Is it an offence to sleep in your vehicle whilst over the limit?


4 November 2021

By Elizabeth Bradshaw

People often end up having too much to drink when they originally had the intention of having none or one and then driving home. When this happens, some may opt for sleeping in their car until they think they are safe to drive.

However, in doing this, you could find yourself being arrested and being due to appear in court and potentially at risk of a disqualification from driving.

Drunk in charge

Section 5 (1) (b) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states it is offence if a person is in charge of a motor vehicle (on a road or other public place) after consuming an amount of alcohol that the proportion of it in their breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit.

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, the legal alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath, or 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine.

Plausible defence

The legislation (Section 5 (2)) goes on to state that; It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1)(b) above to prove that at the time he is alleged to have committed the offence the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of his driving the vehicle whilst the proportion of alcohol in his breath, blood or urine remained likely to exceed the prescribed limit.

Meaning that the circumstances that led the individual to sleep in the car and the time in which they intended to drive the car next could be considered. There are many reasons in which someone may opt to sleep in their car such as transport delays, adverse weather etc. In these cases, the alcohol levels at which you would next intend to operate the vehicle would be calculated by an expert and then deemed if you would have been safe to drive or not.

Each case can be considered by its own set of circumstances. For example, where the keys were in the vehicle, if the vehicle was switched on and even where the person was sat in the vehicle.

We must emphasise the importance of having legal representation during a police interview.

What penalties could you be facing for being in charge whilst exceeding the prescribed limit?

If caught being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle, you could face the minimum penalty which is 10 penalty points together with a fine, this could however result in disqualification if you have existing points on your license under the totting up provisions.

If the reading is particularly high then you could face disqualification.

For further details on sentencing and penalties, the magistrates court have set out their sentencing guidelines

Contact us

If you have been prosecuted for being 'Drunk in Charge' we would urge you to seek legal advice at your earliest opportunity.

If you want to find out more about the services we can offer you, or require legal advice about a motoring offence you have received, please feel free to get in touch with our motoring law solicitors in Chelmsford

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This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.