Breath Tests

The Law

The Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA 1988) states that if a person drinks and drives – or even attempts to – then, if caught, he faces almost certain disqualification and a fine of up to £5000 or imprisonment for up to six months.

How much alcohol can you drink before you are over the limit?

This is one of the first questions people will ask.  Unfortunately there is no universal answer.  The law does not state the amount of alcohol that one can drink before driving, rather it states a person commits an offence if they “drive or attempt to drive a motor vehicle on a road or any other public place if they have more than 35mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath, 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, or 107mg of alcohol in 100ml of urine.”

It is misleading to attempt to explain these limits in terms of units or pints of beer because so much depends on your health, size, and how used to drinking you are.

When can I be breath tested?

When breath tests were introduced in 1967 random testing was supposed to be illegal.  However, a uniformed police officer can stop a motorist at any time.  If a motorist is stopped and the officer happens to smell alcohol on his breath, he can request a breath test.

What happens if I refuse a breath test?

Only if you are physically or mentally unable to give a specimen or giving one would entail a substantial risk to your health are you able to refuse.  This would later have to be proved in court.

Otherwise, refusing a breath test without reasonable cause is, in itself, an offence punishable with four penalty points, disqualification, and a fine of up to £1000.  You will also be arrested and taken to a police station.