Driving Offences Solicitors
Have you been accused of a driving offence? Losing your driving licence through disqualification can have serious consequences for both your home and professional life.
As well as the everyday difficulties you could encounter by not being able to drive and the possibility of having to retake your driving test, you could lose your job or find it hard to get a job that requires driving in the future. If the motoring offence was serious, you could also face a substantial fine, a Community Order or even a prison sentence.
It is easy to feel hopeless after being accused of a driving offence because it may feel like the evidence is stacked against you. For example, if you take a breathalyser test and it comes back over the limit for alcohol, how can you argue against that?
In fact, driving offence cases are often not so straightforward, and there are frequently opportunities to challenge the evidence, reduce the seriousness of the situation, and even get any charges dropped altogether in certain circumstances.
Given the possible complexities of these types of cases and the impact a conviction may have, it is important to get advice from a solicitor as soon as possible.
Expert driving offence advice and defence
We provide advice on all types of driving offences, including speeding, dangerous driving, careless driving, disqualified driving, drink driving, construction and use offences, as well as the most serious matters of this nature, such as causing death by dangerous or careless driving.
We understand about what is at stake, and we want to minimise the impact a driving offence conviction or penalty could have on your life.
Our road traffic offence solicitors can assist you:
- At the police station
- During criminal investigations
- At Court
We also have a leading team of appeals solicitors who can help you appeal a driving ban and make other driving offence-related appeals.
Flexible motoring offences fees
We can advise on whether you qualify for assistance through the Legal Aid Scheme.
However, Legal Aid is not available for many motoring offence cases heard by magistrates’ courts unless of a more serious nature where a significant penalty may be imposed, though is always available free of charge for police station interviews. If a matter is sent to the Crown Court, legal aid will also often be available, subject to your means. We are happy to discuss private fees and instalment payment arrangements if you do not qualify for legal aid.
We can talk you through your options and make sure you are able to make a confident decision about how to move forward. You can read more about our motoring offences fees here.
Our areas of expertise
Driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence
If you only have a provisional licence, you must be accompanied by another individual who is at least 21 years old and who has held a full UK driving licence for a minimum of 3 years. In addition to this it is also essential that the vehicle you drive displays ‘L’ plates. If you fail to comply with any of these requirements, you could face prosecution for driving otherwise than in accordance with your licence. Similarly, driving licences only permit the use of certain motor vehicles. If your driving licence only specifically entitles you to drive one class of vehicle for example a car, you can face prosecution for driving without a licence in the event you drive another class of vehicle other than what you are entitled to drive such as a motorbike.
Appealing a driving ban
There is an automatic right of appeal from the Magistrates Court to the Crown Court if a person feels that the sentence that has been imposed by the Magistrates Court is wrong or unduly harsh. This can include appealing the length of a ban, or even the fact that a ban was originally imposed for the offence in the first place.
Appealing against the imposition of whole length of a driving ban imposed in the Magistrate’s Court is something which needs to be done within 21 days from the date of decision. The procedure is commenced by lodging a notice of appeal in the Magistrate’s Court and for the prosecution to be given warning of the intention to appeal also. An appeal is heard in the Crown Court before a judge and two lay magistrates. At the hearing in the Crown Court, the sentencing powers of the court are the same as they were in the magistrates court and sentence can be altered in any way providing that the magistrates powers are not exceeded.
Failing to stop following an accident / failure to report an accident
Failure to stop: If a driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle is involved in an accident, he or she is under a duty to stop and exchange details. These details typically include:
- Name and address of driver;
- Name and address of registered owner of vehicle (if person driving and owner of vehicle are different);
- Vehicle registration number; and
- Insurance details if known.
- Any identification marks of the vehicle.
The offence is committed even if the motorist stops after an accident but fails to give their details when requested. You can be guilty of the offence of failing to stop even if the accident is as a result of no fault of your own. This is an obligation on all motorists involved in an accident. The maximum penalty for Failing to Stop is 5 – 10 penalty points, a fine of up to £5,000 and a driving ban at the discretion of the court. Imprisonment is extremely rare and is only imposed in the most serious of cases
Defence of ‘No knowledge or unaware of an accident’
You are only legally obliged to report an accident if you are aware of the accident in the first place. If you are not aware of an accident taking place, how can you report something that you are unaware of? What this means is that if you are unaware or had no knowledge of an accident taking place, then you may have a defence.
Failing to report: If a driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle is involved in an accident, he or she is under a duty to report the accident as soon as practicable or in any case within 24 hours. However, if a driver has in fact stopped and provided the details after an accident, there is no obligation to report the accident. The accident must be reported to the Police and must be made by the driver himself who was involved in the accident.
Defence of ‘No knowledge or unaware of an accident’
As with failing to stop, you are only legally obliged to report the accident if you are aware of the accident in the first place. If you are not aware of an accident taking place, how can you report something that you are unaware of? What this means is that if you are unaware or had no knowledge of an accident taking place, then you may have a defence. The maximum penalty for failing to stop or for failing to report is a fine of up to £5,000 and / or up to six months imprisonment.
Imprisonment is extremely rare. In addition to this, the driving licence must be endorsed with between 5-10 penalty points. Disqualification is at the discretion of the court and will depend on the circumstances that resulted in the offence. If there are any serious aggravating factors then a Court is more likely to impose an immediate disqualification from driving.
Mobile phones and driving
It has been illegal to use a hand held mobile phone while driving since December 2003 It is illegal to use a mobile phone held in the hand while driving or while stopped with the engine on. If you break this law, even if you are otherwise driving safely, you could face a fine of £200 and six penalty points on your licence. The maximum fine in a court is £1000, or £2500 if you were driving a bus or a goods vehicle. If your driving is bad, or if there is a crash while you are using the phone, you could be prosecuted for careless driving, dangerous driving or, if someone is killed, for causing death by careless or dangerous driving. Fines can be much greater, and prison becomes almost certain if a death is caused.
Hands-free mobile phones
While it is an offence to be seen using a hand held phone, regardless of whether driving has been affected, this is not the case for hands-free phones. However, if you are seen not to be in control of a vehicle while using a hands-free phone you can be prosecuted for that offence. The penalties are the same as for using a hand-held phone.
Tachograph / driving hours
The regulations governing commercial vehicles, whether relating to a driver, an operator or both, are complex and often misunderstood. Penalties for operator’s and drivers can prove to be catastrophic for business and livelihoods. We supply practical expert advice to ensure that you can avoid the possibility of losing your livelihood. Anybody who drives or operates a commercial vehicle will be all too aware of the mountain of legislation relevant to this type of road user. The law affecting commercial vehicles changes rapidly. Due to the extensive range of issues applicable to commercial vehicles, we are unable to publish advice and guidelines here, but we invite you to contact us direct for specific advice.
Failure to identify the driver
If a motor vehicle has been involved in an offence such as speeding, traffic light offence or in circumstances involving an accident, then under section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1998, there is a legal obligation on the owner or registered keeper of the vehicle to give information as to the identity of the driver of the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence. In the quest to provide the details of the driver usually arrives in a notice in the post. The notice is usually sent in circumstances where the driver was not stopped by the police at the time of the offence. The owner or registered keeper should receive a notice of intended prosecution and the request to name the driver who then has 28 days within which to confirm the driver’s details. If the driver’s details are not provided within the 28 day limit, the registered keeper would face receiving 6 penalty points and a fine of up to £1000. If the recipient of the documentation was the driver then the form can be completed and returned saying as much. If the recipient of the documentation was not the driver, then the documentation allows the recipient to provide the details of the person who was known or suspected to have been the driver at the relevant time. Providing false details can lead to the arrest of the more serious offence of attempting to pervert the course of justice which often results in a term of imprisonment being imposed
Unknown identity of the driver
There will be instances where the registered keeper or owner of a vehicle will not be able to identify the individual who was driving the vehicle at the date and time in question. This can be due to a number of possible reasons. It could be as a result of domestic arrangements within households where a number of drivers have access to more than one vehicle at any one time making it extremely difficult to ascertain the identity of the driver on a particular occasion. Alternatively, it may be that there has been a long time lapse from the date of the offence and the notice of intended prosecution arriving. The law states that ‘reasonable diligence’ can be argued if the registered owner or keeper of the vehicle can show that they did not know who the driver was despite reasonable steps being made to determine who was driving. Reasonable steps can include, making thorough enquiries with all possible drivers; consideration of photographic evidence or video footage; checking bank statements, receipts etc. with a view to determine whereabouts at the date and time in question. This is not an exhaustive list but are typical examples of the kind of things the Court will expect you to have looked into when being asked to identify the driver. If despite undertaking reasonable steps, there is still no way in which the identity of the driver can be confirmed, the keeper of the vehicle and any potential drivers may be cross-examined by the prosecution lawyer. If it is still not possible to ascertain the identity of the driver, then they may avoid prosecution altogether provided the Court is satisfied that reasonable steps have been undertaken. It is very important that you seek legal advice in circumstances where you are unsure of the driver’s identity.
What if I did not receive the notice of intended prosecution?
There are instances where the notice of intended prosecution and section 172 notice have not been received. In such circumstances, you may have a complete defence. The law states that a person is guilty of the offence of failure to identify the driver if he fails to identify the driver of the vehicle who is alleged to have been guilty of an offence. However, you can only be guilty of this offence if you have received the notice of intended prosecution and section 172 notice in the first place. The fact that you have not received it may be due to the Royal Mail, postal address difficulties, the area you live in, problems in the sending of the notice, others intercepting your post etc. If the individual is unaware of an alleged offence having occurred, it is understandable that they will be oblivious to the need to provide the driver’s details. In such circumstances it is probable that the first notification you receive in respect of the allegation is the Court summons asking you to attend Court to answer the allegation of failure to provide the driver’s details. If you find yourself in a situation similar to this, call us now.
What if I sent back the notice of intended prosecution within 28 days?
There may be instances where the section 172 notice has been completed by the registered keeper, it has been sent back and it is alleged that the Police or the Central Ticket office have not received the response. If the notice has been completed and sent back within the 28 day period, then in these situations you may have a defence.
Section 143 of The Road Traffic Act 1988, makes it an offence to use, cause or permit to be used a motor vehicle on a road or other public place when there is not in force a policy of insurance.
Driving a car without insurance is treated very seriously in the Magistrates Court because of the potential implications if you were to crash when uninsured. To be found guilty of driving without insurance the Prosecution simply have to prove that you were driving a motor vehicle on a public road at the time of the alleged offence and that at the time there was not in place a policy of insurance permitting the use of the vehicle concerned. The burden passes to the driver to prove that he or she was actually insured at the time of driving, or that he was not the driver concerned.
There are very few defences to driving a car without insurance. Driving under the mistaken belief that you were insured at the time of the alleged offence is not a defence but may amount to a special reason (see special reasons sections).
This offence will result in the endorsement of 6-8 penalty points on your driving licence or a discretionary disqualification as well as a fine.
The Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995 applies to every motorist who passed their first full test after 1 June 1997.
Any driver passing a driving test tests after this date is subject to a two year probationary period. If during this two-year probation period you accumulate six or more points on your driving licence, your driving licence will be revoked by the DVLA. In theory, a new driver would therefore be given one chance by way of a Fixed Penalty which would attract 3 penalty points but if two Fixed Penalties were accepted, or a more serious offence resulted in 6 points, the licence would be revoked.
Revocation of the licence is not the same as a driving disqualification which is imposed by the Court, but instead means that you will revert to learner status and will be treated as if you never passed a driving test. To continue driving, you will have to secure a provisional driving licence for the interim until you have passed both the theory and practical parts of the driving test once again.
The penalty points will remain on your licence for three years from the date of the offence(s).
It is important to note that points carried over from a provisional driving licence are still taken into account so any driver who transfers points from a provisional to a full licence would be revoked if any further offence were committed.
Likewise, it is the date of the offence that is relevant, not the date of conviction. Revocation will still take place even if the two year probation period has elapsed before points are then imposed for an offence that occurred within the first 24 months.
You cannot appeal the revocation of your licence.
Driving whilst disqualified
If you drive during the course of a disqualification period, you are committing an offence. It is not uncommon for immediate terms of imprisonment to be imposed for this offence, even for first-time offenders. Driving whilst disqualified is an absolute offence. This means that there are is no defence, other than if you could prove that you were not in fact subject to a disqualification or that you were not the driver. If the prosecution can show that you were driving a vehicle at a time when you were disqualified, you will be guilty of the offence. Even if someone is driving a motor vehicle not knowing that they had been disqualified, an offence is still committed. If convicted of this offence, it is usual practice for the Court to briefly adjourn your sentence hearing to enable a Pre Sentence Report to be obtained. The Court will then use this report in order to decide on the appropriate sentence to impose against you. This report may be an “all options” report, where the Court chooses not to rule out the possibility of imposing a custodial sentence, or a report where the Court has decided that the offence is not serious enough to sentence to a term of imprisonment.
The Magistrates’ Association Sentencing Guidelines state that, where a Court is sentencing a disqualified driver, it should consider sentences from a community penalty (at the lowest end of seriousness) to 26 weeks custody (at the highest end of the spectrum). This applies to motorists who have pleaded guilty rather than having been found guilty after a trial. Following an unsuccessful trial, the penalty would be higher as the Court would not award the discount on the sentence that it awards following a guilty plea. Whilst it is possible to receive 6 penalty points for this offence, it is more likely for Court’s to sentence disqualified drivers to an extended period of disqualification.
Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving
The offence of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving is a relatively new offence having been introduced by the Road Safety Act 2006. Section 20 of this act states that it is an offence to cause death by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place.
A person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if, and only if, the way he/she drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.
In determining what would be expected of a careful and competent driver regards should be had not only to the circumstances of which such a driver could be expected to be aware but also to any circumstances shown to have been within the knowledge of the defendant.
A person is to be regarded as driving without reasonable consideration for others only if those persons are inconvenienced by his driving.
The offence of causing death by careless driving is an offence which can be dealt with either in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. If convicted the Court has the power to impose a period of imprisonment or a fine, or both. In any event the Court must impose a driving disqualification.
- In the Crown Court – 5 years imprisonment,
- In the magistrates Court – 6 months imprisonment.
- Minimum mandatory disqualification -12 months.
- Mandatory endorsement 3 -11 points.
- Discretionary re-test
Relevant Sentencing Guidelines
The Sentencing Guidelines Council’s definitive guideline “Causing Death by Driving” applies to all offenders convicted of this offence and sentenced on or after 18 August 2008. The guideline applies to a “first-time offender” aged 18 or over convicted after trial.
Culpability & Harm
Since the maximum sentence has been set at 5 years imprisonment, the sentence ranges are generally lower for this offence than for the offences of causing death by dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving under the influence, for which the maximum sentence is 14 years imprisonment. However, it is unavoidable that some cases will be on the borderline between dangerous and careless driving, or may involve a number of factors that significantly increase the seriousness of an offence. As a result, the guideline for this offence identifies three levels of seriousness, the range for the highest of which overlaps with ranges for the lowest level of seriousness for causing death by dangerous driving.
The three levels of seriousness are defined by the degree of carelessness involved in the standard of driving. The most serious level for this offence is where the offender’s driving fell not that far short of dangerous. The least serious group of offences relates to those cases where the level of culpability is low – for example in a case involving an offender who misjudges the speed of another vehicle, or turns without seeing an oncoming vehicle because of restricted visibility. Other cases will fall into the intermediate level.
The starting point for the most serious offence of causing death by careless driving is lower than that for the least serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving in recognition of the different standards of driving behaviour. However, the range still leaves scope, within the 5 year maximum, to impose longer sentences where the case is particularly serious.
Where the level of carelessness is low and there are no aggravating factors, even the fact that death was caused is not sufficient to justify a prison sentence. A fine is unlikely to be an appropriate sentence for this offence; where a non-custodial sentence is considered appropriate this should be a community order. The nature of the requirement will be determined by the purpose identified by the court as of primary importance. Requirements most likely to be relevant include unpaid work requirement, activity requirement, programme requirement and curfew requirement.
Aggravating & Mitigating Factors
When assessing the seriousness of any offence, the court must always refer to the full list of aggravating and mitigating factors in the Council Guideline on Seriousness as well as those set out in the table below as being particularly relevant to this type of offending behaviour.
Sentencers should take into account relevant matters of personal mitigation; see in particular guidance on good driving record, giving assistance at the scene and remorse.
- Other offences committed at the same time, such as driving other than in accordance with the terms of a valid driving licence; driving whilst disqualified; driving without insurance; taking a vehicle without consent; driving a stolen vehicle
- previous convictions for motoring offences, particularly offences that involve bad driving
- More than one person was killed as a result of the offence
- Serious injury to one or more persons in addition to the death(s)
- Irresponsible behaviour, such as failing to stop or falsely claiming that one of the victims was responsible for the collision
- Offender was seriously injured in the collision
- The victim was a close friend or relative
- The actions of the victim or a third party contributed to the commission of the offence
- The offender’s lack of driving experience contributed significantly to the likelihood of a collision occurring and/or death resulting
- The driving was in response to a proven and genuine emergency falling short of a defence
Causing death by dangerous driving
Causing death by dangerous driving is an extremely serious offence and probably the most serious of all the driving offences. If convicted of causing death by dangerous driving you will almost inevitably receive a prison sentence. These cases can only be dealt with by a Crown Court and any trial is by Judge and Jury.
Death by dangerous driving
An allegation of causing death by dangerous driving is extremely serious, for free initial advice 24/7 call 0333 344 4889 or complete our online enquiry form. Causing death by dangerous driving is one of the most serious, if not the most serious, of all motoring offences. If convicted of causing death by dangerous driving you will almost inevitably receive a prison sentence. These cases can only be dealt with by a Crown Court and if you plead not guilty your case will be heard before a jury.
If you have been involved in an incident where the death of another has been caused then it is vital that you obtain immediate legal advice.
In order to prove the offence the prosecution must establish that your driving would have been obviously dangerous to a reasonably competent driver, and that driving was a cause of the death of another person. The driving may be alleged to be dangerous for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, driving at high speeds, aggressive driving, overtaking where it is illegal to do so, ignoring road signs or traffic markings, driving a vehicle which is not road worthy and driving under the influence of excess alcohol or under the influence of drugs.
Defending such cases can be very challenging indeed and can involve the instruction of suitably qualified experts, and even an accident reconstruction exercise.
- In recent years the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving has been increased to 14 years imprisonment
- The Court has also the power to impose a disqualification from driving for a minimum of 2 years and an extended driving test.
The vast majority of road traffic offences carry either a mandatory endorsement of penalty points or a driving disqualification. However, in some circumstances it may be possible to put forward a ‘Special Reasons’ argument which if successfully argued may result in the avoidance of the imposition of a penalty altogether.
Although a driver would be technically guilty of the offence, a special reason applicable to the offence itself may mean that it would be morally unfair for punishment to be imposed. If the Special Reasons argument is accepted by the Court, the Court retains the discretion to not disqualify (or to disqualify for a lesser term than would ordinarily be expected) or endorse penalty points where ordinarily it would be mandatory to do so.
Special Reasons can apply to most Motoring offences. However, it is important to bear in mind that the special reason advanced must directly relate to the commission of the offence and not the offender. The Special Reason must not amount to a defence and must instead be a mitigating or extenuating circumstance.
The following are just a few arguments (non-exhaustive) that can be used to put forward Special Reasons:
- Driving in an emergency of situation
- Driving in an attempt to escape a serious threat of violence
- Driving a short distance (excess alcohol)
- Drinks spiked/laced with alcohol or additional alcohol
- Driving without insurance where you believed insurance was in place
- Driving without insurance where the insurance policy was cancelled without your knowledge
- Driving without a licence where unbeknown to you your licence has been revoked by DVLA
- Any other situation where there is no moral culpability
If you believe that the circumstances in which you committed the offence amount to Special Reason contact us for free advice and consultation.
Some of these examples will require evidence from an established expert. We have established some very strong links with the country’s leading experts. ‘Special Reasons’ cases are very like trial cases and can be just as complicated – often more so. We strongly advise expert advocacy in all ‘special reasons’ cases.
Drunk in charge of a motor vehicle
Being ‘in charge’ of a motor vehicle when alcohol in the body exceeds the prescribed limit is an offence that can lead to a prison sentence. Whether or not the driver is over the limit will be determined in the same way as if the driver had been under suspicion for driving whilst over the limit. The measurement is taken most commonly from the driver’s breath, but it can be taken from blood or urine, depending on the circumstances.
What in law amounts to being ‘in charge’ of a motor vehicle can be difficult to determine and can occur in a number of different ways – a driver does not necessarily have to be physically inside a car or even be in possession of the keys to be ‘in charge’ of it.
As with all alcohol related offences, the procedure in the police station can be a crucial factor in any case. Any failure to follow the correct procedure can be fatal to the prosecution.
It is important to note that in proceedings of this type, the prosecution does not need to prove that the defendant was likely to drive the vehicle. The most common example of being in charge of a motor vehicle is where a police officer comes across a stationary vehicle and the driver sitting in the driver’s seat someone who is suspected of having driven the vehicle to that particular point, and who is suspected of being over the prescribed limits.
However, in many cases, just because someone is sitting in the driver’s seat of a car, whether alone in the vehicle or with others, does not necessarily prove guilt. It is open to a driver in the circumstances to rely on the statutory defence. The burden of proving the defence remains on the defendants. If a defendant can establish that there was no likelihood of him or her driving the vehicle concerned whilst the proportion of alcohol in their body exceeded the prescribed limits, then the court should find the driver not guilty of being in charge of the vehicle. Scientific evidence is often relied upon in cases of this type to demonstrate to the court the time at which it would have been safe to drive and driver under the prescribed limit.
The penalties include-
- A fine of up to £2,500
- A community order
- Up to 3 months in prison.
- The Magistrates will either disqualify or impose 10 penalty points on your licence. The higher the alcohol reading, the more likely disqualification becomes. If the court decides to impose 10 penalty points, this can often lead to a disqualification under the totting up provisions.
Failing to provide a specimen
If the police suspect you of being drunk in charge or drink driving, they are entitled to require you to provide a specimen (usually of breath) for analysis. This is likely to be a two-stage process. The first request is likely to be at the roadside, and if arrested and taken to the police station, the suspect is then required to provide a further specimen of either breath, blood or urine.
A failure or refusal to provide a specimen without a reasonable excuse is an offence and can lead to a prison sentence.
As with all alcohol offences, the procedures in the police station are crucial to any case. Any failure by the Police to follow the strict procedures in place can be fatal to any prosecution.
If you can prove that you had a reasonable excuse to refuse or to fail to provide a specimen, then you may have a defence. An example of a reasonable excuse would be medical reasons preventing you from being able to provide a specimen. In such cases, medical evidence will be required to be presented to the Court.
If you were not the driver of the vehicle concerned, it is not a defence to refuse or fail to provide a specimen. Drivers are still under a duty to provide a specimen and are guilty of an offence if they refuse to do so.
The maximum penalties depend on the circumstances of the offence-
- If you were driving a vehicle, the offence will attract-
- A fine of up to £5,000
- Community order
- Up to 6 months in prison
- A disqualification for at least 12 months. For a second offence within ten years, the minimum disqualification is 3 years.
Driving with excess alcohol
Driving, or attempting to drive, with more than the permitted amount of alcohol in the body is an offence that can lead to a prison sentence. Usually, the measure is taken from the driver’s breath, but it can be taken from blood or urine, depending on the circumstances. Failing or refusing to comply with the specimen request procedure can lead to a separate offence.
Prosecutions for drink driving can be straightforward but can on occasions be very challenging and complex cases to deal with.
If a driver consumes alcohol after he drove the vehicle, scientific evidence can be used to show that he/she was under the limit at the time of driving.
The penalties include-
- A fine of up to £5,000
- A community order
- Up to 6 months in prison
- A disqualification from driving for at least 12 months. The length of the disqualification is dependant on the amount of alcohol found to be in the driver’s breath, blood or urine. For a second offence within ten years, the minimum disqualification is 3 years.
During the sentencing exercise, the court will often offer the driver the opportunity to attend a drivers rehabilitation programme. The effect of the programme will be to reduce the disqualification period by up to 25%. There is a cost to be incurred for attendance upon the course and the court will set a date by which the court needs to be completed in order for the benefit of the reduction to be obtained.
Avoiding a disqualification-
It is possible in certain circumstances to avoid disqualification if there are ‘special reasons’ relating to the commission of the offence (see special reasons section). Examples of this include where a driver’s drinks were spiked, or where the driving was of such a short distance that there was no real likelihood of coming into contact with other road users.
What are the defences to a charge of a driving with excess alcohol?
- That you were not the driver
- There may be concerns over the way in which the police conducted the investigation, such as incorrectly applying the specimen procedure either at the roadside or the Police Station, or some other defect in the way in which the police approached the arrest and period of detention.
- There may be concerns over the reliability of the specimen device used either at the roadside or at the police station to obtain a specimen of breath.
- There may be concerns about the reliability and validity of the results of samples other than breath, such as urine or blood, and concerns over the way in which the samples were stored in order to produce reliable results. In certain circumstances, a suspect the Police Station is offered the opportunity to take away for independent analysis a sample of either blood or urine. Such samples, when analysed, can achieve a different result to the result obtained by the police.
Dangerous driving is a serious motoring offence. If you have been charged with dangerous driving you should seek the help and advice of an experienced road traffic solicitor at the earliest opportunity. Likewise, if you are to be questioned by the Police in connection with an allegation of dangerous driving, you should not do so without speaking first to a solicitor with experience in cases of this type.
To be found guilty of dangerous driving the prosecution must prove that the driver has driven in a way that ‘falls far below what would be expected of a careful and competent driver’.
A charge of dangerous driving can be brought against a driver for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, the following-
- Driving at high speeds
- Aggressive driving
- Overtaking where it is illegal to do so
- Ignoring road signs or traffic markings-
- Driving a vehicle which is not road worth
- Driving under the influence of excess alcohol or under the influence of drugs.
Very often a charge of dangerous driving will involve more than one of the above.
Due to the serious nature of a charge for dangerous driving a case can be heard in either the Magistrates Court or Crown Court.
The penalties are-
- Obligatory driving ban for a minimum of one year
- In certain circumstances between 3 and 11 penalty points can be issued
- In the most serious cases a prison sentence of up to 2 years may be imposed. A driver convicted of dangerous driving will also have to sit an extended re-test before they are allowed to drive again.
A person is guilty of careless driving if the standard of driving falls below the standard expected of a reasonable, prudent and competent driver in all the circumstances of the case. The test of whether the standard of driving has fallen below the required standard is an objective one. It applies both when the manner of driving in question is deliberate and when it occurs as a result of incompetence, inadvertence or inexperience.
The penalties are:
- Fine up to £2,500; and
- Mandatory 3 to 9 penalty points; and
- Discretionary disqualification.
The following are examples of driving which may amount to driving without due care and attention:
- Overtaking on the inside
- Driving inappropriately close to another vehicle
- Driving through a red light
- Emerging from a side road into the path of another vehicle
The following may also be considered to be careless-
- Using a hand held mobile telephone while the vehicle is moving
- Tuning a car radio
- Reading a newspaper/map
Most people who attend court for careless driving receive a summons in the post advising them of the charge.
Speeding is not to be encouraged, but even the most careful and competent drivers at certain times exceed the speed limit. It is hardly surprising therefore that speeding is one of the most common road traffic offences committed.
It is very easy for the most drivers to fall foul of speeding regulations. This can often result in a fixed penalty notice being issued and which can result in the imposition of between 3 – 6 points on your licence. An the most severe of cases speeding offences can result in a disqualification from driving being imposed.
Where a disqualification is contemplated, whether because of the high level of speed involved, or whether the imposition of penalty points results in the driver attracting 12 or more penalty points, the court may ask the driver concerned to attend court.
The penalty for speeding
- Fine up to £2,500
- 3 – 6 penalty points or disqualification 7 – 56 days (or higher)
Disqualification for speeding usually ranges between 7 and 56 days, however the magistrates do have a discretion to go beyond this where they think that the offence or the drivers record is so bad, that an increased period of disqualification is merited. Extremely excessive speed can often be summonsed or charged for the more serious offences of careless or dangerous driving.
The following is a guide used by the Magistrates when considering sentence for a speeding offence.
What are the defences to a charge of a speeding offence?
- You were not the driver at the relevant time – if you receive a summons alleging that you were responsible for a speeding offence and you can show that you were not the driver at the relevant time, you have a valid defence. What often happens is that when a speeding offence is detected, the registered keeper of the vehicle concerned will receive a notice in the post asking to identify the driver. If the recipient of the letter was not the driver, then the letter allows the person to name the driver at the relevant time so that he or she can themselves receive notification of the offence and so that he or she themselves can deal with it.
- That you were not notified of an intention to prosecute within the required 28 days- there is a requirement for the police to notify of an intention to prosecute within 28 days. This does not apply to cases where drivers are stopped at the roadside and reported for summons, but applies when drivers are detected speeding via roadside cameras and then should receive notification in the post that a speeding offence is suspected of having been committed.
- Insufficient signage – there may be a defence where the speed limit was not properly identifiable.
- Speed detection devices – various speed detection devices are used by the police, and where speed is challenged, questions will arise concerning whether or not the device was approved, operating correctly and operated correctly.
'Exceptional Hardship' to avoid disqualification
Many offences result in the endorsement of penalty points on your driving licence, the most obvious of these being speeding for which you can receive between 3 to 6 penalty points.
By law if you accumulate 12 or more penalty points within a three year period you will be disqualified from driving for 6 months, or up to two years if you have previously been disqualified. This attraction of penalty points amounting to 12 or more is commonly known as “totting up”.
Many of us rely upon our ability to drive to enable us to both earn a living and support our family. The loss of a driving licence can have significant consequences and can place a tremendous strain on employment and family stability.
It may be possible to persuade a Court not to disqualify from driving, or to disqualify for a period less than the minimum of 6 months ordinarily imposed under the totting up provisions. To do this, the Court would have to be persuaded that a disqualification from driving would cause ‘exceptional hardship.’
Such an argument requires a great deal of skill and must often be supported by evidence.
By thorough preparation of your case and using our experience and expertise, we can guide you through the process. We can discuss your personal circumstances and advise on the prospects of raising and presenting an exceptional hardship argument.
What is capable of amounting to exceptional hardship may include the following:
- The loss of your employment
- The loss of your business
- The loss of your home
- Use of your motor vehicle to care for the elderly or disabled
- Impact upon your family or other dependant third party
- Impact upon your employees
If the court is persuaded that “exceptional hardship” is created in any one or more of the examples above in the event of a disqualification, the Court will not disqualify you or may instead reduce the period of disqualification.
What can we help you with?
See how we can assist those accused of alcohol related driving offences.
See how we can assist those accused of drug related driving offences.