A motorist who refused a breath test when police found her drunk on the side of a busy road has avoided jail after she claimed she didn’t start drinking until after her car broke down.
Elizabeth McKnight, 26, twice refused to give the test after police approached her on a grass verge by her stationary Nissan Qashqai on August 6.
The mother-of-two, from Bromborough on the Wirral in Cheshire, told officers she had downed two bottles of wine on the road while waiting for her father to come and collect her after her car broke down.
She also said she had thrown two empty bottles of wine further up the embankment, but officers found no bottles on the edge – instead she discovered a nearly empty bottle of wine in the car’s footwell.
Inquiries revealed the Nissan was also uninsured.
Elizabeth McKnight (pictured), 26, twice refused to give the test after police approached her on a grass verge by her stationary Nissan Qashqai on August 6
McKnight appeared at Chester Magistrates Court where she admitted failing to provide a breathalyzer.
She faced a possible six-month prison sentence but was instead given a 12-month community corrections order, had her driving license suspended for two years and was ordered to carry out 60 hours of unpaid work plus a further 20 rehabilitation days at the Correctional Institution.
She was also ordered to pay costs and a victim surcharge of £234.
The 26-year-old cited her ADHD, anxiety and dyslexia at the hearing and claimed she was a victim of domestic violence.
Arron Smith, prosecuting, said: ‘The officer noticed she was unsteady on her feet close to the edge of the road. She initially did not give details about who was driving before she pulled over. However, it was confirmed to the officer that Miss McKnight was indeed the driver.
‘She was detained in the police vehicle. The officer noticed that she smelled of intoxicating liquor. Her eyes were glazed and red and her words were slurred when she spoke.’
McKnight is unemployed and has ADHD, dyslexia and anxiety, and the report also includes a past history of domestic violence
Smith said McKnight first refused to provide a roadside test and again refused to take a breathalyzer test when she was in custody.
A probation report revealed McKnight ‘accepted it was a reckless thing to do and has expressed remorse’.
‘She said she has learned her lesson and will not be in court again. She is able to demonstrate an understanding of the risk posed to the public while under the influence of alcohol.’
The report attempted to argue against a license denial, citing her need to drop her children off at school and pick them up.
“She would benefit from the intervention of a program to address her thinking and problem-solving skills,” the report found.
McKnight is unemployed and has ADHD, dyslexia and anxiety, and the report also includes a past history of domestic violence.
She faced a possible six-month prison sentence but was instead given a 12-month community corrections order, had her license suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 60 hours of unpaid work plus a further 20 rehabilitation days at the Correctional Institution
Her lawyer, Chris Hunt, said his client believed the Nissan was insured, adding: ‘She is a young woman with two children under the age of ten and has never been in any real trouble before.’
She had two write-ups for fare evasion, but an otherwise clean record.
“This offense is heavily penalized because the danger is that by failing to provide a sample you can cover up a hugely high reading. That’s the mischief that this is designed to address,” Hunt said.
But he reiterated that McKnight made an error of judgement, adding that the alcohol she consumed before police approached meant she was ‘unable to handle the situation sensibly’.
“The car had broken down so she clearly had no intention of driving the car,” he said.
“The circumstances are that if she had co-operated with the officer she would not have committed an offence. She made a stupid decision not to give a sample.
“But if she hadn’t been over the limit when she drove the car and didn’t have to drive it again, she hadn’t done anything wrong.
‘She just says she was at the car and she was drunk. If she had done what the officer asked her to do, she would have been okay.’
Passing sentence, chairman of the bench Roy Barron said: ‘Failure to give a test is a very serious offence. If it wasn’t, no one would give a sample. We kind of assume that you were drunk and that’s why you didn’t do it’.
McKnight appeared at Chester Magistrates Court where she admitted failing to provide a breathalyzer