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How to Fight a Drink Driving Charge: Court Summons Incorrect Information.

THIS IS NOT AN EFFORT at self-promotion, but you do need a solicitor for this one.

Google is fantastic at many things, but it cannot help you defend a drink driving charge. You do need help with this, and by "help" I do not mean a "friend" or somebody at work who has an opinion on everything including why Boris Johnson and Liz Truss got sacked. You know the kinds of people I’m talking about.

You already know what happens if you're convicted of drink driving so I won’t waste your time on that here.

You do need help with this, and by "help"
I do not mean a "friend" or somebody at work
who has an opinion on everything including why
Boris Johnson and Liz Truss got sacked.
You know the kinds of people I’m talking about.

First the summons.

On the summons you will see some information. This information will set out your name, address, where and when the incident you were arrested for took place. It will also include the Garda's name and the station they are attached to, as well as what you were alleged to have done, in this case drink driving.

Some things about summonses.

What if they spell your name wrong?

Will this be grounds to have the case struck out?

No. If the spelling of your name is slightly incorrect (e.g., two letter "R's" instead of one) this will not be grounds to have the case dismissed. Errors like this are regarded as minor. They are not “material” defects that “go to the heart” of the legitimacy of the summons.

The same rationale applies to misspellings of your address. If there is a slight error here it will not cause the summons to be invalidated.


PEOPLE OFTEN POINT to inaccuracies in the date of birth attributed to them. Again, this is regarded as a weak argument.

Unless you're saying that you are not the person named on the charge sheet then arguing about a date-of-birth issue is almost always a waste of time.

But that doesn't mean that the courts accept all errors on summonses or charge sheets.

They do not.

Rules do apply.

The fundamentals of the document should be definite. You should be identified by name, as should your address and the offence (including the date and location) should be clearly set out.

If these details are not clear or if they are inaccurate on the material points this can lead to unfairness and the summons or charge sheet runs the risk of being declared "void for uncertainty”.

This legal principle effectively signals the end of the summons, which may mean the end of the prosecution.

WHEN MINOR ERRORS do occur what often happens is that the Gardai will make an application to the Judge to have the charge or summons amended to have the correct details (e.g. correct spelling of your name, address or date of birth) inserted.

The Judge will usually enquire from the Defence about whether they consent to the amendment or not. If the Defence objects, then the Judge will have to decide whether to allow the amendment.

In practice, for minor amendments of spelling or dates of birth, these amendments are almost always allowed so it makes little sense objecting.

But not every amendment is permitted.

For instance, if your name is "Gabriel O' Shea" and you receive a summons in the name of "Joseph O’ Shea", any amendment of the summons will not be regarded as a "minor".

"Joe" is significantly different to "Gabriel". They are not even remotely similar, and a trial Judge may very well refuse to amend the summons or charge sheet on the sensible grounds that there may be two different people identified here.

That obviously can mean only one thing: the prosecution will be struck out.

Some things on this.

You may feel like jumping for joy at the thought of the case being struck out, but you have one more hurdle to clear: the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations is an ancient legal principle that prohibits prosecutions being brought after a certain time has passed.

In general, for minor offences (e.g., public order and almost all road traffic offences) the statute is 6 months. That means that the Gardai have 6 months from the date of the incident to issue a summons or charge against you. If they don't the offence becomes statue barred and they can no longer prosecute you.

So, in the example above if the Judge strikes out the case because the summons or charge incorrectly identified you as Joseph O' Shea instead of Gabriel O' Shea, you are free if the statute has expired.

So, if the offence happens on 1 January and the Judge strikes it out on 2nd July then the case is statute barred since the previous day (1st Jan- 1st July is 6 months).

But if your case is struck out on 1st June then the State has one more month to apply for new summonses with your correct name on it.


BUT THIS IS contingent on one more factor.

If the Judge has struck out your case on 1st June (leaving the State with one more month to fix their problem) then the State can apply for new summons.

But if on the 1st of June the Judge declared that they were "dismissing" the prosecution against you then that is the end of the case, no matter how much time is left to them to fix their mistake.

That is the difference between having something "struck out" and having something "dismissed".

If the Judge strikes out a case (and provided the Statute of Limitations hasn't expired), then the Gardai can bring fresh proceedings against you.

But if the Judge "dismisses" the prosecution, then it doesn't matter how much time is left on the statute, the State are prohibited from bringing fresh proceedings against you.

It’s important to understand that summonses are court documents. Other than very minor amendments they need to stand on their own two legs.

That means that they have to be precise and unambiguous.

If they are not, if they contain material errors e.g. the location, vehicle registration or date of your arrest is wrong, then these almost certainly will not be amended and the case will be struck out.

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