We understand that being accused of a road traffic offence can be frustrating and worrying, especially if there is a risk that you will lose your licence. At Watson Woodhouse Solicitors we have a team of specialist road traffic lawyers who can help you.
We have over 20 years of experience of advising and representing people accused of offences ranging from Speeding to Causing Death by Dangerous Driving. Our proven track record in helping people keep their licenses has enabled us to build a strong reputation in this area of law. We will fight for you where others won't.
Road traffic law can often be technical and many people are unaware of the options available to them when facing prosecution. If you want to fight the case, keep your licence or simply consider the options available, it is vital that you receive quality legal advice as quickly as possible.
Watson Woodhouse are Solicitors not a referral agent meaning, if you instruct us, we will represent you in court.
We offer a free 15 minute initial telephone interview to enable us to assess your case and provide you with a reliable quote, so contact us today on 01642 266570 or through our website if you wish to discuss your case.
Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 provides that it is an offence to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place "without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using that road or place".
The offence can arise in many different circumstances but the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the motorist is at fault. The reference point for the Court is the standard of a competent and careful driver. A person is guilty if they have departed from that standard.
Typically, careless driving involves a momentary negligent error of judgement or a single negligent manoeuvre.
The offence can only be heard in the Magisrates' Court. If found guilty the maximum sentence is a fine at level 5 and obligatory endorsement of 3-9 points or disqualification.
As the offence can arise in so many ways we would advise you take advice before deciding on how to plead.
This is a highly technical area of road traffic law. The penalties are particularly severe and can be difficult to mitigate. As a general rule we would suggest that you consult us in person if you are charged with such an offence and have any doubt at all as to your legal position.
The main driving offences are as follows:
FAILING TO CO-OPERATE WITH A PRELIMINARY TEST.
A Police Constable may require a person to co-operate with a preliminary test where he reasonably suspects that person to be driving, or attempting to drive, a car on a road or other public place with alcohol or drugs in his body, if he believes you have committed a moving traffic offence.
Failing to co-operate with the test will almost certainly lead to you being arrested, taken to the police station and required to provide a full specimen for analysis. However, it also amounts to an offence in itself which the police will charge if you subsequently pass the test in the police station. The offence carries 4 penalty points but also has a discretionary disqualification.
DRIVING OR ATTEMPTING TO DRIVE A MOTOR VEHICLE WITH EXCESS ALCOHOL.
It is an offence for a person to drive or attempt to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place with excess alcohol in his breath.
If you plead guilty or are found guilty of this offence the Magistrates must disqualify you for a minimum period of 12 months. In addition they can impose up to 6 months imprisonment if they think the offence is a particularly bad one, e.g. a very high reading or committed by someone with a number of previous drink drive convictions. A second drink drive offence in a 10 year period carries a minimum 36 months disqualification.
Difficulties can arise if you are only marginally over the drink drive limit. The limit is 35 micrograms. If you reading is less than 50 micrograms then the police must give you the option of providing a blood or urine sample. You are entitled to be found not guilty if they do not tell you of this option; if you exercise your option but through no fault of yours the blood or urine cannot be used; or if improper pressure is placed on you not to exercise your option.
Sometimes the loss of your driving licence can be so important to you that it is worth your while completely checking the police paperwork to ensure that no mistake on any of the technicalities has been made. Further, you are entitled to plead not guilty and to challenge the police to prove the lawfulness of every stage of the process. If you wish us to challenge the technically of the case we are happy to discuss with you the financial implications of doing so. We recognise that there are occasions when it simply may be worth your while to take the risk.
IN CHARGE OF A MOTOR VEHICLE WITH EXCESS ALCOHOL
It is an offence for a person to be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place with excess alcohol. It is a defence for the motorist to prove that he would be unlikely to drive while above the limit.
This offence usually arises out of rare but not uncommon circumstances. If you park a car outside a public house and then consume excess alcohol you may well as a matter of law be considered to be "in charge" of the car parked outside the pub. If the police decided to charge you then you would have to plead the special defence that you had no intention of driving the car whilst over the limit. However, people can remain in charge of a vehicle in circumstances which attract the attention of the police and which can cause some legal difficulty. These cases certainly need the assistance of a solicitor, expert in this area of law.
If convicted of the offence it carries 10 penalty points but may not lead to an automatic disqualification. Again, expert mitigation is essential to avoid the risk of receiving a discretionary disqualification.
FAILING TO PROVIDE A SPECIMEN FOR ANALYSIS.
It is an offence for a person who has been required to provide a specimen for analysis in the police station to fail without reasonable excuse to do so.
The penalty for this offence is the same, and often a little tougher, than for the ordinary offence of drink driving. This is because Parliament did not want to give a drink driver the option of cutting his losses by refusing to provide police with the evidence of the extent of drunkenness.
In our experience it is worryingly easy for an innocent motorist to be caught by the terms of this section. Being arrested for the first time and taken into a police station can be a frightening and disorienting experience. Access to a solicitor is limited in the police station. The procedures are carried out very swiftly. Confusion over what to say or do can sometimes be quickly marked down as a refusal resulting in an automatic charge.
The penalties for this offence are an obligatory minimum 12 month disqualification, a substantial fine, and potentially up to 6 months imprisonment.
We recommend that you contact us as soon as you can to ensure you receive the best legal advice as early in the proceedings as possible.
A person who has been disqualified from driving may apply for removal of the disqualification by applying to the court that sentenced him. The court will have regard to the person's character, their conduct subsequent to his conviction, the nature of the of the offence and any other circumstances when deciding whether to grant the application so the assistance of a solicitor is likely to improve the chances of success.
The length of time a person must wait before an application can be made are as follows:
If an accident takes place and either damage or personal injury is caused then the driver of the vehicle at the time is required to stop at the scene of the accident and make him or herself available to anybody else who may need their details and their insurance policy number.
There is a further obligation (even if you do stop and provide your details) to report any accident that results in injury or damage to a Police Station as soon as reasonably practicable and in any case within a maximum of 24 hours.
In the majority of cases, the offences will be dealt with by points and fines. The penalty point range for these offences is 5 to10. If both of these offences occur in relation to the same incident then the offences are treated as occurring on the same occasion. Albeit dependent on the seriousness of the offence, they are also imprisonable and disqualifiable offences. The fines involved can be anywhere up to £5,000 and the level imposed will be affected by the seriousness of the offence and your personal circumstances.
Often these offences can be complicated, especially because of the obligations placed up on the driver of the vehicle. Here at Watson Woodhouse we have extensive experience of such offences and are able to provide comprehensive support and advice as to how best to deal with the matter.
Often the first time you are aware that you are suspected of committing an offence is when you receive a letter from the police demanding to know who was driving a vehicle on a particular date at a particular time. This often causes difficulties because if you complete the notice you may be admitting an offence or blaming a friend or member of your family. It may be that you genuinely cannot be sure who was driving. For whatever reason people struggle to deal with these notices.
On a traffic court list in Northallerton recently, of seventeen cases listed, eight were for failing to comply with them. The Chris Huhne case shows what can go wrong in extreme cases!
If you are in any doubt as to how you should deal with a demand for information or you are accused of failing to provide it you should seek expert advice. There is a lot of misleading or plain wrong advice around. Do not rely on it.
We have advised many people about these notices and have successfully defended people at court.
It is illegal to use a mobile phone held in the hand while driving or while stopped with the engine on. If you break this law, even if you are otherwise driving safely, you could face a fine of up to £2500 dependant on the type of vehicle you were driving and three penalty points on your licence.
These offences apply simply if you are seen using a mobile while driving. If your driving is bad, or if there is a crash while you are using the phone, you could be prosecuted for more serious offences.
The use of a hand–held phone or similar hand–held device while driving is prohibited. A hand–held device is something that "is or must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function". A device is "similar" to a mobile phone if it performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data.
Examples of interactive communication functions are sending and receiving spoken or written messages, sending or receiving still or moving images and providing access to the internet.
Hands-free mobile phones
While it is an offence to be seen using a hand held phone, regardless of whether driving has been affected, this is not the case for hands-free phones.
However, if you are seen not to be in control of a vehicle while using a hands-free phone you can be prosecuted for that offence. The penalties are the same as for using a hand-held phone.
The law requires every person ( with a few exceptions ) who uses, causes or permits another person to use, a motor vehicle on a road or other public place to have a policy of insurance in respect of third party risks. The offence of No Insurance is punishable by a level 5 fine and 6-8 penalty points or discretionary disqualification.
The offence can often be straightforward. However, we have helped a significant number of clients whose cases were not straightforward and who benefited from our advice. An increasingly frequent problem is people who are not insured but believe they are. This could be because they have been told , wrongly, that they were or because the policy was set up on the internet or over the phone and then cancelled without the client knowing. In those circumstances a guilty plea may have to be entered but the court may find there are special reasons why no penalty points should be endorsed.
If you are accused of this offence and want advice on what you should do, please make an appointment today.
The police may wish to interview you about an alleged road traffic offence. That could be in a police car or a more formal interview at the police station. It is always advisable to seek legal advice in such circumstances. You are entitled to FREE and independent legal advice in police interviews and the police are obliged to tell you that.
We operate 24 hour a day police interview cover and can attend an interview with you. You will be represented by a Solicitor or qualified police station advisor.
If you need to contact our team please ring 07860 679929 at any time.
Most road traffic offences attract automatic endorsement and penalty points on your licence. However, you should be aware that in certain circumstances it is possible to persuade a court not to endorse your licence. In order to do so you have to persuade the court that "special reasons" apply.
The minimum criteria for a special reason are :
i. a matter that is a mitigating or extenuating circumstance;
ii. that does not amount in law to a defence to the charge;
iii. which is directly connected with the commission of the offence; and
iv. is one which the court ought properly to take into consideration when imposing sentence.
Every case is different. There are all sorts of sets of circumstances which amount to special reasons. For example, if you have only driven for a very short distance and in circumstances where you are unlikely to come into contact with other road users may be a special reason. If you have been misled, without any fault on your part, into whether insurance was in place may be a special reason. If you committed an offence whilst dealing with an emergency then that too may be a special reason.
It is always worth while considering very carefully whether you may have an argument for special reason to avoid endorsement. Although penalty points may not matter until you are at risk of receiving a disqualification, it is always good to avoid getting penalty points if there is a way of doing so.
If you feel that the circumstances in your case may amount to a special reason, then you should contact us without delay.
This offence carries 3 penalty points but can also result in a discretionary ban from driving.
It is a highly technical offence. It is well worth considering whether you should plead not guilty.
The basic position is that you must stop if you see a red light or an amber with red light. If you see an amber alone signal then you should stop unless the light has come on so close to the stop line that you cannot stop safely without going beyond the stop line. You are then entitled to continue even if the second traffic light posed beyond the junction is showing red by the time you go through it.
These offences generally come to court in one of two ways. The first is of a camera photographing the rear of the car. This usually proves beyond doubt that the red light offence was committed but can lead to difficult issues as to whether the police can prove who was the driver.
The other way for the case to reach court is for a police officer to give evidence of observation. Police officers can, and often do, get this wrong. Expert cross-examination coupled with your own evidence to contradict the officer can often be enough to secure an acquittal.
If you feel you have been wrongly charged with this offence we would strongly advise you to contact us with a view to pleading not guilty.
There are three main types of speeding offence:
Speeding carries 3 to 6 penalty points depending on the seriousness of the offence. Alternatively if the speed is particularly excessive the court may disqualify from driving. They cannot do both.
Most speeding prosecutions are brought with the support of a technical device of one sort or another, usually a radar speed meter. The evidence these devices produce is usually very strong, but should not be regarded as conclusive evidence. In a decided case a High Court Judge once said,
"We have not reached the stage when the reading on such a piece of apparatus...has to be accepted as absolutely accurate and true, no matter what. There are all kinds of things in a case like this which might have gone wrong".
If the police do want to charge you using such a device they must give you a Notice of Intended Prosecution within a short period of time after the alleged commission of the speeding offence. They must also bring the summons against you within 6 months of the offence. If they breach either of these two time limits then it is possible to successfully challenge the proceedings.
The first notice you will have that you have allegedly been speeding often contains a demand that you provide information as to who was driving the vehicle. It is vital that you deal with this demand properly.
If your case is unusual it may be that a legal solution is available to you. For example there may be special reasons why you were speeding. If that is the case then you may avoid having points endorsed on your licence.
The defences of duress or necessity may also be available.
The prosecution also have to ensure that the notices of speed limits i.e: signs are correct. A recent case stated as follows: " Whether by the point on the road where the alleged offence took place the driver by reference to the route taken, thereto has been given adequate guidance of the speed limit to be observed at that point on the road by the signs on the relevant part or pats of the road in so far as those traffic signs comply with the 2002 regulations.
To discuss your options please contact one of our road traffic experts at Watson Woodhouse.
A court is obliged to disqualify a person for at least 6 months if they are convicted of any endorsable offence when the number of penalty points for that offence and any others which have to be taken into account reaches 12. The other points to be taken into account are those endorsed on his record for offences committed less than three years before the new one.
If you believe you are at risk of a penalty point disqualification and are worried about how you will be affected by it you should seek legal advice. If the court is presented with a well reasoned argument it may find that "having regard to all the circumstances there are grounds for mitigating the normal consequences of of the conviction". In other words that, even though you have reached 12 or more points, you may avoid disqualification. This is often called exceptional hardship but is not limited to that. If you face losing your livelihood or if others may be affected by your being disqualified, e.g family or employees, the court may take that into account.
We have considerable expertise in this area and can assist you in presenting your case to the court.