What is Exceptional Hardship?

If as a result of being convicted of a motoring offence which results in the number of points on your licence reaching 12 or more (often referred to as totting up) you will be eligible for a disqualification from driving of at least 6 months. This can be avoided if the Magistrates’ Court in which the case is being heard accepts that exceptional hardship would be caused in the event that disqualification was imposed.

Exceptional hardship is not merely hardship in being disqualified (which everyone would suffer as a result of a penalty points disqualification) but something “exceptional.” To have a good chance of succeeding, it will be necessary for you to prove hardship which would have wider reaching consequences to you and/or other people in the event that you were to be disqualified for 6 months. The Court may only decide not to impose a penalty points disqualification if it finds that exceptional hardship would be caused. This discretion only applies to totting up as a result of penalty points. It does not apply to offences which carry a mandatory disqualification, such as driving with excess alcohol.

Examples of Exceptional Hardship

  • Loss of employment – if you need a car as part of your job and have financial dependents who would have their standard of living significantly reduced
  • Impact of employment on others – if the defendant is a manager or business owner and them being banned would impact the livelihoods of other employees or colleagues
  • Impact on the health and safety of others – If the defendant works in a role where they are responsible for the wellbeing of members of the public, for example
  • Caring for elderly or disabled relatives – Where a driving licence is essential to caring for them such that their quality of life would be affected
  • Mortgage default or other financial loss – If the defendant could lose their home as a result of the ban
  • Bankruptcy – If it can be proved the defendant may end up bankrupt as consequence of being banned from driving

Which drivers will be eligible for a totting up ban?

Those drivers who are on 9 points and are being prosecuted for a further endorsable offence will automatically be subject to Court proceedings. Similarly if a driver is on 6 or more points and is being prosecuted for an offence which could carry 6 or more points, they are also likely to receive a postal charge.

How long is a totting up disqualification?

The minimum disqualification imposed for totting up, assuming that no exceptional hardship is found by the Court will be as follows…

  • At least 6 months if no disqualifications of 56 days or more have been imposed previously within the three years prior to the date of the most recent offence for which points have been imposed;
  • At least one year if one disqualifications of 56 days or more has been imposed within three years;
  • Two years if more than one disqualification of 56 days or more has been imposed within three years

A disqualification of any period, if imposed due to totting up, has the effect of wiping all penalty points off the motorist’s licence. Therefore it can be advantageous to be disqualified for a shorter period as it reduces the risk of being eligible for a totting up disqualification again in the near future. Conversely, if the Court decides to impose no disqualification at all then the penalty points on your driving licence will continue to apply, meaning you may still be at risk should you commit a further offence.

Can I be banned for more than the minimum period?

The Court has the power to impose more than the minimum period set out above but in practice this is rarely exercised. It may do so if it considers that the gravity of the offences for which the disqualification is being imposed warrants a longer disqualification. For example, if a driver comes before a Court with 9 points on their licence and is charged with a number of higher end speeding offences as a result of which the points on their licence will total significantly more than 12, the Court may consider a longer disqualification than there is a possibility that the disqualification could be longer than the minimum period.

Each exceptional hardship argument is considered on its individual merits. If the Court does not find exceptional hardship you do have the option to appeal to the Crown Court and argue the case in front of a more senior Judge.

What options does the court have after hearing an exceptional hardship argument?

After hearing an exceptional hardship argument, the Court may deal with the case in one of three ways:-

  • Not uphold the submission of exceptional hardship argument and impose a disqualification of the minimum period (normally 6 months)
  • Uphold the exceptional hardship but reduce the period of disqualification to less than the minimum period;
  • Decide not to impose any disqualification at all on the grounds of exceptional hardship

Do I need legal representation?

Of course, it is entirely up you as to whether you seek legal representation to defend yourself in Court. However, you should consider whether you have the skills, knowledge and experience to ensure your exceptional hardship is prepared and presented sufficiently clearly so as to persuade the Court not to disqualify you. It is for this reason we recommend you speak to us about how we can help you avoid a disqualification.

How will I be informed of the fact my case has reached Court?

There are three ways that Court proceedings can be instigated for an endorsable driving offence:-

  • Summons
  • Postal requisition and charge;
  • Single Justice Procedure notice and charge

The first two methods of starting proceedings will state the date on which the case will be going before the Court at which you may appear if you wish to do so. Alternatively, if the date is inconvenient for any reason it may be adjourned.

The most common method by which proceedings are now started is by way of a Single Justice Procedure notice. If you receive this notice, you must enter a plea to the charge within 21 days. If you plead guilty and as a result will be reaching 12 or more points, the case will then be listed for a sentencing hearing at which the Magistrates will be considering whether to disqualify.

It is at this hearing that you will be expected to attend Court and give details of your exceptional hardship argument. Submitting supporting evidence (such as bank statements ir letters from an employer) may help you in convincing the court that you do indeed face exceptional hardship.

How we can help?

We have vast experience preparing and presenting exceptional hardship arguments which have resulted in either no disqualification being imposed or one which is much shorter than the normal minimum period.

Since 2011, 92% of our clients who had 12 or more penalty points were able to continue driving-
We offer fixed fees for representation
We’re friendly, open and transparent at every level

Our success has been built up over many years of representing clients throughout the whole of England and Wales. We will advise you what supporting documentation needs to be obtained to support the argument being put forward and, for a fixed fee, will spend however long it takes with you to meticulously prepare the case. You will then be represented by a specialist road traffic solicitor or barrister in Court. Call us now for a free no obligation consultation


If an exceptional hardship argument has been accepted by the Court before, it cannot be submitted upon the same grounds it it has been within the three years before the date of the conviction which has resulted in the number of penalty points reaching 12 or more. An argument based on different grounds must be submitted in order to avoid disqualification for the normal minimum period.

For the purposes of totting up they stay on your licence for 3 years from the date of the offence but will remain visible on your driver record for 4 years. Insurance companies require disclosure of penalty points for 5 years from the date of the offence and will take them into account when calculating the cost of your premium for the same period?

This depends on how many points are being offered for the alleged offence. Fixed penalties are either for 3 or 6 points. If the conditional offer is for 3 points, as is commonly the case for speeding and minor careless driving offences, then you may accept it as you can still drive with 9 penalty points on your licence. If the Offer is for 6 points it would not be open for you to accept a further 6 points as this would result in you being eligible for a possible totting up disqualification.

If the Court finds grounds not to disqualify you the penalty points remain on your licence as before, meaning they could still result in you being subject to a totting up ban in the future. In that sense, a Court finding exceptional hardship is similar to a suspended disqualification as further offences could result in it being activated at a later date.