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You face prosecution for speeding.  How can you avoid a disqualification from driving?

Introduction

The sentencing power of the court ranges from disqualification from driving to endorsing your record with penalty points. The court will also fine you. What motorists most fear is usually disqualification from driving. The courts have the power either to ban you for an individual offence or, if your penalty points tally reaches 12 or more, they can impose a penalty points disqualification in which case the ban usually lasts for 6 months.


The Prosecution

If you have been caught by a camera you may receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution. This will require you to identify the driver at the time of the offence. Unless you are lucky enough to receive an offer of a speed awareness course the minimum penalty will be 3 points and a fine. If you are offered the option of a fixed penalty, assuming you admit the offence, you should accept this as this will be the lightest penalty you could normally expect. However, if you are not offered a speed awareness course or a fixed penalty you will probably, in due course, receive a Single Justice Procedure Notice.

If you admit the offence you have the option of setting out some written mitigation on the Notice to account for your conduct. Often motorists write out an account which is hopelessly misguided. For example, they might give an account which to their minds mitigates the offence but in the eyes of the court the opposite result can sometimes be achieved.  For example, when motorists originally enquire of Kent Traffic Law they often say things like, ‘It was a new car and I wasn’t used to it’, or, ‘I had to overtake the car in front as they were driving carelessly’. Usually the courts are not sympathetic to such excuses and the motorist can then find s/he has been summoned to court for consideration of a ban.

Sentencing for Speeding

The courts usually follow sentencing guidelines. These set out 3 sentencing bands for each speed. For example, in a 70 mph limit those speeding at between 71-90 mph will usually be fined and have 3 penalty points endorsed. At 91-100 mph the guidelines suggest a ban of between 7-28 days or endorsement of between 4-6 penalty points. At 101 mph or more a ban of up to 56 days is suggested or, if a ban is averted, the endorsement of 6 points. (In lower speed limits the penalties for each band are the same although, of course, the range of speeds at which the penalties apply is different. For example, in a 50 mph limit the top band starts at 76 mph and in a 60 mph limit the top band starts at 91 mph). There is a proviso to the length of ban that applies in the top brackets; if the court takes the view that the motorist was driving at a speed ‘grossly in excess of the speed limit’ it can disqualify for periods in excess of 56 days. (Beware the motorist who is driving at such speeds as the courts can and do ban such motorists for far longer periods.)

The Court Procedure

Often the courts list motoring offence days when every case that day is a motoring case (rather than being part of a criminal offence list). In the case of those who have been required to attend court for sentencing the court is usually considering the option of an immediate disqualification (as they are not meant to disqualify someone who has not been given the chance to attend court and plead his or her case). Your case will be given a specific time (often the courts list 4 cases per hour, for example). When your case is called on you will enter the court, your identity and plea will be confirmed and then, once the facts of the offence have been outlined, you will be required to account for your conduct and make the best case you can for saving your licence. This can be a daunting prospect. Great care needs to be taken not to aggravate your case by putting forward matters which, in the eyes of the court, actually make your offence more, not less, serious. If you have been speeding in the top bracket it pays to have a clear, rational and logical account that you can put forward persuasively in the hope that you will not be disqualified.

Conclusion

If you’ve been caught speeding in the top sentencing bracket whether you come away with your licence in tact depends in large part on how you have prepared for the day in court and how persuasive the court found your submissions. If you job or business is at stake consider how much a disqualification would cost you and those around you. If you cannot afford to lose your licence why leave your case to chance? You can maximise your chance of success, although there are no guarantees, by employing the best lawyer you can find. After all, your licence may depend upon it.

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