I have been caught speeding. What can I expect?
Suppose you have been caught red-handed at the wheel of a speeding car by the police or you have admitted to being the driver of a vehicle which has been photographed exceeding the limit. If you have exceeded the limit by only a few miles per hour you might be fortunate enough to be offered the option of taking a speed awareness course. However, if you have not been offered this option you will probably be prosecuted.
Fixed penalty Offers
If you are offered a fixed penalty (ie 3 penalty points and a fine), in most situations in which you admit the offence, you would be well advised to accept it. This will be the cheapest and simplest way of finishing the matter. However, if you already have 9 or more relevant penalty points on your driving licence there is little reason to accept it as once it is realised (by the system) that you are on the brink of a penalty points disqualification the offer of a fixed penalty is likely to be withdrawn (even if you have already paid the fine). Instead, you are likely to be the recipient of a Single Justice Procedural Notice. This will usually result in you ending up in court facing the prospect of a penalty points disqualification of at least 6 months.
Summons to attend court for a disqualification
Supposing you admit to speeding at only a little over the limit and have ticked the box of your Single Justice Procedural Notice to say ‘guilty’ but don’t wish to attend court. So long as you are not facing a penalty points disqualification the Single Justice is likely to impose a fine and penalty points without requiring you to attend court. However, if the Single Justice takes the view that you are sufficiently over the limit for the court to consider an immediate disqualification you will receive a summons to attend court. The court will, on the listed date, then consider whether to impose an immediate disqualification or whether to simply order the endorsement of penalty points (in addition to a fine).
The Magistrates are required to follow the sentencing guidelines issued by the sentencing council. These provide guidance for the level of fines and whether the court should impose a disqualification or order the endorsement of penalty points. For each speed limit there is separate guidance (from 20 – 70 mph). There are 3 sentencing brackets for each speed limit. For example, in a 70 mph limit the guidelines suggest that from 71-90 mph the court should consider 3 penalty points and a Band A fine. From 91-100 mph they should consider the endorsement of 4-6 penalty points or a 7- 28 day ban and a Band B fine. From 101 mph and above they are directed to consider the endorsement of 6 penalty points or a ban of up to 56 days and a Band C fine. However, there is a proviso which adds that where an offender has driven ‘grossly in excess of the speed limit’ the court should consider a disqualification in excess of 56 days (but the guideline does not say what speed amounts to being ‘grossly in excess of the speed limit’).
Interpretation of the Guidelines
A great deal depends on how the courts apply the guidance. Typically, motorists driving at 101-110 mph end up in court facing the possibility of an immediate ban. However, the guidelines allow the individual tribunal a considerable degree of latitude to either disqualify or not in this situation. If someone is driving in excess of 110 mph again, it is up to the court to decide if this merits a ban in excess of 56 days (although they can still exercise their discretion to simply order the endorsement of penalty points instead).
There is a large degree of latitude within the guidelines in many situations so that there is no way of knowing in advance whether the court will disqualify or not. Furthermore, there is no way of knowing in advance, in a case considered to be grossly in excess of the limit, whether the court will disqualify for much longer than the 56 day suggested period, and if they do, by how much. Consequently, the way in which the mitigation is prepared and presented often will have a decisive effect in terms of the severity of the sentence.
At Kent Traffic Law we have witnessed others making pleas in mitigation which actually contained aggravating features ie points which make the case worse from the point of view of the sentencing tribunal! It is very easy to do this without realising. Sentencing for speeding can be very uncertain in outcome. If you cannot afford to be sentenced more harshly than necessary and would like to know how best to improve your chances of coming out on top in what can seem like a sentencing lottery you are welcome to call to discuss matters with an expert who specialises exclusively in dealing with motoring offence cases.