Spiked Drinks Argument Successful: Client Not Guilty

Katie Forrest of Forrest Willliams

Katie Forrest of Forrest Williams

Spiked Drinks Argument Successful: Client Not Guilty

Unusually, it wasn’t Ana who contacted me about her drink driving case.  It was Geoff, the person who had spiked her drinks, causing her to be over the limit.

Geoff was very remorseful, and determined that Ana should receive the best legal representation to ensure that she was not disqualified from driving because of something he had done.

Geoff was happy to confirm exactly what had happened – how he had visited Ana as he knew she was recovering from dental surgery, how he had added alcohol to her drink to ‘cheer her up’, and how he had no idea she would be driving that night.

Ana herself didn’t know she would drive that night, but she woke up in so much pain she decided to go to the all-night pharmacy to get more medication.

On her journey, she was asked to pull over by the police as one of her brake lights didn’t work.  She was breathalysed, and over the limit.

Ana was facing a 12-16 month ban, through no fault of her own.

For a Court to allow a Special Reasons: Spiked Drinks argument, they must be satisfied that the defendant should not have realised they had drank the laced drinks.

In Ana’s case, her dental surgery was a very important part of the case.  It meant that she couldn’t taste anything, so had no idea that what she thought was a soft drink actually had alcohol in it.  And she was very groggy, so any physical sensations of inebriation would have been interpreted by her as being due to the surgery.

I explained the full procedure for a Special Reasons application to Ana, and guided her and Geoff through the case.  They were both very anxious about the situation as neither of them had had any dealings with the law.

At the Special Reasons hearing, both Ana and Geoff gave evidence well.  They were credible, with consistent accounts that stood up to cross-examination.

The magistrates did find Special Reasons, meaning that although Ana is convicted of the offence, she is not disqualified.

Ana was absolutely delighted and a very remorseful Geoff was incredibly relieved.

If you have been charged with drink driving, call our expert team now on 01623 600645. 

 

Drink Driving Duress Case Successful At Appeal

Katie Forrest of Forrest Williams

Katie Forrest of Forrest Williams

Drink Driving Duress Case Successful At Appeal
by Katie Forrest, paralegal

We are delighted to share this recent case study, for a client who pleaded not guilty to a charge of drink driving on the basis of duress and was found not guilty at Appeal.

While we care deeply about every case we work on, there are some cases that particularly affect us, and this was one of them.

Lucy contacted us last year, in a state of upset.  She had instructed a very well known motoring firm to deal with her case, and felt that they were not giving her case any time or attention.  She suspected that while she could afford their fees, she wasn’t celebrity enough for them.  She felt let down and incredibly scared.

I bonded with Lucy immediately.  She is a wonderful, strong woman who has been through Hell for over 10 years as a victim of domestic abuse.

On the night in question, she had been at a friend’s house, something her controlling and physically violent husband hated.  He had been harassing her all day, telling her to return to the marital home.  Eventually, he spoke to her by phone and told her he was on his way to her friend’s house with a gun, unless she left immediately.

Lucy left and made the short drive home.  She had had some alcohol to drink, as she intended to stay overnight at her friend’s house. 

Unbeknownst to her, as she left, her husband rang the police and reported her as a drink driver.  She was stopped at her home and was found to be over the limit.

Lucy had pleaded not guilty on the grounds of duress – basically, she had no choice but to drive whilst over the limit.

Duress cases are very difficult in this country, as the Court’s common response when hearing any situation that may cause duress is that the person should have rang the emergency services for assistance.

In this case, Lucy was very familiar with calling the police, and she knew that she was punished afterwards for doing so.  She had learnt that, in reality, the police could not offer her protection from her husband.

After my initial conversation with Lucy, she was very keen to transfer her case to me.

Her trial was just days away.

I was happy to accept her case as I felt so strongly about helping her.  I made an application with the Court for them to adjourn the trial to allow me preparation time, but while they considered my request, I got on with ensuring we would be trial ready if we had to be.  There were early mornings, late nights, and lots of contact with Lucy over the weekend.  I still remember her surprise that I was prepared to speak to her on a Sunday evening!

Fortunately, the Court did allow an adjournment, giving us a few weeks to prepare Lucy’s case.

Lucy’s story was truly heartbreaking, and whilst the law in this area is challenging, each case has to be assessed on its own merits and I hoped that we would be successful.

At trial, Lucy’s case was heard by a District Judge who made such scathing comments about her situation that I made a formal complaint against him.  In particular, he asked Lucy why on earth she had allowed the abuse to continue, and suggested she should shoulder some of the blame because of that.

Needless to say, she was found guilty by that judge.

I lodged an Appeal for Lucy and chose Annette Henry QC as the barrister for her Appeal.

In my first conversation with Annette about this case, she told me “this will be a case that haunts me for the rest of my life”.

At Appeal, our thorough preparation and Annette’s advocacy skills were strong enough to counter the robust prosecutor, and Lucy was found not guilty of drink driving, due to duress.

Lucy is absolutely overjoyed and is free to move on with her life.

These are the cases that stay with us for life.  They are the reason we work incredibly hard and throw our hearts into what we do.

If you have been charged with drink driving and are looking for drink drive duress solicitors, call us now for an honest opinion on 01623 600645.

 

Drink Drive Lawyers Argue Special Reasons

 

 

 

Drink Drive Lawyers - Julia Coffin

Drink Drive Lawyers – Julia Coffin

 

When is a case not about winning or losing?

 

So often, as specialist drink drive lawyers, we receive calls from people desperate to avoid a criminal conviction, sometimes they accept they are guilty of the offence and are looking for a loophole whereas others are very clear that they did not commit the offence. 

 

We will never suggest that you pursue a defence unless we believe that you have a good chance of success, but ultimately our job is to make you aware of your chances of success and then act on your instructions to us.  We will always be honest with you about your chances of success.

 

We were contacted by a client, charged with Drink Driving, due to appear in Croydon Magistrates Court. Our client was desperate to save his licence and avoid a conviction. We reviewed the prosecution papers and advised him the police had done everything correctly, however from speaking to him it appeared he may have grounds to try to avoid the disqualification while pleading guilty to the offence.  The courts call this Special Reasons and these specific reasons relate to the offence itself not the offender. Our client told us that he had been to see friends and asked for a drink and his friends gave him a beer but with added vodka in it – vodka he was unaware of consuming.

 

We put forward a spiked drinks argument to the court, asking the courts not to disqualify our client as the excess alcohol in his system was not something he intended to consume. Unfortunately in this case the courts did not find Special Reasons – their judgement being that our client had asked for “a drink” and had not specified it’s content and as such did not meet their strict criteria.

 

They did however accept that he had consumed alcohol he did not appear to intend to and as such sentenced him to the minimum penalty the law allowed, a significant reduction on that suggested by his breath alcohol level.

 

To some this may seem like a loss – he wanted to avoid the conviction and we advised him to plead Guilty. He was still disqualified at the end of it. But the disqualification was significantly less than he would have been given had he not gone through with the Special Reasons application. And at the end our client was happy because he knew he had tried – and more importantly that we had always been with him during the process.

 

If you are charged with an offence give our drink drive lawyers a call on 01623 600645 – we promise to listen to your story and answer your questions open and honestly.

 

 

 

 

Nervous Client Thanks Drink Drive Solicitor

Steve Williams of Forrest Williams

Steve Williams of Forrest Williams

In Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court this week, Betty Lucknow told Steve Williams, drink drive solicitor and Senior Partner of Forrest Williams, that she was relieved to be sentenced for her drink driving offence.

For Betty, sentencing meant that the worry of the last few weeks was over, although she realised that the reality of a 12 month disqualification from driving would impact on her life, and her ability to travel for work.

However, as Betty had no previous drink driving offences, the court’s offer of a place on the drink drive rehabilitation course meant that, should she complete the course by the court’s deadline, her disqualification period would be reduced to just 9 months – the minimum possible for a guilty plea with mitigation.

When Betty first approached Forrest Williams, she was extremely upset and blamed no one but herself for what was, she said, ‘a stupid moment’ in which she chose to drive herself home instead of phoning for a taxi.

Betty explained to her case worker that she had been under a lot of stress recently, because of a house move and problems at work. On the date in question, she had been out for a drink with friends and had actually refused the offer of a further drink before deciding to drive home.

Unfortunately, as Betty made the journey home, she took an unlit single track country road on which she collided with an oncoming vehicle just as she came over the brow of a hill. She told her case worker there was significant damage to the sides of both vehicles, where they had rubbed together on the narrow road.

It was because of this collision that the police were called and Betty was subsequently breathalysed and charged on a low breath reading – just 40mg. (The legal limit is 35mg in breath.)

However, although Betty’s reading was low, her case worker explained to her that the fact that she had been involved in a collision with another vehicle was an aggravating factor to the charge – and something the court would take into account when sentencing.

All things considered, Betty was relieved to be walking away from the court after her hearing, even though she knew she could not drive for the next 9 months. As she told Steve Williams, more important than the inconvenience to her was the fact that no one had been injured on the night in question. She said she had learned from the experience and, in future, would never put herself in this position again.

If you have been charged with a drink driving offence, call our expert team now on 01623 600645.

 

 

 

Who Is A Drink Driver?

 

 

Katie Forrest of Forrest Williams

Katie Forrest of Forrest Williams

Who is a Drink Driver?

 

Last week I was contacted by a very respected, intelligent, professional who was charged with Drink Driving and due to appear in Mansfield Magistrates Court. He was ashamed.  He’s a clever guy and was disgusted at what he had done – in his eyes he saw it as he “has a PhD but was stupid enough to do this”.  Filled with remorse, he didn’t want to fight the charge – he just wanted support through it.

 

He needed reassuring that he was not alone.

 

My client had a reading of almost 3 times the legal limit, and he does not know how he came to be in his car – drinking that much and driving had never been his intention – he’d only gone for a drink with a friend. He was not excusing it though; he just needed someone with experience to guide him though the upcoming court case. We worked with him to prepare his case for mitigation – he understood that community service was an option and we talked him through this – we’ve even followed up with him since the hearing to see how he is getting on.

 

Drink Driving is a very emotive subject – for most people it’s a very clear cut and wrong thing to do – and they often have preconceived ideas about the ‘type’ of people who would commit such a “heinous crime” – so when they find themselves charged with this same offence it can really knock them. We understand that for many people it was a misjudgement, a mistake and that what they need is the support to come to terms with the events which led to their being in this situation.

 

Let me be very clear about this, there is no one type of “Drink Driver”. Everyone has their own story, their own circumstances. We know this and we know how important it is that your story be heard. In the past few months I have had calls from a primary school teacher, a university professor, a charity worker, a serving soldier, a plumber, an accountant, a stay at home mum, a salesman – the only thing connecting them was a charge and a deep sense of remorse for their actions. None had deliberately set out at the start of the night to commit an offence and some were even caught the day after.

 

We do not have a ‘one size fits all’ service – we know that each client has different needs. If you are charged with an offence and you want open, honest advice from a firm who will actually listen to you and build your case with you then give the Forrest Williams Team a call on 01623 600645. 

 

 

 

Minimum Ban For Drink Driving Client

 

 

Helen Newman of Forrest Williams

Helen Newman of Forrest Williams

A Firm That Listens To You
by Helen Newman

 

I recently had a client charged with Drink Driving appearing in St Albans Magistrates Court. She was guilty of the offence, she fully accepted that she had been out drinking and had taken the decision to get in her car and drive home. Based on her reading a disqualification of 17-22 months was expected as that is what the sentencing guidelines suggest.

 

Except that wasn’t the full story. Yes she drove, but she drove to get away from unwanted attention, to get away from a guy that was not only following her but had climbed into her car uninvited and who she had to trick to get  back out the vehicle.

 

This client may have had a defence, she definitely had grounds to consider a Special Reasons application not to disqualify her – but she didn’t want to go down either of these routes. So instead we worked with her to build a case for mitigation and persuaded the courts to deviate from the sentencing guidelines and only impose the minimum tariff the law allows – 12 months which they then further reduced to 9 should she complete the Drink Driving Rehabilitation course, giving her the absolute lowest ban possible for any drink driving conviction.

 

We pride ourselves on our client care at Forrest Williams – to us every client should feel like they matter because they truly do! We have a hand picked selection of Barristers we use regularly who, like us, know and believe that every client deserves to have their story told. In this case once the Magistrates had passed sentence our Barrister challenged the Bench on something they said and then got them to reduce the sentence down further!

 

A FANTASTIC result for our client!

 

Now compare this with a call I had from an enquiry who had been promised by another firm that they would get her off her Drink Driving charge – they were 100% confident… they have a 94% success rate at trial… they can make sure she is not convicted of the offence – but when I asked her how they were going to do this she told me about a procedural error the police had made which meant the case would be dropped. Except the other firm hadn’t told her that the law on that point changed a few weeks ago and her case came after the change, so it was not a defence.

 

We do not make promises we cannot keep. We will not give you a success rate based upon a %. What we will do is advise you openly and honestly about your options. We do have a good success rate, but in large part because we do not suggest clients pursue cases unless we truly believe they have a good chance of success.

 

If you want your case handled by a firm who pride themselves on client care, who will listen to you, your needs and your views, understanding that it is your case and your life, then give the Forrest Williams team a call on 01623 600645.

 

 

Second Time Drink Driving With Breath Reading of 102mg Escapes Prison

 

In Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court this week, Ben Wrigley told Steve Williams, Senior Partner of law firm Forrest Williams, that he was extremely relieved to have avoided the custodial sentence he had been dreading.

 

For Ben, the experience was a painful reminder of a similar occasion four years ago when he had first been disqualified for a drink driving offence. At that time, he had resolved never to come before the magistrates again. But, during a period of crisis in his life he had make the fateful decision to drive after drinking and the police had pulled him over as he was making his way home.

 

With a third category breath-alcohol reading of 102mg, and a previous recent conviction for the same offence, Ben realised that he was facing more than a long disqualification period (at least 36 months) and a financial penalty.

 

Forrest Williams had made him aware that, however genuine his mitigating factors, he still faced the possibility of prison.

 

However, Steve Williams made the court aware of the personal factors which had resulted in Ben’s error of judgement, and also the fact that he had finally accepted he needed support with his misuse of alcohol.

 

The court was therefore minded to impose a disqualification of 40 months, with the offer of the drink drive rehabilitation course, which – on completion – will reduce Ben’s disqualification period by 25%.

 

It is hoped that, with professional support, Ben will now be able to take the steps needed to ensure he keeps his earlier promise of never appearing before the magistrates again.

 

If you have been charged with a drink driving offence, get the experts on your side by calling Forrest Williams now on 01623 600645.

 

 

Drink Driving Accidents and Casualties

 

Estimated number of reported drink driving accidents and casualties, by month (Great Britain, 2005/09 average, 2011 and 2012).

 

These Department for Transport statistics summarise the estimated number of reported drink driving accidents and casualties for three time periods: 2005/09 (average), 2011 and 2012, with a monthly breakdown from January to December and a yearly total for each period.

 

What is initially interesting about these figures is that after the initial 2005/09 total figures for accidents (9,080) and casualties (13,760), there is a noticeable decrease in 2011 for both accidents (6,690) and casualties (9,930), followed by very little/no change in 2012, with a decrease of just 60 for accidents (to 6,630) and no change for casualties (remaining constant at 9,930).

 

If there is a relationship between the number of drink drive accidents/casualties and the time of year, then this is not reflected in these official statistics. For example, the highest number of accidents (830) and casualties (1,260) were reported in May of the 2005/09 average period.

 

However, the figures for 2011 indicate that the highest numbers of accidents (600) occurred in three months: July, October and December, with the highest number of casualties (920) being reported in July.

 

In 2012, the highest number of reported accidents had fallen (to 590), with the highest number of casualties dropping also (to 900, for the months of March and October).

 

When considering the lowest figures, there would appear to be more consistency in the data. A pattern can be identified in that February was the month in which the lowest numbers of accidents and casualties were reported for almost every time period. The figures for accidents fell, and then rose slightly, as follows: 690 (2005/09 average), 480 (2011) and 500 (2012).

 

The figures for casualties for the month of February also fell, and then rose slightly, as follows: 1010 (2005/09 average), 680 (2011) and 760 (2012).

 

Why the figures for accidents and casualties should be lower for the month of February, in these statistics ranging from 2005 to 2012, is impossible to explain. No qualitative data is presented with this table. It would be interesting, however, to capture and analyse further data across wider time periods (ie pre-2005 and post-2012) to see if the patterns remains constant.    

 

If you have been charged with a drink driving offence, call our expert team now for honest advice on 01623 600645.

 

 

Reported Road Accidents Involving Drink Drivers

 

 

Estimated number of reported road accidents involving a car drink driver, by driver age, accidents by licence holder and per mile driven (Great Britain, 2005-2009 average and 2012).

 

In these Department for Transport statistics, the focus is solely on reported road accidents involving car drivers who were over the drink-driving legal limit. Two time periods are used for comparison: the average from the years 2005-2009 and the figures from 2012. These figures are presented in nine age categories, starting with those under 17 years of age and ending with those aged 60 years or over.

 

The total for all age categories for the 2005-2009 period was 8,170 car drink drivers, whereas this number had fallen to 5,920 in 2012.

 

The highest number of car drink drivers for both the 2005-2009 period and 2012 was the 20-24 years age group whilst – understandably – the lowest for both periods was the under 17 years age group.

 

Interestingly, the second highest number of car drink drivers for both periods was the 25-29 years age group, which means that the highest concentration of car drink drivers is in those aged 20-29 years.

 

Whilst the trend was for the numbers of car drink drivers to reduce between the first and second time period, in just one case this did not happen. For those in the 60 or over age group, the number actually increased from 300 to 310.

 

The number of reported road accidents involving a car drink driver, per licence holder, fell from 22 in the 2005-2009 period to 15 in 2012. The decrease was constant across all age groups.

 

Similarly, the number of reported road accidents involving a car drink driver, per mile driven, fell from 33 in the 2005-2009 period to 24 in 2012. Again, the decrease was constant across all age groups.

 

So, in summary, the trend illustrated by these official statistics was a falling number of reported road accidents involving a car drink driver – however these figures are presented (ie by driver age, accidents per licence holder or per mile driven). That the only increase is in those car drink drivers aged 60 or over may be worthy of further investigation, but it is interesting to speculate why this should be the case.

 

If you have been charged with a drink driving offence, get the experts on your side by calling our team of drink drive solicitors on 01623 600645.

 

 

 

Death by Drink Driving: Fatality Blood Alcohol Levels

Blood alcohol levels of reported fatalities aged 16 and over (Great Britain, 2012)

 

In these Department for Transport statistics, total fatalities include car and other vehicle drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists and also passengers and pedestrians.

 

Interestingly, the highest number of reported fatalities where blood alcohol level was above the legal limit was for pedestrians – 137 out of a sample size of 158 people. This figure was much greater than the second highest category, which numbered 77 car drivers out of a sample size of 329 people.

 

The figures for the reported fatalities who tested below the legal limit were higher for motorcycle riders, other vehicle drivers/riders and passengers, although in each case the difference between those under and over the limit is not great (not more than 9 people – passenger category).

 

However, for the reported fatalities who tested above the legal limit, car drivers, pedestrians and cyclists showed the strongest tendency towards the higher figures, with the differences between those under and over the limit being much higher (up to 47 people – pedestrian category).

 

The data in these statistics is also presented in the forms of percentages of reported fatalities (over the limit) by time of accident (22:00 – 3:59 and 04:00 – 21:59). This breakdown shows that the highest figures were, in every case, for those fatalities which occurred between the hours of 22:00 and 03:39. Fatalities were therefore less likely to have occurred between the hours of 04:00 and 21:59.

 

As with all statistics, caution needs to be taken when interpreting figures, especially those for small sample sizes. A note at the foot of this table indicates that the groups for ‘other’ and ‘cyclists’- together with possible bias – means that these results are less robust than for other groups.    

 

If you have been charged with drink driving or have caused death by drink driving, get the experts on your side now by calling our expert team of drink drive solicitors on 01623 600645.