A summons – a requirement to attend court and stand before a magistrate or judge – is generally reserved for more serious motoring offences than those dealt with by a fixed penalty notice.

A driver will only receive a court summons once it has been established that they were driving the vehicle at the time of the offence.

In relation to motoring offences such as speeding or contravening a traffic signal, an NIP (notice of intended prosecution) must generally be given orally at the time of the alleged offence or received by post by the registered keeper of the vehicle within 14 days (exceptions can apply). However, the police have up to six months to ensure the summons has been processed by the Court. The summons may actually be received outside the statutory 6 month time frame as long as it was received by the Court within 6 months.

The summons will notify the driver of the offence they are accused of and the date they are required to attend Court. Dates can be rearranged if inconvenient.

You may enter a plea by post but it may not be the best option particularly if the offence is likely to carry more than 3 points and a disqualification is possible.

Before taking any action, it’s highly advisable to seek legal advice. In the first instance, an expert road traffic lawyer will be able to advise you whether there is a good chance of successfully defending the case, says Matthew Miller, director of Motoring Offence Lawyers Ltd.

The magistrates have a wide discretion when it comes to deciding the penalty to be imposed. Speeding offences can carry between three and six penalty points or a disqualification of anything from between seven days and six months. Much depends on how the case is presented in court. Even if pleading guilty, thorough preparation is vital to the chances of obtaining the desired outcome to the case.

Mike, 26 from Birmingham, was pulled over by a traffic officer for travelling at 103mph on the motorway. A court summons was issued, and at the hearing Mike received an automatic disqualification due to his speeding exceeding 100mph. There were no extenuating circumstances, although Mike’s clean driving licence and good character were noted, and a ban of 28 days and a fine were issued.

Key points

  • A court summons generally means the offence is more serious than those dealt with by a fixed penalty notice
  • Summons can take longer than six months from the date of the offence to arrive
  • Summonsed drivers should seek legal advice as quickly as possible