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Law on the Web’s drink driving guide gives you all the information you need for the UK, including penalties, breathalyzer tests, your rights and what to do next.
Committing a driving offence will often result in penalty points being put on to your licence. If you get 12 of these on your licence over the course of three years, you will be banned from driving, usually for six months, unless you can successfully make a plea of exceptional hardship. This is known as totting up.
For new drivers, the limit is even lower – if you receive 6 points within two years of passing your test, you will lose your licence, and will have to get your provisional licence again and retake your test to regain your full licence.
If you have been previously banned for more than 56 days at any point in the last three years, your disqualification will usually be extended to 12 months.
Totting up is not the only way to have your licence taken away – you can be banned from driving for committing certain serious driving offences, such as driving with excess alcohol or driving without a valid licence.
Your success in making a plea of exceptional hardship will depend on the impact that losing your licence will have on you and others that may depend on you. For example, if you are disabled or a disabled person depends on you for transport, the court may allow you to keep your licence.
If you argue that you need your car for work, and that a disqualification would cost you your job, this may not be considered enough to spare you a ban. However, if you can prove that your ban from driving would have a significant and harmful effect on your employer or business, you may be able to avoid a ban.
If you were banned for fewer than 56 days, you will not need to reapply for your licence – a ban of this length is known as Short Period Disqualification (SPD). The length of the period for which you are banned will be noted on your licence, and as soon as it expires you will be free to drive again.
For longer bans, you will need to reapply for your licence. For most disqualified drivers the DVLA will send a form 56 days before your disqualification period ends, which must be filled in and returned.
For “high-risk” offenders, the process is slightly different, but the DVLA will still send you the relevant form, albeit 90 days in advance of the disqualification ending.
You could be classed as a high-risk offender for any of these drink driving offences:
If you were disqualified for any other offence, you will be classed as a non-high-risk.
If you are banned for over two years, you have the option of applying to get your licence back early. Whether or not the court will allow this will depend on the circumstances which led to your disqualification and how you have conducted yourself since.
Presenting a case for the early return of your driver’s licence involves an assessment by the Court in which they will consider your character, how you have acted since the disqualification, and other points such as the offence which led to your disqualification and how it happened. This will be done according to the criteria of section 42 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.
Often you will find your application for early return contested by the Crown Prosecution Service, so it is unfortunately rare to get your licence back early. After a refusal, you are not permitted to make another request of this type for 3 months, and you are less likely to succeed the more you apply.
How early you can apply to get your licence back depends on how long you were banned for.
|Length of ban||How long you must wait before applying|
|Less than 4 years||2 years|
|4 or more years but less than 10 years||Half the length of the disqualification period|
|10 or more years||5 years|
Endorsements on your licence can cause you real problems – allow too many to build up, and you could be disqualified from driving. Fortunately, endorsements won’t stay on your licence forever.
When an endorsement is put on your licence, it will be shown on there with the relevant code – for example, the code for failing to stop after an accident is AC10. You can find a complete list of codes in our Motoring Penalty Points and Codes section.
The majority of endorsements will stay on your licence for 4 years from the date of conviction, but more serious offences cannot be removed until 11 years have passed from the date of conviction.
Many drink driving and drug driving offences will all take 11 years to expire. These include driving while over the limit, causing death by careless driving and failing to provide a specimen. Here is the complete list of 11 year endorsements.
11 year endorsements
|CD40||Causing death through careless driving when unfit through drink|
|CD50||Causing death by careless driving when unfit through drugs|
|CD60||Causing death by careless driving with alcohol level above the limit|
|CD70||Causing death by careless driving then failing to supply a specimen for alcohol analysis|
|DR10||Driving or attempting to drive with alcohol level above limit|
|DR20||Driving or attempting to drive while unfit through drink|
|DR30||Driving or attempting to drive then failing to supply a specimen for analysis|
|DR80||Driving or attempting to drive when unfit through drugs|
All other offences expire in 4 years, and can then be removed. Note that not all drink offences remain for 11 years – being drunk in charge of a vehicle, for example, is an endorsement that can be removed after 4 years.
Once an endorsement has expired, you can apply to have it removed from your licence. The points will cease to have any effect after 3 years, meaning that the points will no longer count towards any totting up on your licence.
Removing an expired endorsement is simple if you have a photocard licence. You simply need to fill in and return DVLA driving licence application form D1, which you can obtain from the DVLA’s form ordering service, or from certain branches of the Post Office®. Send this form with your photocard licence, as well as your paper licence and the appropriate fee to the following address:
If you still have a paper licence, you will need to upgrade to a photocard licence by also sending photocard application form D750, along with documentation confirming your identity and a passport appropriate photograph. You will also need to include these if your name has changed since your photocard licence was issued (although a new photograph is not necessary).
The DVLA will also make medical enquiries if any of the following applies:
Revocation applies to any new driver who has passed their test and gotten their licence in the past two years. If you receive 6 points on your licence within two years of your first successful driving test, you will have your licence taken away. At this point, you will need to go through the process of learning to drive again, including getting a provisional licence, driving as a learner and retaking your test.
Even if you do regain your licence, the points that you originally gained will stay on there, meaning that you could be disqualified again if the total reaches 12.