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Driving With Excess Alcohol

Driving with excess alcohol, often called ‘Drink Driving’, is one of the most common offences before the Magistrates Court. We know that the consequences of being convicted of the drink drive offence can have serious effects, not just upon yourself, but also on your family.

The table below sets out the sentencing guidelines for a first time offender convicted of drink driving:

Level of Alcohol (Breath/mg) Likely Disqualification Likely other Punishment


12-16 months



17-22 months



23-28 months

Community Order


29-36 months

12 weeks custody


This month we see an introduction of new procedures and testing to assist in prosecuting people who are unfit to drive because of their use of either illegal or prescription drugs.

A new testing machine, which works on saliva rather than breath, is being rolled out nationwide to assist the Police in detecting drivers with too high a concentration of restricted substances in their bodies.  Anyone whose driving has become impaired because of the use of prohibited drugs or prescription drugs is at risk.

A drink driver can avoid prosecution with anything up to 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of blood.  Although the test is a saliva test, a drug driver would be at risk with an equivalent of just over 20 micrograms of prohibited or prescription drugs in their bodies.

Maximum Penalties

The penalties are decided by the magistrate who will hear your case and then decide on an appropriate punishment due to the circumstances of your case.

Offence Prison Sentence Driving Ban Fine
Being in charge of a vehicle whilst above the legal limit or unfit through alcohol 3 Months Discretionary £2,500

Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through alcohol

6 Months

At least 1 year

(3 years if convicted twice in 10 years)

Refusing to provide a specimen for blood, breath or urine for examination

6 Months 1 Year £5,000
Causing death by dangerous driving when under the influence of alcohol 14 Years 2 Years Unlimited

At QS Brennans we understand that drink or drug driving can often simply be a misjudgment of  alcohol intake, or a timing issue, if, for example, driving the next day. Therefore we can review your detailed paperwork and offer advice as to whether you may have a defence. The sentencing guidelines for the offence concentrate on the level of the alcohol reading. Our experience tells us that other factors can have a great impact on the length of driving disqualification, fine or other punishment the court sentences you to.

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