Drunk in charge

You may think that “sleeping it off” in your car is a perfectly legal thing to do but you could face a serious prosecution of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle. The good news is that the drunk in charge offence is not as serious as the related offence of drink driving and there is no mandatory 12 month ban although a ban it's not out of the question for this offence. There is a fairly significant mandatory minimum penalty of 10 penalty points which, if convicted, could lead you to being banned under the "totting up" procedures if you have 3 points or more already on your licence.
To secure a conviction for being drunk in charge, the Crown must prove that you were in charge of a motor vehicle in a public place whilst unfit or over the prescribed limit of alcohol.

In charge

When determining whether you were in charge of the vehicle the Court will take into account the following issues:


  1. Where you were sitting;
  2. What you were doing;
  3. Where the keys were; and
  4. Whether there was any evidence of you having an intention to take control of the vehicle.

Being asleep at the wheel of a car with the key in the ignition could be found to be drunk in charge.


Whilst unfit

The Prosecution must introduce evidence of alcohol or drug consumption to the extent that it would have impaired a person’s ability to drive. This can be done by producing evidential breath, blood or urine test results but is commonly achieved by introducing evidence about the manner of driving.

But I was only sat in my car and I didn’t intend to drive! 

Unlike many other criminal allegations where it is down to the CPS to prove you have committed an offence, with the offence of being drunk in charge if you intend to defend the allegation it is up to the accused to prove that you had no intention of driving the vehicle.  These defences are referred to as "statutory defences". There is a statutory defence available to the offence under s 4 and 5 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Section 4

The defendant must prove that it was more likely than not that he would not have driven so long as he remained unfit to do so in which case, he is not considered to be in charge.

Section 5

The defendant must prove that it was more likely than not that he had no intention of driving whilst the level of alcohol in his breath, blood or urine remained above the prescribed limit in which case, he is not considered to be in charge.

With the driver who sleeps it off in their car, there is always a risk that the police may allege that they would have driven when awake but still over the limit.

Fighting the allegation 

Our specialist team of lawyers and experts will review all of the evidence against you and advise you of the strengths and weaknesses of the case. We may be able to secure your acquittal if we can prove that you had no intention of driving the vehicle, there has been an inaccurate breath reading or if there is a technical defence. 

Pleading Guilty 

Take a look at the penalty pdf for more details of the possible punishments for this offence that range from some or all of the following:

  • A fine;

  • A community order;

  • A minimum of 10 penalty points; or

  • A disqualification period of up to 12 months.

If you plan on pleading GUILTY to the offence of careless driving it is important to have a specialist representative to ensure that the Court imposes the lowest penalty possible especially if you are at risk of being disqualified.

Not Sure What to Do?

Most people who get in touch with our team of motor offence expert solicitors are uncertain of their options. They are unaware of any legal defences that may be available and find it difficult to believe that it might be possible to defend the drunk in charge offence by using loopholes that apply to the rich and famous! We do represent celebrities but we also represent many hardworking motorists like Brian and we want to help you make the right choice about what you do next.

We are always more than happy to chat things through with potential clients Free of Charge. Call us now on Freephone 0800 085 2784 to speak to one of our specialist motoring offence solicitors. It is only once you decide to instruct us that payment will become necessary and we can often arrange instalment plans to assist you. Many satisfied clients have thanked us for offering this free consultation service as it has prevented them from following inaccurate non-expert advice which could have led to them accepting a driving ban unnecessarily.

If you would like to spend more time browsing on the site before you get in touch, make sure you have a look at our specialist motor offence guidance features such as our penalty calculator which will help you to determine the penalty you may face if convicted and our money saving calculator which helps to outline some of the hidden costs of accepting a conviction.

We think we are simply the best in the business but if you are not satisfied in taking our word for it, our unique “ref me” testimonials scheme allows you to contact previous clients of the firm to seek a completely independent reference about us and what we might be able to do for you.

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