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Being convicted of a motoring offence may mean anything from a fine, points on a driving licence, disqualification from driving or a custodial sentence, depending on the seriousness of the offence.
Even a fine or penalty points on a driving licence may have a negative impact on the person who has been prosecuted, especially where the driver already has points on his licence. Under the “totting up” rules a driver who accumulates 12 points within a 3 year period may be disqualified for at least 6 months.
What are motoring offences?
Motoring offences may be split into 2 categories:
1) Minor motoring offences i.e. those for which the offender receives a fixed penalty notice (FPN)
These mean a fine is payable and his licence may be endorsed (according to the offence). FPNs are generally used for moving traffic offences and to enforce some parking restrictions, such as parking on zig zag lines.
However, most parking or waiting offences are dealt with by Penalty Charge Notices (PCN), which can be issued through the post or applied to the car windscreen. PCNs may also be used for some moving traffic offences such as driving in bus lanes or ignoring no entry signs. The penalty is a fine, which if paid within 14 days of receipt may be halved.
FPNs that are non endorseable include:
- Neglecting traffic regulations
- Lighting offences
- Unclear vehicle windows or obstructed view of the road
- Sounding the vehicle horn at night.
FPNs for which the offender’s licence will also be endorsed include:
- Using a mobile phone whilst driving
- Careless driving
- Neglecting traffic directions
- Motorway offences, such as driving on the hard shoulder
- Driving without a seat belt
- Driving without 3rd party insurance
- Leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position
- Driving with defective eyesight
Anyone receiving a FPN can either accept the conditional offer to pay the fine and have the licence endorsed with any points, or reject the offer and challenge the FPN in court
2) More serious motoring offences are those for which the offender may be disqualified from driving or could potentially be given a custodial sentence.
- Dangerous or careless driving
- Driving under the influence of drink or drugs
- Failure to stop and report an accident
- Accumulation of more than 12 penalty points in a 3 year period
These offences are generally dealt with through the Magistrates’ or Sheriff’s Courts and the offender will receive a summons to attend Court.
What are the options for anyone who has committed a motoring offence?
Anyone who has committed a motoring offence should receive notice of intended prosecution in one of 3 ways:
- Being stopped and warned or arrested by a police officer at the time of the offence
- A notice of intended prosecution to the offender or the keeper of the vehicle within 14 days of the offence
- Receipt of a summons or charge within 14 days
A notice of intended prosecution will usually ask the vehicle owner to confirm that they were the driver or to identify the person driving at the time of the offence. Failure to provide the information may make the vehicle’s keeper liable to the offence and therefore also the fine and penalty points.
Many speeding and traffic light offences are now captured on camera and it is a criminal offence to pervert the course of justice by falsely claiming that someone else was driving the vehicle.
When a summons is received there are 2 options:
1) Plead guilty, either by post or in person at the Court
Anyone pleading guilty should seek legal advice as there may be special reasons (any relevant unique circumstances such as an emergency situations) that may help to mitigate the offence and reduce the penalty.
It may be also possible to argue ‘exceptional hardship’ if additional penalty points take the number to 12 or more points, especially if disqualification means a loss of employment. This may persuade the Court to shorten the disqualification period of 6 months.
The Court will also consider the seriousness of the offence and any previous convictions before imposing a fine. If appropriate a means enquiry form may be completed to provide the offender’s financial details to the Court. This information may be used to reduce the fine.
2) Plead not guilty
Anyone pleading not guilty must take specialist legal advice.
It is vital to inform the motor insurance company of motoring convictions as failure to disclose the information may lead to the company refusing to deal with any future claims.
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