Gepp Solicitors criminal defence lawyers in Essex offer highly skilled advocacy for a wide range of motoring offences to clients throughout Essex and the surrounding area.
There are various types of drink driving offences and the penalties can include a fine, disqualification from driving for at least 1 year and potentially even a prison sentence in more serious cases.
Drink driving offences you may be prosecuted for include:
• Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink
• Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink
• Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis
• Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink
Driving under the influence of drugs
You can be prosecuted for driving while unfit to do so as a result of being on both illegal and some prescription drugs. It is also an offence to drive with certain levels of illegal drugs in your system, even if they have not been shown to affect your driving.
Penalties for drug driving can include a driving ban of at least 1 year, an unlimited fine and up to 6 months in prison.
Driving without due care and attention
Also referred to as ‘careless driving’ this covers a wide range of issues, including driving too close to the vehicle in front, staying in the middle or outside lane on the motorway without justification, carrying out tasks that distract you from driving and driving while excessively tired.
Penalties for driving without due care and attention will depend on the nature and seriousness of the offence, but can include 3-9 penalty points, an unlimited fine and the court has a discretion to give a driving ban irrespective of whether you have a clean driving licence or one with points. If you already have points on your licence, these additional penalty points can lead to disqualification from driving for at least 6 months.
Driving without a licence and/or insurance cover
Driving without a valid licence (either because you have not passed your test or have been disqualified) can result in 3-6 penalty points and a fine of up to £1,000.
Driving without insurance can result if the matter goes to court an unlimited fine, 6-8 points or you could face being disqualified from driving.
The penalties for speeding will depend on how far above the limit you were driving. The minimum penalty is a £100 fine and 3 penalty points, but for more serious offences you can receive fine of up to £1,000 (£2,500 for motorway offences) and up to 6 points.
In some circumstances, a serious speeding offence can also result in disqualification from driving and a speeding offence can also push you over the penalty point limit, resulting in a ‘totting up’ ban.
Using a mobile phone whilst driving
Using a mobile phone while driving is illegal unless you are using a Bluetooth headset or other hands-free device. This also applies to satnavs – something many people are not aware of.
Penalties for using a mobile phone or satnav while driving include 6 penalty points and a £200 fine.
You can also be taken to court, where you can receive a fine of up to £1,000 (or up to £2,500 if driving a lorry or bus) and be banned from driving for a fixed period.
Failing to give information as to the identity of the driver
If the police contact you regarding an offence involving a vehicle registered to you, you will normally have 28 days to respond either confirming that you were driving at the time of the offence, or providing details of who was driving.
Failure to do so is a criminal offence and could result in 6 penalty points and a fine of up to £1,000, on top of the penalties for the original offence. The combined penalty points from the two offences can therefore easily result in losing your driving licence for at least 6 months.
Failure to stop or report a road accident
If you are involved in a car accident, you are legally required to stop if anyone other than yourself is injured or if damage is caused to another vehicle or property. If you fail to stop, for example if you do not immediately realise damage was caused, you must report the accident to the police within 24 hours.
Failure to do so can result in an unlimited fine, 5-10 penalty points, disqualification from driving and even imprisonment in the most serious cases.
Disqualification on penalty points – totting up
One of the most common ways drivers can face a driving ban is if they accumulate too many penalty points from different offences in a set period. This is commonly referred to as a ‘totting up’ ban.
For most drivers, you will face a ban of at least 6 months if you accumulate 12 or more penalty points within a 3-year period. However, for new drivers, the limit is only 6 penalty points for your first 2 years after passing your test. If you lose your licence as a new driver, you must apply for a new provisional driving licence and retake your theory and practical test once your disqualification period ends.
Using ‘exceptional hardship’ to avoid disqualification from driving
If you face disqualification from driving, it is sometimes possible to avoid a ban if it can be shown that losing your driving licence would cause ‘exceptional hardship’.
There is no set definition for what qualifies as exceptional hardship, but you will usually need to demonstrate that there will be serious negative consequences for innocent third parties, rather than just inconvenience to yourself.
Examples of situations where exceptional hardship may be a valid defence include:
• If you are the sole carer for someone and need your licence to provide their care
• If you are an employer and the future of your business and its employees would be at risk if you lost your licence
• Losing your licence would cause you to lose your job and push your family into serious financial difficulties (e.g. causing you to default on your mortgage)
A defence of exceptional hardship is usually complicated and very challenging to prove, so it is essential to have specialist legal expertise when considering this option and to put the best possible case forward to keep your licence.