Thursday, 11 December 2014

"Drink / drive" ~ lower limits apply in Scotland

From 5th December, the alcohol limit for driving in Scotland has been reduced - see Scottish Government - Lower Drink Drive limits and also Scottish Government - New Drink drive limit.  It appears that prosecutions are likely to be brought even in marginal cases where the reading is just above the limit - Why the new Scottish Drink Drive Limits are even tougher than you think.

The relevant Scottish legislation is the Road Traffic Act 1988 (Prescribed Limit)(Scotland) Regulations 2014 and the new limits are:

a) 22 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath ... 35;
b) 50 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood ... 80
c) 67 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine ... 107

The figures in red show the corresponding limits for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 
For England and Wales, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) offers this guidance - Drink Driving Offences

In England and Wales, the excess alcohol offences (Road Traffic Act 1988 section 5) is triable summarily in the Magistrates' Court - see the sentencing guidelines at page 124 of the Sentencing Guidelines document.   The offender's driving licence must be endorsed and a minimum disqualification of 12 months imposed.  In some situations the minimum disqualification must be higher.  The actual sentence imposed will vary according to the actual alcohol reading from Band C fine at the lower end to 26 weeks imprisonment at the higher end.  The surcharge provisions will apply as well as court costs.  Even when the offender's disqualification ends, a vastly increased insurance premium is inevitable.

Many defendants charged with excess alcohol offences find that they do not qualify for legal aid to cover representation in the Magistrates' Court.  This is because legal aid is subject to a double test: (a) interests of justice and (b) means.

I have no doubt that it will not be long before the rest of the UK comes into line with Scotland and, for that matter, most of EU.


  1. For a drink drive offence that is committed within 10 years of a previous drink drive offence, the law requires the driver to be disqualified for at least 3 years.

    Has the somewhat anomalous situation now been created that English courts will be required to impose a minimum 3 year disqualification on drivers who have been previously convicted in Scotland for doing something that would not have been an offence in England?

    1. I would very cautiously say YES. The Road Traffic Act 1988 applies to Scotland. Amendments to the RTA 1988 were made by section 20 of the Scotland Act 2012 to enable Scottish Ministers to alter the prescribed limits. However, a Scottish conviction under RTA 1988 s5 would seem to count just as much as an English one even if the limit is lower !

  2. Time to remind everyone that there is scant evidence that people at or just under the current UK drink-drive limit are barely more likely to have accidents than those with no alcohol in their system. That is why the limit is where it is - evidence shows that this is a limit at which you are still fit to drive.

    After that the accident rate begins to rise sharply.

  3. The limit should be set at a level which allows for liqueur chocolates, mouthwash, and the natural production of alcohol in the gut* whatever that is. And no higher.

    *There was an old lady of Hyde
    Who ate too many apples and died.
    The apples, fermented
    Inside the lamented,
    Made cider inside 'er inside.

    I don't suppose you could make that much alcohol but I believe you can get a measurable level!