Do I need a solicitor for drink driving?


If you’re facing drink driving charges without a specialist solicitor, pleading guilty may seem like the only option. For the courts, a guilty plea saves a lot of time and effort. And for your everyday solicitor settling for mitigation, the same applies. But at M.A.J Law, we know there’s another way.

Can a solicitor actually help me for drink driving?

All you need to know about drink driving lawyers and what they do...

A recent survey found that 78% of all those who pleaded guilty to drink driving later regretted that decision. It's not surprising to see why...

Don't expect the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to provide any evidence against you at the first court hearing. The Police, CPS, Court - practically everyone - wants you to 'go guilty' and take a ban. It's no secret that the Criminal Justice System is overworked and underfunded. Court administration is moving slower than ever. If a defendant pleads not guilty it adds to those already unmanageable delays. The CPS hate it. 

Most of my time is spent in court representing clients charged with serious driving offences. I will often find myself in court speaking with newly qualified clueless prosecutors wondering why my client is pleading guilty. Remember the alcohol reading has nothing to do with guilty or innocence. Take a look at some of the best drink driving defences of 2021.

You will know by now that drink driving carries a mandatory driving ban. If you plead guilty at your first court hearing you'll receive an on the spot ban, guaranteed. You can't even drive home. If you drive whilst disqualified, you usually go to prison. You can use the penalty calculator below to worth out the length of the ban.

Video - Why you shouldn't represent yourself 

Drink driving penalties

The first question most people ask themselves is ‘what ban will I get for drink driving?’ This is an important question because the answer highlights exactly why you shouldn’t plead guilty.

On conviction, you’ll receive a minimum 12-month disqualification and a financial drink driving penalty. The length of the disqualification is determined by how much you’re over the limit. But for repeat offenders, or more serious cases, you could be handed a community order or a prison sentence. Pleading guilty in court will lead to the immediate driving ban, meaning you won’t even be able to drive home.

The drink driving legal limits in England and Wales are black and white;

● 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath

● 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100ml of blood

● 107 milligrammes of alcohol in 100ml of urine

But even if you’re over the limit, you could still be found not guilty if the proper legal procedures and evidential compliance is not followed.

To help you avoid being charged with drink driving, it’s useful to know how the human body eliminates alcohol. Many people caught drink driving actually consumed alcohol the night before – and may not realise it is still in their system.

The rate at which you absorb alcohol (depending on weight, age, sex and metabolism, stress levels and recent food consumption) determines how long it will stay in your system. Leaving extra time before driving is always advisable, especially after heavy drinking.

Drink Driving Ban Calculator

Calculate the length of your driving ban using our penalty calculator tool. 

Step 1 of 3

Have you been convicted of drink driving within the last 10 years?

Step 2 of 3

What type of sample did you provide?

Step 3 of 3

What was the level reading for ?

I can understand why people regret the decision to plead guilty. Sat at home a week later unable to drive for the next year (or more), wondering if the CPS even had the evidence they needed. What if they didn't? What if you had a defence without realising? These are important questions that should be considered before you step foot in court. These questions may help save your driving licence. 

On average, 750 people per week are banned for drink driving on roads in England and Wales. This is a significant number and it's only increasing. The ones that choose to challenge the allegation may just slip through the net. 

M.A.J Law offer free initial advice to anyone charged with drink driving. We can explain your options in detail from the outset.

Drink Driving Sentencing Guidelines

Breath Blood Urine Disqualification
36 - 59 81 - 137 108 - 183 12 - 16 month
60 - 89 138 - 206 184 - 274 17 - 22 month
90 - 119 207 - 275 275 - 366 23 - 28 month
120 - 150 > 276 - 345 367 - 459 29 - 36 month

If you have a previous drink or drug driving or failed to provide within the past 10 years the minimum disqualification is 3 years. The Drink Driving Rehabilitation Course will reduce the length of ban by 25%.

What about special reasons?

Even if you don't have a defence you may have a special reason (not to disqualify). You can read more about special reasons here.

What can a solicitor do for drink driving?

To start with, we're on your side. Unfortunately, many solicitors - especially your 'general crime' solicitors - have no interest in challenging driving cases. Instead they will advise you to plead guilty and present mitigation. In my view, this is a lazy attitude. Hire a solicitor that wants to fight your corner. 

It is possible that you might have a defence without knowing. Wouldn't you expect your solicitor to tell you?

I prefer to take an 'all options' approach - checking the evidence as we go. My experience has taught me never to take evidence at face value. Just because a document says you're guilty does not mean that you are. A drink driving defence can fall into one of the following categories;

  1. Procedure
    Do you recall 25 page booklet and were you told the test was optional?
  2. Legal
    Was the evidence gathered lawfully and can it be used in court?
  3. Evidential
    Have the CPS complied with its statutory disclosure obligations? 
  4. Technical 
    Is the alcohol level correct and what evidence have you seen to prove it? 

You might be staring at your bail sheet wondering what to do. You may even have a date to attend court. Court can be scary (it's designed to be!). We have produced a detailed booklet about first hearings in the Magistrates' Court. You can review this here

There is nothing wrong with pleading guilty. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with pleading not guilty - even if you're over the legal limit. Let me give you an example of how we win cases.

Case Example 

Stephen was charged with drink driving. He called me at 9:38am on the Sunday morning overwhelmed with the fear and anxiety of losing his job and being labelled a criminal. I explained that we could help. This was Stephen's first drink driving offence so, naturally, he was worried. He asked me about the penalties, what to say in court and about drink driving solicitor fees. 

In court, we raised only two defences. Firstly - the accuracy of the breath test procedure and, second, the reliability of the breath test results. These are common defence must be approached in the correct way. Ultimately it always comes down to prosecution disclosure. In summary, the CPS must by law serve certain items. This includes, for example, witness statements and procedural booklets. Due to ongoing administration problems and staffing shortages, the CPS fail to comply. Evidence is routinely served late - often days before trial.

As expected - in Stephen's case - the CPS had failed to serve the correct disclosure. In an attempt to 'set the CPS up to fail' we made a Section 8 application to force disclosure (knowing full well the CPS wouldn't comply).

Long story short the CPS failed to serve the evidence required to prove the case against Stephen. As a result, the Court would not allow the Crown to rely on the evidence at trial. Despite 5 police officers attending trial to give evidence, we won the case. 

Stephen was well over the limit but avoided a conviction. The performance of the CPS in this case is not unusual. MAJ Law would estimate that in over 82% of cases dealt with so far in 2021, the CPS has not disclosed the correct evidence in time. 

The best drink driving defences of 2021

Thinking of pleading guilty?

Mitigation doesn't do a great deal in drink or drug driving cases. You're getting banned if you plead guilty. If you want to read more about mitigation, click here. That said, mitigation may help you avoid the more serious penalties like community service or prison. our mitigation page contains some example character references that can be used as templates. 

Our Case Studies take a look a real cases involving real people. You may also be interested in reading about court hearings in the Magistrates' Court and Sentencing Guidelines. You can also view our case studies page for more information.

Expert legal support from M.A.J Law

M.A.J Law recognises that there’s nothing wrong with pleading guilty. In this circumstance,

we can seek to reduce the ban and/or penalties through expert mitigation. But it’s important to understand that this isn’t your only option. We can help you explore other avenues, and potentially remove the ban entirely.

As for drink driving solicitor fees, our initial advice is completely free. If you’d like us to take on your case, we set fixed fees that are charged in stages, so you never pay for work that isn’t necessary. To find out more about how we can help you, contact us directly or request a callback today.​

A Summary of Recent Cases – Marcus A Johnstone

A Summary of Recent Cases – Marcus A Johnstone

How to win the 'unwinnable' cases...

Drink Driving – Your First Court Hearing

Drink Driving – Your First Court Hearing

This booklet discusses a drink driving first court hearing - Is a solicitor necessary?

Drink Driving Sentencing Guidelines

Will you go to prison?

This booklet looks at the Magistrates' Court Sentencing Guidelines for drink driving

Next Steps: Please get in touch to discuss your case with a member of our team. You can use the contact form below or call 01514228020 for free initial advice. You can also use our drink driving ban calculator or check out our video series

07810 804 464

Useful Links;

Mind Mental Health Support 


NHS Drug Addition

Turning Point