Driving a car
You may be considered to be driving even if you are off the road and not moving. If your engine is on and your keys are in the ignition you are driving. This is worth bearing in mind if you are using your mobile phone, if you were under the influence of alcohol or driving without insurance. Likewise, the police will still consider you to be driving if you are stuck in a traffic.
Minor speeding offences are usually resolved through a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), which means you do not have to appear in court. If you feel you have a legal defence against the accusation of speeding, or that you have been incorrectly issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice, you will be able to dispute the speeding offence in court. It is also worth acting quickly as any delay could mean an increased penalty and may mean that you lose your opportunity to appeal.
Using a mobile phone
The word “using” a phone requires interaction with the device, such as dialling a number, looking at the phone, texting, or phone navigation (GPS).
The burden of proof is on the prosecution, meaning that they will need to prove that you were using the phone. This will usually be based on testimony from the officer who spotted you. However, if you can prove that you did not send or receive any calls or texts at the time of the alleged offence, you may be able convince the court that no offence was committed.
The only situation in which you can use your phone while driving is if you need to dial 999 or 112. This is only allowed if there is a genuine emergency and you were not able to stop and park your car.
Careless and dangerous driving
You do not need to crash or be caught committing dangerous driving or careless driving to be charged. If you are seen by a police officer, or you are caught on camera, you can be charged.
Serious Motoring Offences
More serious motoring offences are generally dealt with in the magistrates’ court in England and Wales or the Sheriffs Court in Scotland. Situations of excessive speeding, defined as breaking the speed limit by 20mph or more, may lead to prosecution. If you are prosecuted, you will receive a court summons. The police have 6 months to lodge the summons. Once a summons is issued you have two options:
- Plead guilty – Which could reduce your punishment if you are able to demonstrate mitigating circumstances. You may also state if it is your first offence, the circumstances in which the offence happened, good conduct, if you have a job, illnesses or any personal trauma and most importantly genuine remorse.
If the court is considering a ban depending on the offences and penalties you hold, you could either attend the court, or plead guilty by post.
- Plead not guilty – We advise that you seek legal advice from our panel if you plan to take this option as the consequence could be a driving ban that can last from 7-56 days depending on facts of the case. You must also prepare to go to trial. Before attending court you must have a credible defence. The paperwork will also be sent to you after the first hearing with the prosecution’s evidence. If you are representing yourself the court can assist you in obtaining these documentations. However, if you are being represented by a solicitor they will email the paperwork to you.
The charge pack
Through the post you will be sent a charge pack which includes the information of:
- Your charge alongside any photographic evidence.
- A witness statement form, if necessary.
- Information as to what you are expected to do with the pack.
- A means test to inform the court of your current financial situation.
- A plea statement.
- And you will also be given the opportunity to provide mitigating circumstances.
It is important to note that declaring your income is important to the court. Because it gives the court an idea as to what you can realistically pay. However, it does not mean that if you are left with £0 per month you won’t be charged.
Fees and charges
Declare your monthly income. The court must have an idea as to how much would it be fair and realistic to charge you. Doesn’t mean you will just be let off even if at the end of the month you are left with £0.
If you wish to defend yourself against a speeding charge you must genuinely believe that you have a reasonable defence. If you intend to offer a fictional defence you may be prosecuted further.
Identity of the driver unknown
If you don’t know the identity of the driver at the time the offence was committed, you may be able to argue this. However, you must prove that you have done your best to try and find out who was driving at the time. If you still cannot establish the identity of the driver, you may have a successful defence.
NIP was not received within 14 days
The purpose of a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) is to inform a potential defendant that they may be prosecuted for an offence they have committed. Receiving an NIP is a warning that you might face prosecution.
The NIP must be served on the driver or the registered keeper within 14 days of the offence. If you did not receive the NIP within the time period you may have a valid defence. However, if the registered keeper has changed addresses and did not inform the DVLA it would not matter, as long as the NIP arrives at the address on record for the registered keeper within 14 days, it is a valid notice.
If the details of the driver are not known, then it is sent to the registered keeper. In either case, so long as it arrives at the relevant address within the time limit the notice is valid. The registered keeper has an obligation to identify the driver.
A NIPs can also be issued verbally to the driver at the time of the offence or alternatively you could receive a court summons through the post for the alleged offence within the 14 days.
If the speeding charge was brought through an eye-witness account rather than a camera or speed gun, there must be at least two witnesses.
Not present at the time of the offence
It’s possible that you were not even involved in the speeding offence, and you were implicated in a case of mistaken identity. For example, the vehicle’s registration plate could have been read incorrectly, or someone may have duplicated your licence plates. If you believe this to be true you can ask for photos of the offending vehicle.
You were being chased
You may have felt forced to speed in order to escape from someone who was pursuing you. If you felt that you and/or your passengers were under threat from your pursuer, this may be considered to be a valid defence.
Defences that are not valid
The following cannot be used as a defence against a speeding charge:
- The camera did not conform to the regulations set out for their operation
- There were no relevant visible road signs
- The speed trap was hidden – there is no requirement for the police to make themselves visible or provide warning when operating in this way
- You were running late
- There was an emergency
- The car behind was too close.
Although none of these arguments will be considered a valid defence, one or more of them could be considered as part of a plea in mitigation. This is something we would advise speaking to our panel about.
A plea of mitigation should be taken into consideration by the court and could result in a lighter sentence. The following are possible grounds for mitigation:
- Exceptional hardship would result – possible loss of job, disruption of family transport, or transport for someone who is ill/has special needs.
- Serious emergency – if the emergency is not enough to get an acquittal then it could amount to grounds for mitigation.
Other circumstances could also be valid to each individual case, It is advisable that you pursue mitigation through a letter as this limits the amount of the court’s time which may help reduce your potential fine.
Drink driving- Failure to provide a specimen
It is an offence to refuse a request by a police officer to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine whether the request is made on the side of the road or in a police station. However, you may be able to provide a valid defence against being convicted if you are able to show that there was a valid reason for your refusal.
Reasons that could be accepted may include such things as breathing problems in the case of breath tests, or a fear of needles if they were intending to take a blood sample.
You may be requested to give a sample of blood or urine as an alternative to a breath test in the event that:
- The Police officer has reasonable cause to believe that, for medical reasons, a breath sample cannot or should not be taken;
- At the time there is no reliable approved device for taking breath samples available or it is not practicable to use that device;
- The officer has reasonable cause to believe that the device has not produced a reliable indication of the level of alcohol;
- The officer, through a preliminary test, has reasonable cause to believe you have taken drugs;
- The police officer has been advised by a doctor or other medical practitioner that your condition might be due to drugs being taken.
If your test comes out positive, or you won’t or can’t give the sample, you will be arrested and taken to the police station. If in the event that the reading is in excess of the prescribed limit you will have committed an offence and will be charged. The charge will be read out to you along with the customary warning. You will then be asked to sign a “Charge Sheet”. A copy of this will be provided to you. Under most circumstances you will be bailed and asked to attend court on a specified date. However you are free to drive until the date of your court hearing. If you are banned on the day of your court date, that ban will come into immediate effect.
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Each legal case and issue may have unique facts and circumstances, as a result legalally does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information provided. For further help and guidance, you can always rely on and seek advice from our experienced lawyers.