Introduction - Sentences
The sting of a speeding accusation often comes with the threat of disqualification or the feared addition of 3-6 penalty points on your driving record. The precise penalty hinges on various factors including, but not limited to, the extent by which the speed limit was broken. For many their very livelihoods and lifestyles are heavily dependent upon the possession of a driving licence. Therefore, if you find yourself admitting or being convicted of speeding your priority will usually be to avoid a disqualification.
Notices of Intended Prosecution
Whether you were pulled over by a vigilant police officer or your vehicle was caught in the lens of a fixed or mobile police camera you will probably find a Notice of Intended Prosecution winging its way to you. This Notice, typically sent to the registered keeper of the vehicle, requires the identification of the driver at the time of the alleged offence. Once the police have the evidence they require of the identity of the driver they will usually instigate the issue a Single Justice Procedural Notice (unless a speed awareness course or fixed penalty ticket is offered).
Single Justice Procedural Notices
Such Notices give the motorist a choice: either to plead ‘Guilty’ or ‘Not Guilty.’ Opting for ‘Guilty’ requires a further choice. You can either choose to attend court or ask to be sentenced in absentia. In the latter case, if the Single Justice is not considering a disqualification you will be sent details of your sentence (which will include penalty points and a fine). If the Single Justice takes the view that a disqualification should be considered then you will be sent a requirement to attend court when you will have the opportunity to try to persuade the court to save your driving licence.
Understanding Sentencing Guidelines
When it comes to sentencing the magistrates follow strict guidelines according to the speed bracket. For instance, in a 70 mph zone, the speed brackets for sentencing purposes are: 71-90 mph, 91-100 mph, and 101 mph and above. Each bracket carries its own set of fines, adjusted according to the defendant’s means, which are accompanied either by the endorsement of penalty points or a ban ranging from 7 to 56 days. In the bottom bracket the guideline sentence is for 3 penalty points and a fine. In the middle bracket it is for 4-6 points or a ban from 7-28 days plus a fine. In the top bracket it is for 6 points or a ban of up to 56 days plus a fine. There is a proviso that if the speed is considered to be grossly in excess of the speed limit then any ban is not limited to 56 days.
Strategies to Avoid Disqualification
Avoiding disqualification requires careful planning. If you opt for a ‘Not Guilty’ plea and secure an acquittal the threat of penalties vanishes. For those who plead ‘Guilty,’ there are choices to make. Choosing not to attend the court hearing while submitting a carefully crafted letter of mitigation is an option. However, the wording of the letter is crucial as care must be taken not to inadvertently worsen the situation. Alternatively, if you believe, that given the extent by which you exceeded the limit, the Single Justice will not consider anything but a ban then you may as well opt for attendance at court in the hope that you will be able to persuade the court not to ban you.
If you cannot afford to be without your driving licence you should carefully consider your options at the outset ie before you start completing forms or setting out your case. Do you have a defence in law (rather than does your mate from the pub think you do)? If not, are you at risk of a ban either because the speed was so grossly in excess of the limit or because you might be liable to a penalty points disqualification? In the former case you might wish to try to avoid being required to attend court with a carefully crafted letter. In the latter case you probably will have no way of avoiding a ban except by attending court and successfully submitting that you would suffer from ‘exceptional hardship’. Whatever your situation you are bound to benefit from expert guidance from a specialist motoring offence solicitor. This guidance will be more useful the earlier it is obtained.
At Kent Traffic Law, we offer an initial telephone review, providing you with the opportunity to explore the options available, without charge or obligation. If you find yourself at risk of a disqualification for speeding why not give us a call?