Drunk in charge of a vehicle

drunk in charge of a vehicle

The offence of drunk in charge of a vehicle

Sections 4(2) and 5(1b) Road Traffic Act 1998 deal with the position of being drunk in charge of a vehicle.

Section 4(2) provides that it is an offence for a person to be in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place when unfit to drive through drink or drugs, whilst section 5(1b) states that “If a person …. is in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit he is guilty of an offence”


You should note that so far as section 4(2) is concerned, a person is not regarded as being in charge of the vehicle if he or she can prove that, at the material time, the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of them driving the vehicle for so long as they remained unfit to drive through drink or drugs. However, in order to use this as a defence, you will have to show the court that factors existed which would point to this conclusion being drawn. Thus for example, if the keys were in the ignition or the engine was running it will be more difficult to prove this than if the person had, for example, given the keys to someone else to look after and was simply sitting in the car.

It is worth bearing in mind that the vehicle does not have to be moving for this offence to have taken place. It is enough that the person was about to drive or had been driving the vehicle.

What does “in charge” of a vehicle mean

Whilst there is no precise legal definition of “in charge” usually the court will view you as being “in charge” if you were the owner of the vehicle, or it was in your possession or you had recently driven it. If someone else was driving the vehicle or you were some distance from the vehicle at the appropriate time then you would generally not be regarded as being in charge. However, if the person driving the vehicle held only a provisional licence then you would be regarded as being “in charge”.

Often it is not clear whether or not you were “in charge” at the relevant time – for example if you were sitting in the car but had no intention of driving it. If this is the case, the experienced solicitors at keepmedriving can help you to prepare a defence to the allegations of being in charge.


The penalty which you are likely to incur on being found guilty depend upon the precise nature of the conviction and the circumstances surrounding the matter.

The maximum penalty is a 3 months prison sentence and a fine of either £2,500 or £5,000 depending upon the offence charged. However, if you are convicted you can expect to receive a minimum of 10 Penalty Points with the possibiity of a discretionary driving ban of between 12 and 36 months. It is vital, therefore, that you contact keepmedriving as a matter of urgency so that we can advise you fully as to your options and as to how we might be able to assist you in reducing the severity of the penalty.

To contact keepmedriving either complete the appropriate online information form which you will find in the Getting Help section, request a free call-back using the call-back form to the right or phone us during office hours on 084 4804 4804