Drink Driving – Private Land?


I was stopped and arrested for drink driving in a Rainbow supermarket car park. I just wanted to know the law regarding driving on private land as a friend has told me that he believes you cannot be arrested for driving offences while on private property.

My defence is that I was simply moving my vehicle from the regular short term car park to the long term car park as I realised I was too drunk to drive home but did not wish to be clamped for leaving my vehicle overnight. Does this have any merit?

Dominic Says:

A drink driving offence can be committed on a road or other public place. A public place is unfortunately not defined by the person who owns it, instead it is defined by whether the public have access and utilise access to the land.

It can also be defined by a number of other factors such as the signs in the area, whether there are any barriers to entry and whether the owner restricts access. It is a very technical argument that is defined on a case by case basis, there is unfortunately no universal answer to your question.

I will give you a couple of examples.

If you were stopped and arrested in a privately owned supermarket car park, but the car park is open to the general public and it is during opening times, then even though the land is privately owned, and even if you need a ticket to park there, it would absolutely be classed as a public place and you would be guilty of the offence.

If you were stopped and arrested in a privately owned supermarket car park, but it was outside of opening times and the owner restricted access by, for example, putting a barrier across the entry or operating a wheelclamping service, then the car park is likely to be considered a private place and it is unlikely you would be convicted of drink driving.

However, that might change if the magistrates used their local knowledge and are aware that for example nightclub does use the car park overnight, as even though the owner restricts access the magistrates might say that the public still use it and therefore it makes it a public place.

Ultimately, there is no simple answer to your question. Every case is dealt with on a case by case basis and we need to look at the car park, what it is used for, whether there are any barriers or signs restricting access, whether the public utilise the car park, weather a specialist class of public have access only, and of course who owns it. All of these factors are to be taken into account.

In your case you may well be better off going down the route of what is called a special reason. A special reasons argument is where somebody is guilty of an offence but there are special reasons for not disqualifying, which in your case would be because of the shortness of the distance driven.

In accordance with the case of Chatters v Burke there are a number of criteria that we have to fulfil in order for that argument to be successful. But ultimately if we are successful, we may be able to have yout ban significantly reduced or avoided altogether.

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