Some of the other Frequently Asked Questions can be found here
This depends on the circumstances such as the gravity of the charge and the state of your driving licence. If you are not at risk of disqualification and the evidence against you is clear cut and straightforward you may be able to deal with the matter without legal representation. However, it doesn’t cost anything to obtain initial legal advice by phone or e-mail from us and we would always recommend that you do so before making any decision.
Legal aid is generally not available for motoring charges which are heard in the Magistrates Court such as speeding, failure to identify the driver, no insurance and careless driving. It may be available for more serious offences which carry potential custodial sentence on conviction suchas dangerous driving but it depends on the circumstances of the particular case and is means tested. Kenway Miller Solicitors does not have a legal aid contract and only take on cases privately.
This is a relatively new method by which Court proceedings can be started in the Magistrates Court which involves a case going before a Single Magistrate when he or she will decide whether a full hearing before three Magistrates is necessary, the object being to save Court time and costs where possible. If a not guilty plea is entered to the charge this will result in a full hearing being listed. If a guilty plea has been entered but a disqualification is being considered this will result in the matter being listed to go before three Magistrates or a District Judge.
If you have been charged with an offence whilst at the police station then failure to attend Court on the date of first hearing will normally result in a warrant for your arrest being issued.
In relation to less serious offences for which a postal requisition or Single Justice Procedure has been issued, attendance at Court is not always necessary.
If you intend to plead guilty and a disqualification from driving is a possibility your attendance will be required. If you do not respond to the Court papers the Court may convict you in your absence. If you plead guilty without attending or do not respond to the summons and the Court wishes to consider a disqualification, it is obliged to adjourn the case to another date in order to allow you the opportunity to attend. If you do not attend the second hearing of your case, the Court may disqualify you in your absence or issue a warrant for your arrest.
A not guilty plea to a lower level motoring offence such as speeding can normally be entered in writing without the need for attendance at Court. The Court will then fix the case for trial at which attendance may be required but it may not be if your legal representative attends Court on your behalf.
The Police will charge you with an offence if you are in custody and it has been decided that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. After you have been charged the police will provide you with a date on which you will be required to attend Court. If you have been charged you must attend Court on the date specified otherwise the Court will normally issue a warrant for your arrest.
If you are in custody but the police wish to investigate or obtain further evidence before making a decision about whether to charge you they may bail you to return to the police station at a later date. This means that you must return to the police station at the date specified by the police. This will often occur when samples of blood or urine have been taken by the police and the decision as to whether or not to charge will depend on the result of the analysis.
Some offences can only ever be heard in the Magistrates Court, such as, amongst others speeding, traffic signal offences, careless driving and drink driving. Other offences, such as dangerous driving, can be heard in the Magistrates Court or Crown Court. If you are accused of dangerous driving, you may elect for your case to be tried in the Crown Court before a Jury. The Magistrates may also decide that due to the seriousness of the offence it must be heard before the Crown Court.
Before the Court asks you to enter a plea, you should be entitled to consider an outline of the case against you. This is commonly referred to as the “Advance Information” and will normally consist of the statements of the main prosecution witnesses. In a drink driving case it should include a booklet which sets out the procedure which was followed for obtaining the samples of breath and/or blood or urine from you. After having considered this information, a solicitor who specialises in defending motoring offences should be able to advise you of the strength of the case against in order that you can decide what plea to enter.
If you are legally represented at the first hearing of your case, you will only be required to confirm your name, address and the plea you wish to enter to the charge.
If you plead guilty the prosecution representative will outline the facts of the case. Your representative will then address the Court on your behalf, explaining any mitigating circumstances that there may be in relation to the offence and your own circumstances.
If you are facing a disqualification due to having 12 points on your licence and wish to put forward reasons why you should not be disqualified then your representative will provide the reasons as to why there would be exceptional hardship in the event of a disqualification being imposed. You will be required to confirm this on oath and may be asked questions about this by the prosecution representative and/or the Magistrates before a decision is made.
More serious motoring offences such as drink driving and dangerous driving carry mandatory disqualification which means that the Court has no option but to disqualify for at least 12 months unless there are special reasons connected to the offence which justify not doing so such as an emergency situation.
Most lower level motoring offences such as speeding do not result in disqualification. However, the Court does have the power to impose a discretionary disqualification instead of penalty points and may do so depending on the circumstances of the case before them. For example, Courts will ordinarily consider a disqualification where the alleged speed is over 100mph in a 70mph limit. The fact that a ban may be considered does not mean that it will definitely be imposed and it is possible to persuade the Court not to disqualify if the case is presented well.
If a driver reaches 12 penalty points and the offences for which they were endorsed took place within a period of three years, the Court will consider whether to disqualify for 6 months under s35 Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (totting up). For more on how this can be avoided click here
Custodial sentences can only be imposed for more serious motoring convictions such as drink driving, causing death by careless driving, dangerous driving and driving whilst disqualified. They cannot be imposed for less serious offences such as speeding, failure to furnish information, driving without insurance, careless driving, contravening a traffic signal or driving whilst using a handheld device.
A custodial sentence will generally only be considered by the Magistrates Court following conviction drink driving case where the reading is significantly over the prescribed limit or where there is a history of previous similar offences.
If you need advice about how to deal with a request for driver details from the police, visit our interactive advice page which can be found here