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Drink driving: How you could be fined £2,500 even under the limit

THIS is how you can face a drink drive conviction - without actually being above the legal limit. And it could even result in you being jailed for three months, a £2,500 fine and disqualification. 

Most drivers caught intoxicated behind the wheel will end up with a conviction code of ‘DR40’ on their licence - for being ‘in charge of a vehicle while alcohol level above limit’.  But there’s another type of conviction - a DR50 - which means you can still be prosecuted without ever failing a breathalyser test. 



This relates to being ‘in charge of a vehicle while unfit through drink’.  And it’s down to the opinion of the arresting officer to decide whether you’re fit, or unfit, to be behind the wheel.  The charge has been highlighted by leading UK firm Select Car Leasing, who are advising UK motorists to adopt a zero tolerance booze policy this summer. 

Select Car Leasing’s Mark Tongue explains: “It can be tempting, particularly in the height of summer, to enjoy a drink in a nice pub beer garden before heading home.  But if that drink makes you impaired in any way, even though you may not be above the legal limit, you could still face heavy consequences. 

“If you’re feeling unwell, alcohol can make you excessively drowsy. Meanwhile some antibiotics, when mixed with alcohol, can cause sickness and dizziness.  A DR50 charge means 10 points on your licence and a hefty fine. Our advice would be to swerve the drinks entirely if you know you’re going to be behind the wheel.”



A similar conviction also exists for drug use. A DR90 conviction - ‘in charge of a vehicle when unfit through drugs’ - also means 10 penalty points on your licence and a fine of up to £2,500. A DR50 or DR90 will also stay on your license for four years from the date of the conviction.

What’s more, being ‘In charge of a vehicle’ doesn’t necessarily mean driving it. If you’re inside the car and in possession of the keys, you could still be prosecuted. Top UK motoring lawyer Emma Patterson, from national firm Patterson Law, says the DR50 and the DR90 codes are a remnant of the old fashioned way the police used to detect and charge people - without having a particular reading relating to either drugs or alcohol.



But it’s still relevant in modern courts, typically used as a form of legal ‘backstop’. 

Emma explains: “You have a number of potential offences where you can be charged and convicted without being above the ‘legal limit’.

When legal limits were introduced it was far more black and white.  It tends to be used as a sort of legal backstop.”

Emma adds that ‘potential charges where no reading is required’ would involve a ‘minimum mandatory 12 month ban’. 

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