If a person drives a motor vehicle on a road or public place whilst the “proportion of alcohol in their breath exceeds the prescribed limit” (35mg/100ml breath), they will commit the offence that we all commonly know as “drink driving”. In this very unusual case reported on from Liverpool Magistrates Court, the driver, a 28 year old lady, had fallen asleep on a friends sofa following a night out and had awoken following a collision with a lamp post outside her place of work. The lady was arrested and taken to the police station where she provided a breath specimen reading nearly three times the legal drink driving limit. She was charged with the offence and bailed to appear before Liverpool Magistrates Court. At trial, it was accepted by the court that at the time of the offence she had been “sleep walking” and it was in this state of unconsciousness that she had driven the vehicle. On this basis she was found not guilty of the offence. This very rare and unusual defence is known as “automatism”, perhaps best described as an involuntary act of which the mind has no control. Whilst this type of defence will not be applicable to the vast majority of drink driving cases, it demonstrates the wide variety of defences which can be applied to this very complex offence.
Neil Davies, Principal Solicitor