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Failure to provide a specimen for a driving offence

We understand just how worrying it can be to be faced with driving-related charges, such as failure to provide a specimen, especially if you or others rely on your freedom to use a car or commercial vehicle.

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If the police ask you to provide a sample at the roadside or the police station, and you fail to do so, then you may face charges – unless you have a reasonable excuse. Failing to provide a specimen is generally considered by the court to be more serious than excess alcohol.

What is failure to provide a specimen?

If a police officer suspects that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, you may be stopped and asked to provide a specimen of breath, blood, or urine for analysis.

If you don’t comply with the officer’s request – and you don’t have a reasonable excuse – you may be accused of one of the following offences:

  • Failing to co-operate with a preliminary test
    If you refuse to take a breathalyser test, or another sobriety/impairment test when asked to do so by a police officer – either at the roadside or at the police station – you may be in breach of the law.
  • Failing to provide an evidential specimen for analysis
    If the police ask you to provide a breath, urine, or blood sample at the police station and you do not comply, you may face conviction.
  • Refusing permission for a laboratory test
    The police must obtain permission before carrying out tests on a specimen they have taken. If you fail to give permission for the police to carry out a laboratory test on the sample you have given, you might be deemed to be in breach of the law.

Is there any 'reasonable excuse' NOT to provide a specimen?

Any of the following reasons for not providing a specimen can be viewed as a 'reasonable excuse' in the eyes of the judges:

  • A medical condition
    Suffering from a medical condition, such as asthma in the case of a breath sample, or a prostate issue in the case of a urine sample, can be seen as an excuse not to provide a sample, but this would need to be backed up by substantial medical evidence.
  • A mental health condition
    This might be pre-existing or brought about by the circumstances of the situation in which the sample is requested. Examples could include anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Police behaviour
    If the police do not follow the proper procedures, then the case can be contested and may not go to court. Police officers must also warn you that failure to provide a specimen might lead to prosecution – if this warning is not given, then the case may be challenged.
  • A phobia of needles
    If a blood test is requested by police, a reasonable excuse for not complying could be a genuine phobia of needles that’s backed up by the opinion of a doctor or medical expert.
  • Mitigating circumstances
    A number of mitigating circumstances might affect your specific case when asked to provide a specimen, for example if the police made it difficult for you to provide a sample due to difficulty in passing urine in stressful circumstances.

I’ve been stopped by the police on suspicion of drink or drug-driving. What should I do?

It is important to follow police instructions; you must provide the type of sample requested by police.

The police must warn you that failing to provide a sample could lead to prosecution. If they don’t, it could lead to an unsuccessful prosecution.

If you have failed to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine, it is important to speak to a specialist lawyer who can gather the relevant details of your case and quickly establish how your prosecution can be defended, or your sentence mitigated.

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What are the penalties for failure to provide a specimen?

The penalties for failing or refusing to provide a specimen include a maximum of six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, and a ban from driving for at least one year.

Failure to co-operate with a preliminary test, such as a breathalyser, holds a penalty of four penalty points on your licence or a 12-36 month driving ban, or a £1,000 fine.

The penalties for failing to provide an evidential specimen for analysis depend on whether you were driving or simply in charge of the vehicle, with the penalties for the former being 3-11 penalty points/12-36 month ban, a £5,000 fine, or six months’ imprisonment, and the latter receiving 10 points or a 12-36 month ban, a £2,500 fine, or three months’ imprisonment.

The length and severity of any driving ban or other punishment depends on whether a genuine attempt to provide a specimen was made and whether any refusal to provide a specimen was deliberate, and can be reduced by a well-argued case.

How long do I have to take action?

If you have failed to provide a specimen after being stopped by the police on suspicion of drink or drug-driving, it is important to seek legal advice from an experienced motoring solicitor as soon as you can after you’ve been informed by the police that you have committed an offence.

If you are seeking to defend allegations of having failed to provide a specimen, First4Lawyers can help you to build a solid case that significantly increases the likelihood of your punishment being reduced, or even dropped.

First4Lawyers can work with you to establish the unique details of your situation and how your case will be viewed in the eyes of the law. To get your defence off to the best possible start, contact us for legal advice.

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