Drink Driving Convictions Special Reasons Not to Disqualify
As law abiding citizens, most of us probably don’t even think about breaking the law. Occasionally however, extraordinary circumstances take hold and alter our usual behaviour. Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were in a life or death situation and you felt like you needed to break the law?
Would you do it?
Would it be OK if you did?
What consequences could you face?
Consider this scenario:
Your friend is viciously attacked and left seriously injured. You suddenly regret having that extra pint but your car is right in front of you and the hospital is 5 minutes away. Emergency services have said the ambulance will be there as soon as possible but your friend is bleeding all over the pavement……
The law is there to protect us all and help ensure that we live in a civilised society but should it be so rigid that it risks being detrimental or counterproductive to the greater good? “Special Reasons” were perhaps born from this question and might apply in the scenario above.
Speeding is the most common offence and we all know someone who has been let off with a warning when stopped by an officer. If the officer knows you were speeding at 33 mph because your wife is giving birth, they may just let you off but this wouldn’t be classed as a special reason. Speeding cases are less serious than drink driving so it is more interesting to look at how special reasons could be applied to that offence.
What is a Special Reason?
A special reason is a unique circumstance that relates directly to the offence being committed, but is not strong enough to amount to an outright defence.
If a special reason exists then a defendant would still plead guilty but you’re kind of saying: “Yes, I am guilty but it’s only because of xxx so please don’t punish me”.
Drink driving can attract severe penalties including a disqualification (which can often ruin someone’s career and livelihood) or in serious cases a custodial penalty.
In finding a special reason, the court can circumvent the mandatory penalty for the offence and impose an alternative. It may be a shorter disqualification or, in the best possible cases, no disqualification at all.
A defendant who successfully argues special reasons does not avoid all consequences however as the licence would still be endorsed with the conviction and this may have significant implications on your insurance.
Difficulties with Special Reasons
The courts must apply a high standard before finding special reasons apply. This is to ensure that the provision is not abused by somebody trying to “pull a fast one” to avoid conviction. They will subject any special reasons argument to extreme scrutiny and often rule against the defendant despite the driver’s best intentions.
That may be difficult to swallow when you drive your friend 5 minutes to the hospital which ultimately saves his life but still lose your licence and end up with a criminal record. Should you really be punished? Who can say that an ambulance would have made it in time?
Most people weigh up the alternatives and perform a quick risk-assessment before deciding that the best thing to do is to drive (often to save time which could be crucial) and in some cases it may be an impossible decision to make- particularly when panic over an emergency takes over.
Panic is a very human response to an emergency situation and it can be easy to sympathise with those who find themselves in such an awful position. That said, a line must be drawn somewhere and the law has the luxury of not being bound by human emotions. The courts however have the very difficult task of applying that law and possibly telling a person that their good intentions have landed them with a criminal conviction, a hefty ban or even a prison sentence.
So what would you do?