Drunk In Charge

Offence

Under s4 Road Traffic Act 1988, the prosecution must prove that the Defendant was driving or in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or public place whilst unfit through drink or drugs. The driver does not have to be in excess of the prescribed limit for a prosecution to succeed.

a) In Charge

The test that should be used in deciding if a defendant was in charge should involve considering:

  1. where the defendant was sitting;
  2. what he was doing;
  3. where the keys were; and
  4. whether there was any evidence of the defendant 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.

b) Whilst unfit

The Prosecution must introduce evidence of alcohol or drug consumption to the extent that it would have impaired a personís 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.

Penalties

10 points or a discretionary ban plus a fine of up to £1000.

3 months custody is a possible penalty.

Statutory Defence

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.

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