Can you go to prison for Drink Driving? Free Legal Advice | M.A.J Law Solicitors

Prison England

Will you go to jail for drink driving? 

Drink driving is an imprisonable offence. It is so serious that every person convicted of drink driving is at risk of immediate custody. The magistrates have the power to impose a prison sentence of up to 6 months for a single drink driving offence (more for multiple offences). 

Drink Driving Ban Calculator

Our DUI ban calculator will give you an idea of sentence. Please remember that every drink driving case is different. 

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

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What type of sample did you provide?

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What was the level reading for ?

What happens in prison for drink driving?

If the court impose a custodial sentence, you'll be sent straight to prison in the "sweat box" (a prison van full with other offenders). If you think you're at risk of jail time, make sure you take an overnight bag to court. We recommend taking a change of underwear and toiletries. 

When you get to jail, you'll be strip searched by prison guards to ensure you're not concealing any prohibited items.  All prisons work on rigid timetables. When you first get to prison you'll be given a prison number. This number will stay the same even if you're moved to another prison. It allows prison staff to keep track of you and your belongings. Prisoners who follow the rules can earn privileges. This could either be more frequent visits from family or friends and being allowed to spend more money each week. You will spend the first two weeks of your sentence in the 'induction wing'. 

After processing you'll be given the opportunity to make a phone call. This call will last a maximum of two minutes and there is no way to receive a call back. If the call goes through to answer message this will still count and you will not get another call.

Inmates typically spend 23 hours a day in a cell no bigger than a parking-space and with no contact with the outside world. Most prisons are overcrowded meaning you may be required to share your cell with another prisoner. You will have to agree with your cell mate which bed/bunk and cupboard space is yours. There are often violent disputes about this. Prison guards will not disclose what offence your cell mate is in prison for. Nearly one-third of all prisoners are there for violent crimes. You will also have to agree a cleaning rota with your cell mate. Most cells are filthy because of the high turnover the prisoners.

Research by the Samaritans found that suicide rates in UK prisons were four-times higher than in general society.

Can I go to prison for drink driving?

Yes. You can go to prison for up to six months for drink driving. You are more likely to go to prison for drink driving if one or more of the following aggravating features apply;

  • Your alcohol reading was high
  • You were involved in a car accident
  • There is evidence of bad driving
  • You have previous motoring convictions (click to view our blog on previous convictions) 
  • There were passengers in the vehicle 
  • You are charged with other criminal offences.   

This is not an exhaustive list and you can still go to prison without these factors. Please remember that every drink driving case is different. The quickest way to find out if you'll go to prison is to speak to a solicitor. We can tell you within minutes if a custodial sentence is likely in your case. You can call for free legal advice on 01514228020.

Case Example

Lisa is charged with drink driving. She was involved in a car accident and provided a breath reading of 121ug. Lisa chose to attend court without a solicitor and received a 12 week custodial sentence. She serves 6 weeks and is released on licence. 

What are the chances of me going to prison for drink driving?

If you provide a breath reading of 120ug and above, the starting point for the court when considering sentence is 12 weeks imprisonment. Your chances of a custodial sentence are increased if you are involved in an accident. The court will determine any aggravating factors and assess your 'culpability' - your blameworthiness when determining the sentence. If you have any previous convictions for drink driving, you are more likely to be sent to prison. 

If you think you might be at risk of a prison sentence, make sure you take a specialist solicitor to court. Drink driving cases are extremely technical and may not be as straightforward as you think. 

Many years ago I was sat in court waiting for my case to get called on. Another gentleman was sat in the dock whilst his solicitor addressed the court. I realised quite quickly that the solicitor had incorrectly advised the magistrates about the length of the driving ban. When the magistrates left the court room to deliberate on sentence I spoke to the legal advisor. I explained my concerns and the legal advisor agreed! I managed to reduce the sentence from three years to nine months! It wasn't even my client! The defendant had witnessed what had happened and thanked me before he left the court room! This is one example of why an experienced, specialist solicitor can make a difference.

- Conor Johnstone

What category of prison will I go to?

There are four categories of prison ranging from A - D. All prisoners, including drink-drivers are classed as Category B prisoners to start with. Prisoners are then categorised based on their behaviour whilst serving time in prison. Drink driving offences tend to carry a shorter sentence, so anyone sent to prison for drink driving will likely remain as a category B prisoner for the duration of their sentence. This means harsher conditions and more time behind a cell door. According to, prisoners can be transferred to another prison of a different category at any time. Typical category B offences include:

  • Robbery with a firearm
  • Murder
  • Serious / racially aggravated assaults
  • Some sexual offences
  • Firearms offences

How long will I go to prison for?

The Magistrates' Court can send someone to prison for up to 6 months. If you are sentenced to 6 months in prison for drink driving, you will likely serve half of your sentence, but this is ultimately decided by the Magistrates' or Judge. You will be given a determinate prison sentence. A determinate prison sentence is where the court sets a fixed length for the prison sentence. If an offender is sentenced to two years in prison, for example, that is the maximum time the offender could spend in custody, but they will not necessarily spend the whole of this time in prison. You may be released on licence for the remainder of your sentence once you have served half of your sentence. Any offence committed whilst out of prison on licence will usually mean an immediate recall to prison to serve the remainder of your sentence. 

What does being 'on licence' actually mean?

Most people are released from prison on licence. This means they must comply with certain licence conditions. Licence conditions are the set of rules prisoners must follow if they are released from prison but still have a part of their sentence to serve in the community. The aim of a period on licence is to protect the public, to prevent re-offending, and to secure the successful reintegration of the individual back into the community. They are not a form of punishment and must be proportionate, reasonable and necessary ( 

    An offender must:

  • (a) be of good behaviour and not behave in a way which undermines the purpose of the licence period;
  • (b) not commit any offence;
  • (c) keep in touch with the supervising officer in accordance with instructions given by the supervising officer;
  • (d) receive visits from the supervising officer in accordance with instructions given by the supervising officer;
  • (e) reside permanently at an address approved by the supervising officer and obtain the prior permission of the supervising officer for any stay of one or more nights at a different address;
  • (f) not undertake work, or a particular type of work, unless it is approved by the supervising officer and notify the supervising officer in advance of any proposal to undertake work or a particular type of work;
  • (g) not travel outside the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man except with the prior permission of your supervising officer or for the purposes of immigration deportation or removal.

If you breach licence conditions you can be recalled to prison immediately to serve the remainder of the sentence. Your probation officer will look at your case and the explanation you give for breaching your conditions. They might give you a warning or they might decide to send you back to prison. This depends upon the seriousness of the breach and whether you've committed any further offences. If your probation officer thinks you should go back to prison, they’ll ask the Ministry of Justice to take you in. This decision can be taken very quickly - in some cases, the decision can be taken within two hours. You’ll be arrested and taken straight to prison. This would usually be your local prison, not necessarily the one you were released from.

If you committed another criminal offence while you were out on licence, you’ll go to court for that offence. If you’re found guilty, the new sentence will be added on to your old sentence.

Drink Driving Sentences

How do I avoid a prison sentence?

If the court want to send you to prison, it can be difficult to avoid. An early guilty plea may reduce the length of your prison sentence by one-third, but you may still go to prison. An early-guilty plea will not necessarily reduce the risk of prison (only the length of time you spend in jail). That being said, you don't have to plead guilty and you may have a defence to drink driving. You can raise a technical drink driving defence even if you have provided a high breath reading in police custody. We deal with defences which are specific to drink driving on a daily basis. Personal reasons or 'mitigation' rarely succeed in avoiding a prison sentence. This is because of the Sentencing Guidelines which are in place for drink driving. The Magistrates' or Judge have no other option but to send you to prison if your breath, blood or urine alcohol level is excessively high. It's important that you obtain legal advice if you are worried about being sent to prison, as you may have a defence or a 'special reason' without realising.

Some of the most common drink driving defences includes;

  1. The statutory warning was not given to you
  2. The alcohol level is incorrect
  3. You were not seen driving the vehicle or you consumed alcohol after driving 
  4. The CPS fail to provide the correct evidence against you 

Can I get a suspended prison sentence for drink driving?

If the court feel that there are circumstances which mean that you should not be sent to prison, they can suspend the prison sentence. A suspended prison sentence is the term given to a prison sentence imposed by the court, and then suspended (ie 'delayed'). The court may decide to delay the prison sentence to allow the defendant a period of probation, or to undertake treatment for an addiction, or to meets conditions in the community. Assuming the person successfully completes the sentence without issue, they will not be sent to prison. 

Suspended sentences are more common than in the past because prisons are chronically overcrowded and underfunded. It is also much cheaper for the state to impose a suspended prison sentence than to be responsible for your care in custody. That being said, some drink driving offences are too serious for a suspended sentence. Before sending you to prison, the magistrates are required to consider whether a suspended sentence is appropriate. Your solicitor will also be given an opportunity to make representations to the court (in an attempt to persuade the magistrates not to send you down). It is critically important that your solicitor is properly prepared for the hearing, understands the sentencing guidelines and has gathered the appropriate evidence of mitigation (i.e. references, a personal statement, proof of employment). Your solicitor can also agree a 'basis' with the CPS upon which the court will sentence you. The CPS may agree to downplay the seriousness of the offence in return for a guilty plea.

Second drink driving offence? 

Lots of our clients have previous drink and drug driving convictions. We are often asked about the risk of imprisonment where a person has previous convictions. For obvious reasons, the magistrates are more likely to send you to jail if you have been convicted of similar driving offences in the past, particularly if those offences were recent (i.e. within the last 10 years).

We have produced a dedicated 'second offence' page to provide further information on this. If you have any questions about previous convictions, please get in touch. 

Drink Driving Prison Sentence

Drink driving prison FAQ's 

Can my family visit me in prison?

Yes, but not straight away. You will spend some time in processing before you enter the general prison population. This can take up to two weeks. Many prison describe being 'lost in the system' during this time whilst they wait for a call and prison number. Until you have this information, your family cannot call you or send you money. A convicted prisoner is usually allowed at least two 1-hour visits every 4 weeks.

Will the court send me to prison if I have children to look after?

The court will take into account your personal circumstances before sending you to jail. If a prison sentence would have a disproportionate impact on children, they may suspend your sentence. If the offence is too serious for a suspended prison sentence, you will go to jail. Social Services will step in to care for children at home (assuming you don't have family who can care for children). In some cases, children are put into care. 

Drink Driving Prison Video

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M.A.J Law are a specialist team driving defence solicitors. We believe that every motorists has the right to independent legal advice. For that reason, we offer every motorist free specialist initial advice no matter what your circumstances.