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Drink Driving Sentencing Guidelines: What You Need to Know

Driving while under the influence of alcohol is one of the most dangerous things you can do, and it is a crime. The penalties for drink driving are very severe in the UK, because it is not just bad for the driver, it can also cause serious accidents and endanger other people on the road. There are very strict sentencing guidelines for drink driving, so if you are involved in an incident, it is crucial to hire a solicitor who specialises in drink driving cases so that they can fight on your behalf.

In this article we will discuss why drink driving is so dangerous, what the legal drinking limits are before getting behind the wheel, and what sentence you can expect if you are caught drink driving.


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man drink driving

Why is Drink Driving So Dangerous?

Drink driving is very dangerous and it can have devastating consequences. Many road accidents are due to drink driving, and they cause a huge amount of injury and vehicle damage, and in the worst cases, can even lead to fatalities.

Drink driving is so dangerous because of the effect it has on your body. Alcohol causes your reaction times to become slower so you will be less capable of dealing with hazards, such as a vehicle pulling out in front of you, or a child running out from between parked cars. This is particularly dangerous, because as well as slowing your reaction times, alcohol often causes people to drive faster meaning you will have even less time to brake or swerve around a hazard.

Drinking alcohol also affects your reflexes, spatial awareness, and distance judgement, all of which are crucial for driving safely.

It can also affect what information reaches your brain. For example, if someone flashes their headlights at you, then this could go unrecognised by your brain’s visual systems.

A large amount of alcohol can also make you drowsy, and some drinking related accidents happen as the result of the driver falling asleep at the wheel.

What are the Legal Drink Driving Limits in the UK?

The legal alcohol limit for driving in the UK is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. This means that you are not legally allowed to drive if your breath or blood contains more than this amount. However, there can be many variables which affect a person’s BAC (blood/breath alcohol content). For example factors such as weight and height will change how quickly you absorb alcohol so it is difficult to estimate exactly what level someone has based on their size alone. The only way to know with certainty whether or not you’re over the legal drink driving limits is through a police officer assessment after they have pulled you over and asked for an evidential breath test – something we do not recommend!

These alcohol blood levels usually means drinking less than two pints of lager, a large glass of wine or three single measures (shot glasses) of spirits. Any more than that, and the odds of being over the legal alcohol limit for driving are very high.

What are the UK Drink Driving Statistics?

While the Covid-19 Pandemic resulted in a drop in drink driving related incidents during 2020 and 2021, figures released by the Department for Transport show just how big the problem was preceding the pandemic, and is likely to be again in the future.

In 2019 the number of people killed in drink driving accidents was potentially as high as 320, up 20% on 2018’s numbers. In fact, driving under the influence of alcohol is thought to be involved in nearly half of all fatal road traffic collisions, and this is also true for accidents that lead to serious injury.

What are the UK Sentencing Guidelines for Drink Driving?

The law on drink driving in the UK has got stricter and stricter over time. This is to try and make roads safer for everyone, and reduce the number of drinking related accidents. A conviction for being drunk while driving is very serious and you could end up with a fine, a driving ban, and even a term of imprisonment.

When you’re sentenced for drink driving, the court will consider a number of factors that affect your sentence. These could include:

  • Do you have any previous offences?
  • What was your alcohol level at the time of arrest?
  • How much did you drink before getting behind the wheel?
  • Did anyone else suffer injuries as a result of what happened?

Here’s what you need to know about sentencing guidelines when convicted of drink driving:

  • The maximum sentence for drink driving is 14 years imprisonment.
  • You could be banned from the road for up to 15 years or life if it’s your second offence (with previous alcohol offences).
  • Drink drivers are also required to pay fines of at least £5000 – these are on top of any disqualification period and/or jail time given by your judge, and on top of any compensation damages you need to pay to accident victims.
  • In some cases, you may need to complete a drink driver rehabilitation course, though there is usually no obligation if nobody was hurt.
  • Your sentence can vary depending on how severe your drink driving was (if there were any accidents involved), whether it’s your first or second time being caught in court for similar offences, and how high the recorded alcohol levels were on your breath or in your blood.

    Contact Caddick Davies Solicitors today

    Send us a message or call us on 0333 443 2366 for friendly advice


Drink driving accident

What if Somebody is Hurt or Killed in a Drink Driving Accident?

In the event that you have been convicted of drink driving and somebody has got injured or died as a result, then you could be looking at:

  • A prison sentence – The maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years in jail, while it’s five years if no one was killed but someone was still seriously hurt. Drink drivers who don’t kill anybody may still face up to 18 months behind bars.
  • An unlimited fine – Though this will depend on your income (and what’s left after legal costs). The average cost of an accident caused by drink driving is £30,000 so expect anything between £500 and £150,000 plus three points on your licence and a six month time period before you can drive again.
  • A driving ban – Again, this will depend on the severity of your offence: if you killed somebody by drink driving then you will be banned for at least three years (five years if they were under 16), but it could be as long as 13 years in prison and a lifetime driving ban if no one was killed but someone was still seriously hurt or disabled due to what happened. If nobody died but there was another serious injury – perhaps two people with significant injuries who need hospital treatment for weeks after an accident – then expect six months off the road before being allowed back behind the wheel; twelve points on your licence plus £200 per year towards victim compensation costs.
  • An aggravated vehicle taking order – This means that prior to you being allowed back behind the wheel of your vehicle, it will need to be examined by an approved mechanic and fitted with expensive modifications like an alcohol ignition lock.
  • A criminal record – This could make things like getting a job or loan more difficult in the future, and may mean that you are refused entry into certain countries.
  • Lawsuits – If somebody died due to what happened, then their family could take civil action against you (resulting in large amounts of damages).
  • A bad driving record – This means that your insurance costs will be more expensive (or you may find it hard to get covered at all). Drink drivers who cause death or serious injury can expect to pay an additional £5000 per year for insurance, receive 12 points on their licence, or may even be banned for life.

Why is Hiring a Lawyer so Important?

Hiring a lawyer is incredibly important in drink driving cases. A good solicitor will be able to help you understand what the sentence can be, how long until your conviction is spent and any other legal implications of being convicted. They may also have experience with mitigating sentences or getting leniency from courts so that you get a reduced fine, driving ban, or prison term.

When choosing a lawyer, it’s important to find someone who is qualified and experienced with drink driving cases. Look for lawyers that have a good track record of getting results, so that you have the best chance of a positive outcome. If you have been involved in a drink driving accident, make sure you get in touch with us at Caddick Davies immediately so that we can help you with your case.

How can you Reduce Your Drink Driving Sentence?

Depending on where your conviction is, there are some other ways to reduce your penalty such as taking part in an alcohol awareness course or having medical evidence that shows addiction problems. There is also a possibility of reduced penalties if you can show any extenuating circumstances which may have contributed to the offence. For example, this could be done by providing psychiatric reports showing depression or anxiety disorders.

You might also get a shorter sentence depending on how high your blood alcohol level was at the time of arrest. If it’s less than 80mg, then you might get a driving ban or custodial sentence of less than 12 months.

Often, the most important factor in reducing your sentence is the skill and experience of the lawyers you choose to represent you, so make sure you do your homework and pick the best ones available.


Contact Caddick Davies Solicitors today

Send us a message or call us on 0333 443 2366 for friendly advice


Drinking related accident

How Long until a Drink Driving Conviction is Spent?

In the UK, a drink driving conviction will be spent and removed from your criminal record after five years. This is much quicker than other types of crimes such as burglary or theft which can take up to ten years before they’re removed. However, it’s important that you don’t think this means getting off scot-free – all those five years worth of punishment still count and might affect any future attempts at employment applications or travel plans. It also doesn’t mean that once those five years are up, you won’t have any restrictions on what you can do, as there may be certain cases where you have their license revoked for life.

Tips for Avoiding Drink Driving

The first thing you can do to avoid drink driving is stay within the limits or maintain a zero blood or breath alcohol content when driving. Obviously, the only way to do this is to not drink at all if you know you will need to drive later.

If you are going out drinking with friends, take a taxi home or use public transport. Alternatively, you can choose one person to be the designated driver, so that they stay sober while the rest of the group drinks. If you all go out regularly together, this can either be someone who never drinks or alcohol, or you can take it turns to be the one.

You can also buy a self-breathalyser test. These are available in most shops for a few pounds and, while they won’t tell you the precise amount of alcohol in your system, they can give an indication of whether or not it’s safe to drive.

Final Thoughts

Drink driving is dangerous, reckless and illegal. If found guilty, you can get a huge fine, your licence can be revoked, and you may even spend time in prison. If someone is hurt or killed then there are far more serious penalties that can include serious prison terms. The best course of action is always to avoid drink driving altogether. This will keep you, your passengers, and other road users and pedestrians safe. If you are involved in a drink driving accident, make sure you contact Caddick Davies so that we can help you get the best possible outcome.


Contact Caddick Davies Solicitors today 

Send us a message or call us on 0333 443 2366 for friendly advice


Motoring Lawyer at Caddick Davies Solicitors
Caddick Davies is recognised as one of England and Wales’ leading motoring law firms, offering specialist Speeding Solicitors, Drink Driving Solicitors & Dangerous Driving Solicitors.We provide advice and representation on all motoring offences including speeding, the avoidance of disqualification on penalty points or “totting up” (exceptional hardship), driving without due care and attention (careless driving), dangerous driving, drink driving, as well as a range of services related to medical revocation of a driving licence.
Neil Davies

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