Understanding Drink Drive Penalties – ShenSmith Barristers



It’s an offence under section 4(1) of the Road Traffic Action 1988 (“RTA 1998”) for a person to drive, or attempt to drive mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place, while unfit to drive through drink or drugs.

So what’s driving?

99 out of 100 times, there is no issue; but what if you’re pushing the car? Then it’s a question of fact for the court, as to the degree, and extend to control of the movement and the direction of the travel of the vehicle. For example, if someone is pushing a car, it might be held to be driving; it could depend on whether or not his hand was on the steering wheel through the window as he pushed it, and so on and so forth.

What’s the definition of a mechanically propelled vehicle?

Well, that includes a car, a motor bike, a tractor and so on.

What about a road or other public place?

Well, a road includes any road or other public high way, including bridges. For example:

  • a pub car park during opening hours, and sometimes afterwards would be a public place.

  • A place to which the public has access, such as a pub festival car park, the fields that would be a public place.

What is a private place?

Well, that might be your own garden or drive.

What is “Unfit to drive?”

What does that mean? How is that assessed? Well, for example, if an officer saw somebody swerving from one side of the road to the other for no apparent reason, that could be used to support the inference the drive was unfit to drive.

What’s the penalty for driving whilst unfit?

Well, the penalties include:

  • 6 months prison;

  • an unlimited fine;

  • disqualification from driving for a minimum of 12 months is obligatory, unless the court finds especial reasons exit. And if the court doesn’t disqualify, then it would still endorse between 3 and 11 penalty points on your driving licence.