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Special Reasons Arguments. Avoiding Points or Disqualification.

5 January 2022
Alcohol & Drugs

If you find yourself on the wrong end of a drink driving charge and can prove that you had an unusual circumstance which meant that even though you committed the offence, you should not be disqualified from driving or receive points then you may well have a special reasons argument.

What does it mean?

The legal argument must be directly connected with the carrying out of the offence and one which the court should to take into consideration when imposing punishment. Something that just relates to the offender as opposed to the carrying out of the offence doesn't class as special reasons. So losing your job or not being able to look after a sick relative if given a driving ban does not count - although in cases where disqualification is not mandatory like 12 point 'totting up', this could form the basis of an exceptional hardship argument.

A Special Reasons Argument can apply to the following offence groups:

  • Insurance offences

  • Alcohol related offences

  • Speeding offences

  • Offences of not obeying road signs or traffic lights

The law allows the court to exercise discretion in not disqualifying a motorist, or to prevent the imposition of penalty points on a motorist. It is discretionary and not a duty. This means that the court has a two-stage test, firstly they decide whether or not to find Special Reasons, if they do they then decide whether to apply them in favour of the defendant. In short, they could find in favour of the Special Reasons but still disqualify.

Examples of Special Reasons arguments for drink driving might include (this is by no means an exhaustive list):

  • Driving someone to hospital while over the alcohol limit when there is a genuine emergency.

  • Driving to rescue a person from danger and speeding to get there

  • Driving whilst over the limit after your drinks have been spiked or laced

For the first and second examples above, the driver must usually feel that there is a genuine exceptional situation which cannot be solved by other means. So if someone else could have driven the ill person in the first example, then Special reasons are less likely to be accepted, and a ban would likely follow.

With laced or spiked drinks, it must be shown that if the drinks had not been laced, the defendant would have been under the limit. In nearly all cases, this has to be proven with medical evidence from an expert in alcohol calculations.

A court will not allow a Special Reasons argument to succeed where the fact that the defendant was driving was not proportionate to the need to break the law. The court will also bear in mind, among other things, the driving conditions, the state of the vehicle being driven, the length of the journey, and, in alcohol cases, whether a sober person at the scene would have recommended driving. In non-emergency cases, or in situations where the Special Reason involves some type of mistake or error in understanding, the reasonableness of that mistake will be tested thoroughly by the prosecution and examined closely by the magistrates.

In summary, a Special Reasons argument must be:

  • To do with the events, and not to do with the personal situation of the defendant.

  • A good reason why someone should not be disqualified/given points.

  • Something done that was at the time and is in hindsight now a reasonable thing to do, considering all the circumstances.

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