What happens if you've been charged with a motoring offence
Most people consider themselves ‘law abiding citizens’, but anyone can get caught out when it comes to committing motoring offences. A survey carried out by Onepoll revealed that millions of people who believe they are law abiding commit about seven crimes a week. Driving offences, which include speeding and using a mobile phone while driving, were at the top of the list. Here QualitySolicitors talk about types of motoring offences, the penalties incurred and when to seek professional legal advice.
What are minor and major offences?
The majority of driving offences that result in a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) are classed as ‘minor’. The police can issue an FPN on-the-spot or through the post.
There are two types of FPNs: endorsable and non-endorsable.
An endorsable ticket means points on your licence and a fine, whilst a non-endorsable ticket is a fine only.
Penalty points stay on driving licences for between four and 11 years depending upon the offence.
You can accept guilt by paying the fine and collecting the points, otherwise you will receive a court summons where you can challenge the charge against you. Always seek advice from a solicitor before appearing in court.
Offences that are dealt with by a Magistrates Court are major. A major offence can result in an unlimited fine, a driving ban, a prison sentence and a criminal record.
What are the types of offences and penalties?
Not wearing a seatbelt
All drivers and passengers aged 14 and over must wear a seatbelt if there’s one available, unless they’re exempt on medical grounds. The driver is responsible for ensuring that children wear a seatbelt or sit in a child car seat appropriate for their height and weight.
It’s important to understand the law regarding child car seats as it can be confusing. Incorrect seatbelts can result in fines of up to £500.
A driver not wearing a seatbelt could be issued with a £500 fine and three penalty points. The driver will also receive a fine and points for any unrestrained children under 14. Passengers over the age of 14 years receive a £500 fine directly and two penalty points.
Driving without an MOT
Driving without an MOT invalidates car insurance, so if you have a crash you are liable for repairs. Police Automatic Vehicle Registration Recognition (AVRR) software enables them to detect vehicles with invalid MOT certificates. The consequence can be a fine up to £1,000 and your vehicle can be seized. Often people drive without a valid MOT because they are unaware of the rules:
You do not have to wait until your MOT has nearly expired to get it done. You can MOT your car any time before expiration.
You can drive your car without an MOT if you are on your way to the MOT test centre.
If your car fails the MOT, you cannot drive it unless the previous year’s MOT certificate is still valid.
Vehicles exempt from MOTs are those that are less than three years old, cars and motorbikes made before 1960, tractors, and goods vehicles that run on electricity.
Driving without insurance
AVRR equipment allows police to detect uninsured vehicles. You could receive a £300 fine, six points on your licence and have your vehicle impounded. Depending upon the circumstances, your case could go to court resulting in a driving ban and unlimited fine.
If you are driving somebody else’s car, you must make sure you have the insurance in place to do so. If you are lending somebody your car, you must check that they are insured too. Both driver and car owner can be prosecuted if insurance is not in place. According to This Is Money, millions of drivers have received fines up to £5,000 and have been disqualified from driving simply by lending their car to a friend or family member.
Driving while disqualified
AVRR equipment makes it easy for police to detect disqualified drivers. Driving while disqualified is a serious, arrestable offence and there’s a high likelihood of a prison sentence of up to six months, further disqualification of up to 18 months, and a heavy fine. If a prison sentence is avoided, then a community service or a curfew order will likely be imposed.
Using a mobile phone whilst driving
Police can issue £200 roadside fines and six penalty points for this offence, which includes using a phone whilst sitting in traffic. You could also go to court where you may receive a fine of up to £1,000 and a driving ban.
Mobile phone detection cameras are now used in parts of the UK. PC Liz Johnson, a Roads Safety Officer for the Hampshire’s and Thames Valley’s Joint Operations Roads Policing Unit, said: “Research shows us that you are four times more likely to crash if you are using a mobile phone whilst driving, and reaction times are around 50% slower than a driver not using a mobile phone”.
This is the most common driving offence. The penalty is usually £100 and three licence points - you may also be offered a speed awareness course. Most people think that they will only be prosecuted if they exceed the speed limit by 10% plus 2mph, but that’s not always the case. Those who drive at 45% over the speed limit are likely to have to attend court where they can be issued with a substantial fine or a driving ban.
If you strongly believe you have received a speeding ticket in error then you can appeal. Last year a Grimsby woman had her speeding fine overturned because of a technical problem. On examination of the photographic evidence, Humberside Police found she had actually been driving at 29mph in a 30mph zone and not at 36mph.
Driving too close to another vehicle (tailgating)
Police issue on-the-spot fines of £100 and three penalty points for tailgating. The Highway Code states that drivers must allow at least a two-second gap between themselves and the vehicle in front and twice that on wet roads.
By tailgating, drivers risk being found guilty of ‘dangerous driving’. Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, said: “If you get too close to the car in front, you won’t be able to react and stop in time if they suddenly brake…”
A dashcam clip of an M6 crash supports this. The clip shows a mass crash involving an HGV lorry which was caused by several cars braking sharply.
Driving without due care and attention (careless driving)
This covers a variety of offences from swerving to darting between lanes on a motorway. On-the-spot fines can be £100 with three penalty points. Major offences will go to court resulting in a driving ban and a fine up to £2,500. If your offence results in injury or death, there can be a prison sentence of up to five years and an unlimited fine.
Dangerous driving is more serious than careless driving. It includes racing against other vehicles and overtaking dangerously.
Careless driving that results in death can also be ‘dangerous driving’. In October this year a Needham Market lorry driver was found guilty of dangerous driving after causing a crash on the A12 that killed a mother-of-six. The driver had been taking a call on his mobile phone at the time of the crash and driving at 51mph on cruise control. He is now serving two years and two months in prison.
Dangerous driving offences can be referred to the Crown Court if they are especially serious. The penalty can be a driving ban, an unlimited fine and up to 14 years in prison.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the legal alcohol driving limit is 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. The way alcohol can affect you will depend on a number of factors, including how much you’ve eaten and your body size. Police can stop and breathalyse you at any time.
Driving over the alcohol limit can be punishable with a driving ban, an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison.
If you cause a death, you could receive a 14-year prison sentence and another driving test to have your licence returned.
As with drink driving, police carry out roadside tests when they suspect drug driving. It’s not just illegal drugs that can result in a positive test; prescription medicines such as amphetamines and morphine can also affect driving.
The penalties include an unlimited fine, six months in prison and a driving ban of at least a year. Like drink driving, if you cause the death or injury of another person, the penalties are severe.
In May this year a man was jailed after being convicted of driving while under the influence of cocaine. He was banned from driving and ordered to pay a victim surcharge and other costs.
Should I tell my insurer?
Motoring convictions can result in higher insurance premiums depending upon the nature of the offence. Some insurers will refuse drivers with major convictions such as drink driving. However, there are insurers who specialise in offering policies to drivers who have been convicted of major offences.
If you don’t disclose your conviction your insurance could be invalid, and if you’ve made a claim the insurer could ask for their money back.
What’s a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP)?
A Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) is a notice from the police informing you that your offence has been recorded and that you may be prosecuted. If you receive a NIP after 14 days of the incident, it may be considered invalid. A NIP can be issued for offences such as speeding, failing to comply with a traffic sign, leaving a vehicle somewhere dangerous, careless driving, or dangerous driving.
When you receive a NIP, you must fill in the information required and return it within 28 days. If you fail to do so you can receive six penalty points, a fine up to £1,000, a driving disqualification and a court summons.
If you don’t agree with the NIP or you are unsure about it in any way, you must still respond within 28 days. It’s therefore vital to seek specialist professional advice immediately to ensure you are acting within the law and serving your best interests.
Will I get a criminal record?
If a court convicts you of a motoring offence then you will have a criminal record which you will have to declare when asked by insurers, potential employers, education course providers, and sometimes other countries if you wish to travel.
Once your conviction is ‘spent’, your record is wiped clean and you no longer have anything to declare. The rules about spent convictions are covered under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Criminal convictions for motoring offences are normally spent after five years, although they last much longer for major offences such as drink driving.
A criminal record can have devastating consequences on all aspects of your life. Always seek legal advice about the ways in which you might be able to avoid a criminal record.
Legal advice for motoring offences
Whether you are being prosecuted or fined for an alleged driving offence, it is vital to seek legal help straightaway. QualitySolicitors have extensive experience with motoring offences at all levels of seriousness, from causing death through drink and drug driving, to speeding and mobile phone offences.
We communicate clearly, in plain English, and work to protect your interests in all circumstances. Contact our experienced criminal defence lawyers on 08082747557.
 Indirect, Wearing a seatbelt and exemptions, https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/wearing-seat-belt-and-exemptions
 RAC, Car seat laws: everything you need to know, https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/road-safety/car-seat-laws/
 Policy Experts, The dangers of driving without an MOT, https://blog.policyexpert.co.uk/motoring-cars/the-dangers-of-driving-without-an-mot/
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