What happens if I am charged with a road traffic offence?

Anyone can get caught when it comes to committing motoring offences, even those who are considering themselves as law-abiding citizens.

In a survey conducted by Onepoll, it was revealed that millions of people commit around 7 crimes per week, including those who believe they are abiding the law. Driving offences such as speeding and using a mobile phone while driving topped the list.

Generally, this article is about the types of motoring offences, corresponding penalties, and knowing when to seek professional legal advice for motoring offences.

Offences

Minor offences

Those offences that result in a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) are classed as “minor”, where a majority of driving offences falls under this type. The police can issue an FPN either on-the-spot or through the post.

There are two types of FPNs:

  • endorsable; and
  • non-endorsable.

An endorsable ticket means points on your licence and a fine. Whereas for a non-endorsable ticket, a fine only.

Penalty points are recorded on a driving licence for about 4-11 years depending on the offence. You will be receiving a court summons where you will be able to challenge the charge against you if you don’t plead guilty by paying your fine and collecting your points. Remember to ask assistance from a solicitor before appearing in court.

Major offences

Offences that are dealt with by a Magistrates Court are major and this results in:

  • an unlimited fine;
  • a driving ban;
  • a prison sentence; and
  • a criminal record.

Section 1 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (RTOA) holds that for certain road traffic offences, the driver must be given a warning that he faces prosecution. This is done by issuing a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP). There are certain exemptions to this⁠—but a person can be warned in one of three ways:

  • warned at the time the offence was committed of the possibility of prosecution;
  • served with a summons within 14 days of the commission of the offence; or
  • served with a Notice of Intended Prosecution within 14 days of the commission of the offence or alternatively such a Notice must have been served on the Registered Keeper.

There is no limit for commencement of proceedings for indictable only offences and indictable offences triable.

Section 127 of the Magistrates Courts Act 1980 provides that except where it is provided in legislation, a magistrates court should not try any information unless it was laid within 6 months during the time that the offence was committed for summary offences.

Section 6 of the RTOA provides time limits for commencement of summary proceedings in certain road traffic offences and gives an exception to the 6-month rule.

Proceedings for offences which have sufficient evidence based on the prosecutor’s opinion and to which the section applies may be brought within 6 months during the time the offence was committed.

Under this provision, proceedings will not commence more than 3 years after the commission of the offence. Accountability should be taken off from the person who has the authority to prosecute when deciding whether or not the 6-month rule has not been followed.

The police have statutory power to demand production of a driving licence. Driving licences must be surrendered and renewed every 10 years. A duty to surrender a licence in respect of any endorsement must also be received.

Road traffic cases are generally commenced by way of a summons. All information must be laid before a magistrate, the justices clerk, or any person appointed by the justices clerk to accept the information.

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