Being stopped by the police while driving

Breath tests

The police can stop you at any time and ask you to take a breath test (‘breathalyse’ you) if:

  • they think you’ve been drinking
  • you’ve committed a traffic offence
  • you’ve been involved in a road traffic accident

If you refuse to take a breath test, or fail to supply a sample of breath and do not have a ‘reasonable excuse’, you can be arrested. A reasonable excuse could be a genuine physical or mental condition stopping you from giving a sample.

The breath test gives a result straight away. If it shows you’re not over the drink drive limit, you may be allowed to go.

If you fail the breath test, you’ll be taken to a police station and given a final breath test. If it’s positive, you will be charged.

If the officer thinks you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can ask you to:

  • take a drug test
  • do a physical test (a ‘field impairment test’), for example walk in a straight line then turn around and walk back

You can be arrested if you fail the test.

If you fail a breath test you cannot drive your car until you’re sober. You can ask someone else to collect your car for you.