. If you have a defence, then it would be better to enter a not guilty plea and argue your case in court.
However, if special reasons are the best option, then you will enter a guilty plea with special reasons. Section 34(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states:
(1) Where a person is convicted of an offence involving obligatory disqualification, the court must order him to be disqualified for such period not less than twelve months as the court thinks fit unless the court for special reasons thinks fit to order him to be disqualified for a shorter period or not to order him to be disqualified.
There are various ‘special reasons’ that would persuade the court not to disqualify an offender for 12 months, including:
- Fleeing from danger
- A genuine medical emergency
- Short distance driven
- Spiked drinks
Short distance driven
This article is concerned with the special reason of a short distance driven. In this situation, the court may decide to impose a shorter driving ban (or no driving ban) if you only intended to drive a very short distance. The key word here is ‘intended’. If you only drove a short distance because the police stopped you after 200 metres, but you intended to drive 20 miles to your home, then this does not count. The court wants to see that you would only have driven a short distance, regardless of whether or not you were stopped and breathalysed.
The court will take seven different factors into consideration when deciding whether you meet the special reasons/short distance driven criteria. These were set out in the 1986 case of Chatters v Burke. The court will look at:
- The distance driven
- The manner in which the vehicle was driven
- The state of the vehicle
- Whether the driver intended to go further
- The road and traffic conditions at the time
- Whether there was a possibility of danger by coming into contact with other road users or pedestrians
- The reason for driving
So, someone who moved their vehicle round the block in the dead of night to comply with parking regulations may be able to plead special reasons. However, someone who has been drinking in a bar all evening and gets in their car to drive home will not be able to successfully plead special reasons.
The importance of evidence
The court will want to see solid evidence that proves your plea of special reasons. It is not enough to say that you were just moving your car to another parking bay when the circumstances seem to point towards a different story. A motoring offence solicitor from our team can use witness testimony, online maps and street view to prove your case. We can also get a toxicology report that shows you would have been below the legal limit when you next intended to operate the vehicle.
Will I avoid a driving ban for short distance driven?
If the court accepts your special reasons argument on the basis that you drove a short distance, the Magistrates will either:
- Impose a driving ban that is shorter than the mandatory 12-month ban; or
- Decide not to impose a driving ban at all
Therefore, you will either avoid a driving ban, or you will get a shorter driving ban. You may still get a fine, even where special reasons are accepted by the court.
Contact Us and Act Now
If you have been caught drink driving but you were driving the vehicle a short distance, contact us to discuss a special reasons plea. We always provide an honest assessment. We can tell you how best to proceed in your case. Understandably, your priority will be to keep your driving licence and minimise the consequences as best as possible. We specialise in motoring defence law and will apply our expertise to get you the right result.
Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.