Drink Driving Law In Scotland

Drink Driving Law In Scotland from 1st Road Traffic Law Specialists Scotland

By: 1st Road Traffic Law Specialists Scotland  23/12/2008
Keywords: Motoring Solicitors, Road Traffic Lawyer

Drink-Driving Law

This is a complex and serious area of law therefore we offer a FREE online case consultation service in relation to such cases. Accused of being a Drink/driver then ask us about your own case


Drink/drivers should be aware that there is a legal  presumption taken from section 15(2) Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 that the proportion of alcohol in a drivers breath, blood or urine at the time of the alleged offence was not less than in the specimen.

This means that the defence require to establish the defence if the driver claims that he/she had been drinking after the incident but prior to giving a sample. Check section 15(3) - if the driver establishes the matters set out at section 15(3) on a balance of probabilities then the defence is made out and must be rebutted by the Crown case. This type of defence is common in practise but uncommon in success. It is often referred to as "The hip flask defence" coming from the term used in a case where the accused claimed that after a crash he had taken a few drinks from his hip flask to calm his nerves. Sheriffs tend to take the view nowadays that anyone who has been involved in a road traffic accident will expect to be tested and would be extremely unwise to consume any more alcohol in these circumstances. It is therefore VERY difficult to establish such a defence.

It is not impossible but will usually require the evidence of an independent forensic toxicologist  who can provide a detailed report that will hopefully support the accuseds' explanation of the amount of alcohol consumed  and when.

The defence must call scientific evidence on the point unless it is obvious to a layperson that the post offence consumption of alcohol explained the excess. Never assume that it would be obvious, you would generally always be wise to seek out a report and to forward a copy of same to the Crown well in advance of the trial to have it agreed wherever possible. Reports normally cost in the region of £250+Vat to prepare however if you require your expert to come to court to give evidence this can be very expensive. It will depend upon the time taken for the witness to be called and to give evidence.

If a driver provides a specimen a long time after the driving offence and this proves to be below the limit the forensic experts acting for the Crown may provide a report indicating that at time of offence the blood alcohol was over the limit and therefore the driver may still be prosecuted. This is  not something that happens very often probably due to the evidential issues and difficulties n presenting the case in a fair manner.


The expert will provide a report setting out his presumptions and the mathematical calculations used in coming to any conclusion.

To be successful you really need to provide the expert with as much accurate information as possible otherwise there will always be an element of guesswork about the process and this will work against you. Although the defence ONLY requires to be made out in the Balance of probabilities you will find that this is still a high standard. It is worth instructing a specialist law firm to assist with this whole process but however you proceed there will be a set amount of information that your expert requires. It can be worth calling the forensic department of your local University to see if they have an expert available and then ask them to fax you a list of they require. They sometimes have a form that you can use to provide the required information.


  • Full detail of any food consumed from six hours before the
  • offence.
  • Weight, height, build, age and sex
  • Known medical condition (Acid reflux, irritable bowel etc)
  • Medication taken regularly, or within 6 hours prior to drinking;
  • Type and quantity of alcohol consumed before the offence and, if possible, the times at which the units of alcohol were consumed. Brand names ok and provide the actual containers that the drink was consumed from eg Glass marked with the measure taken.
  • the same information concerning any alcohol that you consumed after the offence but before you gave the specimen for the test.


This is a complex area of law and there are a great many cases that have assisted us in the definition of what is and is not a "reasonable excuse". It is not a reasonable excuse to state that you did not give a sample because you wanted your lawyer to be present. Nor is it a reasonable excuse to refuse to provide a specimen of breath or other sample simply because you had not been the driver.

The main successful area of reasonable excuse has tended to be cases where there is a genuine medical problem such as Asthma or real phobia of needles etc. Medical evidence of such a phobia or condition will require to be obtained and examined. Simply because you are asthmatic will not preclude you from providing a sample. The court will require full details about your condition and how it would affect your ability to provide a sample. Expert evidence may be required in relation to your psychological state as this could also have had a bearing on whether or not  you could commit this offence.

Once such a defence is raised, the onus is upon the Crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it has failed and that you are therefore guilty of the offence.

Failing to provide a sample is a very interesting area of defence and we have had a great deal of success in defending such cases. We do not wish to publicise just how we have been successful as this is a competitive area of the law and we all guard our knowledge jealously. If you want the benefit of our success in this area pleas e call or provide us with some of your case details online.

An area of some confusion as the motorist tends to believe that they have a choice about what type of sample is given and how and where it should be given. You will find that the police officer requesting the sample can decide what type of sample is to be used. Sections 7, 8 and 9 of the Road Traffic Act 1988  set out procedures which must be followed by the police when laboratory samples of blood or urine  are taken. Sometimes police officers fail to follow the strict guidelines that are laid out in the forms that they use as an aide memoir when following the procedure and then he defence have an opportunity to win their case!

The admissibility of those specimens in excess alcohol cases depends upon the procedures being followed strictly. The procedures are set out in this manner to secure a fair and just process that is beyond reproach.

As a suspected driver you are legally obliged to provide a sample where an officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that you have driven a vehicle whilst under the influence of drink or drugs. Do not refuse to give a sample because you were not driving or you were not driking- Bad idea to refuse as this is a separate offence. Let the lawyers sort out the presentation of the defence at court. It is best for you to cooperate fully with the testing process and procedures and simply note carefully what is being said to you and what is going on.

Before a sample is taken the driver needs to be told:

  • The reason why breath cannot be used as a sample;
  • That the officer will decide that the sample will be Blood or Urine and what it will be.
  • Tell you that if you refuse then this is a separate offence. I tend to think they should also tell you that you will most likely be disqualified from driving or holding a licence if you fail to provide.
  • If they want to take blood they require to ask about medical conditions or any reason to refuse such a specimen. (The police casualty surgeon is called out to take a sample of blood from you)

Section 8(2) of the Road Traffic Act, a driver may choose to replace a breath specimen by supplying a lab sample in the following circumstances

  • Where the specimen of breath exceeds the statutory limit; but does not exceed 50 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath

The police officer then require to inform you

  • You are entitled to have this specimen replaced by a specimen of blood or urine; but it will be for the police officer to decide whether the replacement specimen is to be of blood or urine.


  • He has to check if the  driver has any medical reasons why a sample of blood cannot or should not be taken from him.

There are sometimes failings in this process and we find that we can successfully defend motorists in such cases where the police have failed in the procedure required of them.

The test of whether the officers failure has caused a fundamental breach of procedure that cannot be cured is usually a matter for the Sheriff however in circumstances where the police officer has failed to check if you have any medical condition that precludes you from giving such a sample we can safely say that we should win that point and save your driving licence.

Sometimes samples are taken from a driver when he/she is in the process of receiving treatment following a road traffic accident. Again this is an area of law where the prosecution require to be careful about the methods used to ensure fairness and admissibility of evidence.

The reporting police officer should ASK the driver if there is any reason that he/she cannot provide a sample of blood for analysis. Sometimes this whole process is just handed over to the police casualty surgeon or to a Doctor who is in attendance for another treatment reason. One has to consider if proper legal cautions have been provided and if all proper procedure followed.There is often room for error in the procedure and this area therefore requires careful consideration of a specialist road traffic lawyer.

The Intoximeter EC/IR, the Camic Datamaster or the Lion Intoxylizer  are used throughout the Uk we understand from experience that the Intoximeter EC/IR is now the most widely used piece of equipment for breath testing in Scotland.

They are all type approved and as such certain presumptions of reliability follow. If the defence wish to challenge the reliability iof such a device they really require to do so long before the trial!

They will require to have checked the instrument, the service log,the calibration process, the details of use on day and any other aspects of use. However they may find that the Crown are reluctant to cooperate with the defence on the basis that the whole issue of challenge is merely a "fishing expedition" for the defence.

Therefore when instructing your lawyer on this issue you must bring up the issue of device reliability if you consider it important eg If the reading seems way to high then you should explain to your lawyer what alcohol if any was consumed and why the machine must be at fault. You may require to obtain a forensic toxicologists report to validate your claim BEFORE the Crown will even allow your solicitor to obtain any details regarding the intoximeter device. If the Crown persist in their refusal to provide disclosure on this issue then other areas are open to the defence in an attempt to secure the access to documents that is required for the proper presentation of your defence. You will require an experienced defence lawyer to pursue these issues with the required vigour for success.

In Scotland a Lord Advocate's directive ensures that persons with a reading of 40ug or less will not be prosecuted and in England a driver will not be prosecuted under section 5 with a breath alcohol level of less than 40 ugs. In accordance with the guidelines contained in . Drink Driving In Scotland raises a lot of questions please do not hesitate to call or e mail for advice.

Keywords: Motoring Solicitors, Road Traffic Lawyer

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