Not Everyone Wants A Loophole

Have you ever made a mistake?

I bet you have, we all have. It’s just that in some cases, those mistakes, those misjudgements, end up meaning that you are guilty of committing a criminal offence.

I had the privilege of supporting a very lovely lady through her court case recently. She was charged with Drink Driving, she admitted and accepted it. In her words, “there was no reason for her to have done it”.

You see, she is an alcoholic. She didn’t consider herself an alcoholic until this happened, not really, more that when she drank she drank too much and made stupid choices, so she simply didn’t drink. She could function perfectly well without it, she didn’t need to drink to cope with life or even just drink out of habit. She had been dry for many years – she estimated at around 10 years. As a youth she had gotten herself in trouble, she had drunk too heavily and she had made some mistakes. So she just didn’t drink.

She got involved in a rehabilitation scheme and it was the making of her. She thrived in that environment, so much so that she went on to work with a number of charities and had dedicated her life since to helping others. I think most people that met her, spoke to her, and heard her story, would consider her a good person. She definitely didn’t see herself that way. She was mortified and disgusted with herself for having done it.

She suffers from migraines, and had been suffering from one for almost a week. Nothing was touching it, she was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. So she drove and bought a bottle of wine, hoping that a couple of glasses would relax her enough to sleep. Unfortunately they didn’t work and a couple of hours later she took the decision to go out for a drive, not for a moment considering the alcohol she had consumed earlier.

There was never any question of her pleading anything other than Guilty. She had spoken to a firm of solicitors before me who had assured her that there would be a loophole, that the police would have made a mistake somewhere, that something would be wrong, that she would get away with it. She didn’t want to “get away with it”. She wanted, she needed, to take responsibility for her actions and move on with her life.

There had been no accident, no reports of poor driving from the public, just a random stop by the police, and one our client was immensely grateful for, because in her head it meant that a bad situation had not been made worse.

We worked with our client, not only to make sure the courts saw her and not just the offence, but also to help our client realise that yes she had made a mistake, but that she was not defined by that mistake, and that all the good she had done and would still do in life was worth more than this one mistake. We supported her through telling her family, her friends and colleagues.

At Forrest Williams we understand that behind every case there is a client, a family impacted by this matter. You will have a dedicated case handler, you will have multiple ways of contacting that person so a method that works for you and your life is used – we know that if you work in a busy office you may not want to take calls during the day so it may be that we email or text and speak on your breaks when you can be somewhere private. We work with you and for you.

If you are charged with a criminal offence and want to work with a team who have won awards for their customer service levels then give the Forrest Williams team a call on 01623 600645.

Awards - Frames + Chad Winner 2015 - Medium - 1000 x 313 (No Scaling Nee

Solicitors for Drink Drivers

Helen Newman of Forrest Williams solicitors

Looking for Solicitors for Drink Drivers?

“Drink Drivers – they’re all the same. Go out, get drunk, no care for anyone else on the road….”

Sound familiar? We disagree.

At Forrest Williams, solicitors for drink drivers, we believe that Drink Driving is an offence, not a person.  We know that for every person committing that offence there is a reason which led to them being in the car at that point in time having consumed alcohol. We firmly believe that it is not our job to judge you, we know that in the majority of cases you will be doing enough of that yourself. We know that for many people what they really want and need is someone to support them through a very difficult time in their life and to help them get the best possible outcome they can in the circumstances. We know that no two cases are the same and because of that we tailor our support to each individual client.

The only thing we don’t do is tailor our prices. We know the work involved in your case and the fee you will be quoted is the same whether you are a footballer earning thousands of pounds a week or a teacher, a nurse or a surgeon. We don’t ask your income before we give you our price so you can be sure that the price you pay is a fair one.

Let me tell you about a couple of our recent clients we have supported through their court cases (names have been changed to protect our clients’ privacy).

Luke

Luke was a 19 year old boy, due to appear in Beverley Magistrates Court last month.  He was the designated driver for the evening so had his 2 pints of beer at the start of the evening (between 7:30-9:00pm) and then stopped and moved to non-alcoholic drinks. He knew he would not be driving for several hours so thought he would be fine. He started doing the rounds about midnight dropping his friends home. As he drove down a side street there were cars parked along both sides and it was a tight squeeze, he misjudged the manoeuvre and clipped one of the cars. The police were called and as a matter of procedure he was given a breath test – he failed. His reading was 40mg. At 39mg he would not have been charged.

We were appointed by Luke’s dad to help him through the court case.  He accepted the offence and the charge, he just wanted someone with his son, and to explain what was going to happen and when. We were able to persuade the District Judge of Luke’s good character and that the accident should not be held against him when sentencing. Luke was sentenced to the absolute minimum disqualification the court could impose – 12 months, and they also offered him the opportunity to complete a course which would further reduce the disqualification down to just 9 months.

Both Luke and his parents were very pleased with this outcome and later instructed us to assist them with the resolution of the Insurance Claim relating to the accident.

James

James hadn’t planned on drinking that evening, in fact he wasn’t even going out. He was at home, having been at work all day and was intending to relax and watch a film. His girlfriend rang him and suggested they meet at a local pub, it was already after 9pm and it was raining heavily and he had work the following morning, so he had no intentions of it being a long night, just a quick drink before home and bed.

When he got to the pub James’s girlfriend had a pint waiting for him, she told him she had been cheating on him and then she left. He drank the pint and then had another.  In his words he was in a bit of a daze.  He left the pub and went to his car.  He drove out of the car park and the short journey home.  As he pulled up on his drive the officers walked across to him – someone in the pub had reported a drink-driver.  He knew as soon as they asked him to give a sample that he would be over the limit, he just hadn’t for a second thought about it before then.  His reading was 57mg in breath.

He was charged to appear in Birmingham Magistrates just 10 days later.  We arranged for one of our expert Barristers to attend with him and made sure that we were able to show the court his good character.  The judge was sympathetic to James’ position and that he would lose his job as a result of this offence and sentenced him to the minimum sentence possible of 12 months disqualification (guidelines for his reading would have suggested a disqualification of 16 months). He was also offered the course to reduce the disqualification further.

James was very pleased with the outcome and that through representation and getting his side of the story across, he had potentially saved himself 7 months off his ban!

Our clients are never drink drivers to us.  Each client is their own self, with their own story about how they have ended up in this position.

At Forrest Williams we listen to your story, we make sure the courts see YOU and not just the offence. We work with you to get the best possible outcome for you.

If you are charged with an offence then give the Forrest Williams team a call on 01623 600645.  We are specialist solicitors for drink drivers, and we are here to help.

24 Month Ban For Drink Driving At 106

Tracy Johnson of Forrest Williams

Tracy Johnson of Forrest Williams

24 Month Ban For Drink Driving 106 in Breath

Tony Bryan appeared in Mansfield Magistrates’ Court and got a 24 month ban for drink driving 106 in breath.

Represented by Steve Williams, of Forrest Williams, Tony had been made aware that his breath reading of 106 meant that his penalties would be a disqualification within the range 23-28 months.

However, as Tony’s reading was in the third category, which meant the offence would be treated even more seriously by the court, he risked a community order instead of a fine. Tony’s case worker explained that he could be ordered to attend a course, be tagged, ordered to adhere to a curfew, or ordered to complete a certain number of hours of unpaid work within the community.

In addition, this higher reading may mean that Tony would have to meet with the Probation Services, who would interview him and write a report for court, with their recommendations as to what penalties be imposed. In practical terms, this could mean Tony would need to attend an interview and then a second, sentencing hearing.

Tony’s case worker, Tracy Johnson, assured him she and Steve would do all they could to avoid this happening. Although a disqualification was not what Tony would have wanted to happen, he accepted that this would be part of his punishment and wanted to be sentenced as quickly as possible, so he could move on with his life.

Tony explained to his case worker that he had established his own construction company four years ago, and that running his business without his driving licence would be extremely difficult.

He also informed his case worker that he had held his driving licence for 12 years, that he had never had any points on his licence and that he had never been disqualified for any reason. The drink driving offence, he explained, was out of character and had happened as a result of having drinks after work with a friend and then driving himself home.

Unfortunately, he said, he hit a kerb and this alerted a police patrol car. He was subsequently pulled over and breathalysed. When he failed the roadside test, he was taken back to the police station, breathalysed in the Intoxyliser Room and subsequently charged.

As Tony had no defence to the charge, he pleaded guilty. Steve Williams advanced mitigation on his behalf, which was considered by the District Judge. Taking into account Tony’s unblemished driving record when sentencing, the court’s ruling was that he be disqualified from driving for a period of 24 months, but that this be reduced to 18 months on completion of the drink drive rehabilitation course. In addition, a community order was avoided and, instead, Tony was ordered to pay a fine as well as other court costs. This meant that a meeting with Probation Services was avoided, as was a second hearing.

All things considered, this was a very good result for Tony and he thanked everyone who had worked hard on his case to help bring about this ‘better than it could have been’ outcome.

If you need help for a drink driving offence, call our expert team now on 01623 600645.

Drink Driving Breath Reading of 79

Tracy Johnson of Forrest Williams

Tracy Johnson of Forrest Williams

At Mansfield Magistrates’ Court this week, Adele Fox was relieved when she was sentenced for her drink driving offence. She told our Senior Solicitor, Steve Williams, that she had been expected to be disqualified for much longer due to the aggravating factors relating to her offence. In addition, she did not expect to be offered a place on the drink drive rehabilitation course, as she felt the court would want to make an example of her, and punish her more harshly.

Adele told Steve that she realised her outcome had no doubt been influenced by his assertive mitigation within the court room, and the skilful way in which he had painted a picture of her good character in court, whilst recognising the fact that she had hit a parked car while driving with a breath reading over the legal limit.

Adele had been driving the short distance home after a night out with friends when her car made contact with another vehicle parked at the side of the road. She told us that this was observed, and that the police were called. However, she stressed that this behaviour was out of character and that she had no previous drink driving offences.

Before the court hearing, Adele had prepared herself as best she could for the disqualification she knew would happen. She travelled to court with a friend, who drove for her, and she brought a letter of apology and a couple of character reference letters, as advised to do by her case worker.

She knew that for her reading, a breath reading of 79, the sentencing guidelines indicate that the disqualification period be in the range 17-22 months. Adele was expecting to be disqualified for 22 months.

However, on the day of the hearing, following Steve Williams’ forceful mitigation, the District Judge ruled that Adele be disqualified for 17 months and that she be offered a place on the drink driving course, the completion of which will reduce her disqualification by up to 25%.

Adele told Steve she was very relieved by the knowledge that she would be back on the road much sooner than she had anticipated, and stressed that she had learned her lesson from this one isolated court experience.

If you need help for a drink driving matter, call our expert team now on 01623 600645.

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A Malicious Drink Driving Prosecution Dropped

Steve Williams of Forrest Williams

Steve Williams of Forrest Williams

A Malicious Drink Driving Prosecution Dropped

Anita Harrison received a phone call this week which, she said, meant there would be an end to her sleepless nights.

Steve Williams, Senior Partner of Forrest Williams, had taken a call from the East Midlands office of the CPS, informing him that the charge of drink driving had been discontinued, meaning that the case against Anita had been dropped.

The reason for this was that the CPS had recently received an expert’s report commissioned by Forrest Williams, which supported Anita’s assertion that she consumed red wine after driving, which had pushed her breath-alcohol reading over the legal limit.

Her assertion was supported by the fact that the police officers who had arrived at her house, on the date in question, had taken photographs of an opened bottle of wine and a wine glass, both of which they had marked liquid levels on. These photographs, in turn, formed part of the bundle of documents which were being used as evidence in the case against Anita.

Once a Prosecutor had reviewed the independent expert’s report, however, a decision was made not to continue with the prosecution.

Once we shared this news with Anita, she was understandably delighted. Having already attended Nottingham Magistrates’ Court twice, to enter her not guilty plea and for a ‘mention’ hearing, she was informed that the trial would be vacated and the charge against her discontinued.

Forrest Williams were also very pleased about the success of this case, as the charge against Anita appears to have resulted from a malicious anonymous call to the police regarding the fact that she was a drink driver, when in fact she had had just one drink in a pub before going home to shower and then spend the evening with friends.

She told us she had never planned to drive after having got changed, and that she had arranged for a friend to pick her up – hence the reason why she had opened the bottle of wine and had a glass while getting ready to go out.

Another successful outcome for law firm Forrest Williams, who offer a bespoke service to suit each client’s individual needs.

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Auto-brewery Syndrome – What Is It?

Tracy Johnson of Forrest Williams

Tracy Johnson of Forrest Williams

Auto-brewery Syndrome – what is it?

Auto-brewery syndrome, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, is a rare medical condition in which intoxicating quantities of ethanol (alcohol) are produced through endogenous (organism, tissue or cell) fermentation within the digestive system.

However, as the condition is rare, diagnosis is not straightforward. One case went undetected for 20 years!

The complaint can be traced back to the Japan in the 1970s, when doctors reported treating patients with chronic yeast infections. 

In papers published at that time, the researchers described how all of these patients had an abnormal liver enzyme, which meant that they weren’t great at getting rid of alcohol from the body.

In one case to hit the news recently, 35 year old Nick Hess of Columbus, Ohio, told the media how he would become drunk every time he ate chips or other carbohydrates.

Before he was diagnosed, his wife feared he was an alcoholic.

Sometimes Nick’s symptoms would take days to develop, but on other occasions the onset would be almost immediate.

For Nick it was no laughing matter. He would become confused, slur his words, and suffer stomach pains and headaches. Every day for a year he would vomit on waking.

In desperation, his wife, Karen Daw, filmed him and played back the footage for him to see. Nick says he was terrified at what he saw.

In desperation, he approached his GP for help, but the initial reaction was the same as his wife’s – that he was an alcoholic who was in denial about his problem.

It was only when Nick was admitted to hospital for tests that the truth was revealed.

The condition means Nick’s stomach has an overgrowth of yeast, which turns any carbohydrates he eats into alcohol. 

Nick now takes anti-fungal drugs and sticks to a special low carbohydrate diet, which helps to combat the condition. 

Claims of endogenous fermentation of this type have been used as a defence against drink driving charges.

However, as detailed above, this is a rare medical condition. For most people charged with a drink driving offence it would not be a defence.

If you have been charged with a drink driving offence and would like to see if you have a defence, call Forrest Williams on 01623 600645 for free initial advice.

Getting Your Licence Back After A Ban

Helen Newman of Forrest Williams solicitors

Helen Newman of Forrest Williams solicitors

Getting Your Licence Back After A Ban

Are you having issues with obtaining the return of your licence from the DVLA following the end of a disqualification period? Have you had your licence revoked or refused on medical grounds? Did you know that you can appoint someone to liaise with the DVLA on your behalf?

That’s what a recent client of ours did. He had been convicted of Drink Driving and served his disqualification. He had made the application for the return of his licence but then run into issues with the DVLA suggesting that he may require a medical before they were willing to consider his application further.

The client contacted us in despair, he had been going round in circles with the DVLA for weeks and was getting nowhere. In his eyes he had served his sentence and now just wanted to move forward with his life. It wasn’t even that he objected to having a medical if one was required, just that he wanted someone to talk to him and explain what was going on.

We spent time chatting to the client, we talked about why he wanted his licence back, the circumstances of the incident which led to his disqualification, how his life has changed since then. We ensured that we were able to answer any questions the DVLA may have and to try to ensure we could move this matter forward.

From our conversations with the client we did not believe he would require a medical, he did not appear to fall into any of the ‘High-Risk Offender’ categories and nor had anything he told us suggested that there would be a medical reason to suggest that he may not be granted the return of his licence.

We spoke to the DVLA, wrote to them, followed up again several times with them verbally until we were able to speak with a decision maker who agreed with us that our client would not require a medical and confirmed that his licence would be issued to him immediately. We were even able to obtain this confirmation from them in writing so he would be able to drive immediately and not have to wait for the new licence to arrive in the post to know it had been granted.

At Forrest Williams we have had success in appealing against revocation of licence, refusal of licence and disputes over the return of licence. If you are experiencing any of these issues then give the team a call on 0800 1933 999 and we would be happy to discuss your circumstances with you and to advise you on the best course of action for you.

 

Defence to Failing To Provide a Specimen

Tracy Johnson of Forrest Williams

Tracy Johnson of Forrest Williams

Do You Have A Defence to Failing To Provide A Specimen?

Simon Parnell was delighted this week when he received a phone call from his case worker at Forrest Williams, informing him that the motoring charge against him had been dropped. 

When Simon first contacted us, he made clear from the beginning that although he had been charged with Failing to Provide a Specimen of Breath for Analysis, and this charge had resulted in him receiving a summons to court, he had actually tried his best to comply with the request of the police. 

Simon told us that, on arrival at the police station, he had immediately made the desk sergeant aware that he was in some pain, following his involvement in a car crash just a few weeks ago. 

The car crash, he told us, had been serious – it had resulted in his car ending up in a ditch and his being admitted to hospital, where he had to have a dozen stitches in his head. Since the car crash, Simon informed us, he had been suffering with back spasms which were so severe that he had been unable to work and had been signed off indefinitely, covered by his GP’s sick notes. 

On the date in question, Simon told his case worker that he had also been recovering from a bad cold, which affected his sinuses and his ability to breathe in the usual way. 

Simon told us he had tried as hard as he could to give the required samples of breath, but that he was unable to for the reasons given above. 

Once charged with an offence, he was so upset that he quickly arranged to see his GP, who wrote a supporting letter confirming that he was genuinely struggling with painful back spasms, and that breathing out for an extended period of time, as required by the breath test procedure, would have been very difficult/impossible for him to do. 

We advised Simon that he had a defence to failing to provide a specimen.

Following an initial hearing, at which Simon’s not guilty plea was entered, a copy of his medical records was requested and reviewed. These documents showed that Simon’s account of the pain he was in, and the medical treatment he had sought accordingly, were accurate. 

Simon’s case worker liaised assertively with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) at this point, with the request that the charge against Simon be discontinued on the basis that he had medical reasons for not providing the required samples of breath. It was respectfully pointed out to the CPS that at no point had the police elected to request either blood or urine samples, both of which could more easily have been provided by our client. The case worker involved also informed the CPS that Simon had made clear to the police officers concerned that he was in pain, and that the level of pain he was in made it impossible for him to give an extended breath, as the breath test procedure required. This important information, however, appeared to have been ignored. 

As a result of the contact from Forrest Williams, a Prosecutor from the CPS reviewed the case and a decision to discontinue the charge against our client was taken. 

Simon was understandably delighted when he received this news. It meant that he no longer faces a potential disqualification from driving, and can now focus his energies on a return to full health. 

He thanked his case worker and all in the Forrest Williams office for their support and assistance through what had been a very stressful time of his life.

If you have been charged with failing to provide a specimen, contact our expert team now on 01623 600645.

Concussion As A Defence To Failing To Provide a Specimen

Concussion As A Defence To Failing To Provide a Specimen

What happens when you don’t understand what the police are asking of you?

What if you can’t comply with the requests of you because you can’t make sense of what is going on? 

That’s what faced a client of ours who was recently cleared of a Failure to Provide a Specimen for Analysis Charge in Kettering Magistrates Court. He did not give a sample of breath because he did not understand what was going on. Not because of any linguistic barrier but because he had concussion. He had been involved in a serious road accident and had blacked out.  The witness statements describe the car as spinning and then rolling several times, they describe him as stumbling, disorientated, slurring his speech. 

Now our client did not remember the accident, not really, certainly not clearly. In fact he didn’t really remember a great deal about the evening. He knew he’d had plans to go for dinner so may have had a glass of wine with his dinner but was very clear to us that he would very rarely have more than 1 drink if he was driving.  He certainly didn’t expect that he would have been over the limit. 

So why not give a sample or breath to prove it? Quite simply because he didn’t understand what was happening because of his injuries.

The charge of Failure to Provide a Sample for analysis is there as a back up. It’s a fail-safe for the police to use when they believe someone is deliberately failing to provide – because if they genuinely believe there are grounds not to be able to provide a sample of breath they do have the option of asking for blood or urine. 

Our client was hospitalised after this accident, the police themselves took him to the hospital once he left the station. 

As part of our case preparation we instructed a medical expert to meet with our client, to assess him, to review his medical records from the night of the incident and subsequent GP/hospital visits and to compile a report for the court to explain the impact that concussion can have on the cognitive function of the brain – because it’s not just a headache, it’s a serious medical condition with numerous symptoms. 

We believed the medical report was self-explanatory, it clearly set out the issues facing our client on the night of his arrest. Unfortunately the prosecution would not agree to the evidence being entered to court in it’s written format (something that is common when we present strong evidence to support our case) and so our expert attended court to give the report verbally. His expert testimony explained to the court the mental state our client would have been in, the disorientation, the out of character actions and behaviour, and, put simply, that he may not have been able to understand what was being asked of him and why and, just as importantly, the consequences of his actions by refusing to provide a sample.

The Court found in our client’s favour. They found that he had a genuine reason for failing to have provided a breath sample. He was acquitted of the charge, avoiding the driving disqualification that would have been imposed had he been convicted. He was not ordered to pay any court or prosecution costs and an order was made that his own legal fees should be assessed and a proportion refunded to him. Both he and his wife were thrilled and so relieved that this long ordeal was over.

This also means that his Insurance Company will be able to finalise his claim for the accident and that cover should remain in place as he was not convicted of an offence. 

If you have been charged with an offence and need to speak with someone about this for honest advice then give the Forrest Williams team a call on 01623 600645 and we will be happy to help you.

Can I Argue Laced Drinks For Drink Driving Charge?

Tracy Johnson of Forrest Williams

Tracy Johnson of Forrest Williams

Can I Argue Laced Drinks For A Drink Driving Charge?

  • Are you charged with Drink Driving?
  • Did your reading surprise you?
  • Do you think you should have been under the limit?
  • Do you think the reading was wrong?
  • Is there a possibility that you were given additional alcohol that you were not intending to consume?

 

If you answered yes to all of these questions then you may have a case to ask the courts not to impose the otherwise mandatory disqualification associated with a Drink Driving conviction.

We recently represented a client with such a case in Warwickshire Magistrates Court. He was having a few drinks with friends (bottles of beer decanted into glasses), he was not pouring the drinks himself. It was a Polish beer he was unfamiliar with. He did not realise that his friend, when pouring the drinks, was mixing additional alcohol with the beer. His friend did not realise he was going to be driving later and was simply mixing our client identical drinks to those he was making for himself and their companion. This scenario is a perfect example of laced drinks. There does not need to be a malicious element, it is not the press image of ‘spiking’ someone’s drink – it is being given alcohol you had not asked for and were unaware of consuming, and it is something that happens often.

When putting a laced drinks argument to the court there are a number of elements to be satisfied:

  • Were you given alcohol you were unaware of?
  • Was it reasonable for you to be unaware of this additional alcohol?
  • Should you have known you were unfit to drive even if you hadn’t realised it was due to excess alcohol?
  • Would you have been under the limit had it not been for the additional alcohol?

The easiest way to answer the first question is to have the individual who laced the drinks or a witness to that lacing give evidence to the court, though this is not vital. The second and third points will be covered when you give evidence. And to prove the fourth point, one of our forensic experts can provide a report to calculate what your blood alcohol would have been without the additional drink or, in some cases, it can be clear using common sense that the expected alcohol consumption could not have provided such a reading.

Laced Drinks cases are not straight forward and we would always suggest that expert, specialist advice is obtained. There will be at least 2 hearings and prosecution evidence to be interrogated.

If you have been charged with Drink Driving and you believe you may have a laced drinks case then give the Forrest Williams Team a call on 01623 600645 and we will be happy to advise you further on the likelihood of any such application being successful.