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Home > Motoring Law Blog from Just Motor Law > Drink Driving and Private Roads

Drink Driving and Private Roads

Posted on 28/01/2013

Most people will be aware that it is an offence to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or public place while over the limit due to alcohol. We all know what a road is but do you know what the courts class as a “public place”?

In the past, the courts have decided that many different areas can be classed as a public place for the purposes of this offence. Examples include a pub car park (but potentially only during licensing hours), a private field to which the public were temporarily invited to watch racing, a caravan park and an area accessible to aircraft at one of the terminals at Heathrow Airport.

The general test applied by the court in determining whether where you are driving in a “public place” is to establish whether the relevant area is open to the general public or whether there is sufficient segregation or selection of the people who can enter that area, to convert them from members of the general public to a special class. For example, the car park of a private members club, where there is no evidence of public use of the car park is not a “public place”. 

The latest case to deal with this issue came before the High Court recently when a man successfully appealed his conviction for drink driving on the basis that the university campus was not a “public place”. Although visitors as well as residents and university staff had access, all visitors were required to leave the campus by 12.30am. The driving had taken place at 5am and there had been no evidence put before the court that the general public had access at this time of day.

Be warned however, the court took the trouble to point out that in many cases evidence would be available to show that a campus was accessible to the public to satisfy the relevant test that it is a “public place”.