Understand the Charge
Many drivers don’t take enough care to understand the charge. For example, motorists often confuse Drink Driving with Drunk in Charge. The former refers to driving with excess alcohol and the latter to being in charge of a vehicle when over the drink drive limit. Another example is when registered keepers receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution for speeding. If that Notice and the accompanying requirement is not completed and received by the police identifying the driver within the deadline they often prosecute the keeper for failing to supply the driver’s details (rather than for speeding). So, do make sure you understand what charge you are facing as each attracts different penalties which vary in severity. Also, you might have a defence to one but not the other and so it could not be more important to understand the nature of the charge at the outset if you are to adopt the best way forward.
Single Justice Procedural Notice
Not Guilty Plea
If you receive a Single Justice Procedural Notice this means you are being prosecuted for an offence. You need to complete the form indicating how you plead, ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’. To do so you need to understand whether you have a defence in law to the charge and what defending the allegation would entail. How else can you decide how to plead? Suppose you plead ‘not guilty’. This means your case will be listed in open court in due course for a trial in which you expect to be able to put forward your defence. However, you must ensure that you complete the Notice properly. For example, you may have been served with one or more prosecution witness statements. You are usually required to indicate which witnesses’ need to come to court so that you can question them (if you challenge any material aspect of their evidence). If you don’t so indicate the witnesses will often not attend on the day of your hearing meaning that you would not be able to challenge their account in open court. If doing so is necessary to put forward your defence this could mean that you would not receive a fair hearing of your case (as the Magistrates would hear the statement read out and accept its accuracy on its face). So, it is critical that you complete the Notice properly or your prospects of successfully defending your case could be undermined.
Suppose on the other hand you wish to plead ‘Guilty’ but that you wish, for example, to argue that special reasons apply to your case (in which case you would be arguing, for example, that penalty points should not be endorsed or that you should be allowed to avoid what would otherwise have been an obligatory driving disqualification). In such a case you must set out clearly on the Notice why you are putting forward special reasons. If the court or prosecution are misled it could easily lead to an unnecessary adjournment when your case is listed.
Alternatively, suppose you indicate that you wish to attend court as you expect the court to consider a discretionary disqualification and you wish to put forward arguments why they should not disqualify you. Think twice before you set out your arguments on the Notice. If you have opted to attend court to argue against a discretionary disqualification what advantage do you gain by setting out your arguments in writing in advance? If you commit to a line of argument and, upon reflection decide against it, it may be too late to change tack convincingly when your case is listed in open court.
Your Driving Record
Do ensure that you obtain a DVLA print out if you have any current penalty points on your record. You must ensure that you understand which points are current on your licence and which have expired. This is commonly misunderstood as drivers often assume that the relevant date for determining whether their points are current is the court hearing date. It is not! The relevant dates are those upon which the offences were committed. At Kent Traffic Law we have had cases in which we have had to advise clients that they are not facing a penalty points disqualification (when they thought they were) and in which they are facing such a disqualification (when they thought they were not). Do ensure that you understand the rules relating to penalty points disqualifications and that you have an up to date print out of your DVLA record. If you don’t you may end up misunderstanding the nature of the consequences you face.