If you refuse to provide a specimen of breath without a reasonable excuse, you may be found guilty of an offence. This can lead to harsh penalties, including a driving disqualification. If this has happened to you, please contact us now at Ashmans Solicitors.
Do I have to provide a specimen of breath?
If you are suspected of driving while over the legal alcohol limit, the police are entitled to request a specimen of breath from you. This involves blowing into a breathalyser device. If you refuse to blow into the machine – or you repeatedly fail to provide a sufficient sample – then you can actually be charged with the offence of ‘refusing to provide a sample’. This can be punished by up to six months’ imprisonment and a driving disqualification.
What if I have a reasonable excuse?
The only time you can refuse a breath test is if you have a reasonable excuse. Usually, this is a medical condition which means you cannot adequately fulfil the task. This includes:
- Injuries to the mouth, lip or face
- Tracheostomy, rib or chest injury
- Respiratory issues, such as asthma
- Lung disease
- Neurological problems such as facial palsy
- Severe alcohol intoxication
- Short stature (as odd as this might seem, there is an important 1993 study on this point)
If you have a reasonable excuse for refusing to provide a sample of breath, then the charges against you must be dropped.
There are also special rules regarding breath tests for vulnerable detainees. This includes minors and vulnerable adults, such as those with mental health issues or cognitive difficulties.
If a police officer wants to perform a breath test on a vulnerable detainee, then an appropriate adult must be present. This must be someone who ‘is independent of the police authorities, and is able both to safeguard the welfare of the detained person and to provide him with an independent perspective.’
Without the help of an appropriate adult, the detainee might not understand the nature of the police request or the implications of failing to comply with the request. This would mean that the detainee cannot be found guilty of refusing to provide a specimen. After all, he or she did not comprehend the situation – which is the very essence of the charge.
This point is often missed by custody sergeants, who do not want to wait for an appropriate adult to arrive because it would delay a breath test procedure. However, if a vulnerable detainee is subject to a breath test, the fact that an appropriate adult was not present could be the key to the accused’s defence.
There are various legal and medical factors that must be considered when someone is charged with failing to provide a specimen. That is why you must have an experienced motor offence solicitor on your side.
At Ashmans Solicitors, we have considerable expertise in defending all manner of road traffic allegations. We understand the critical interplay between law and medicine, which is often a feature of these cases. If you have been charged with failing to provide a specimen, contact us now for a free initial enquiry.
You can call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.