Breaking the speed limit
When a motorist accelerates their vehicle beyond the applicable speed limit, they have committed a speeding offence. The shattering of any speed limit will cause this – temporary speed limits are just as legally enforceable as permanent ones – and it is the driver’s responsibility to be aware of the limits; the only requirement for signposting such limits is when they change from one section of road to another.
When a speeding offence is committed, a Notice of Intended Prosecution will be issued in some form to the alleged perpetrator. Offences caught by speed cameras will mean that the NIP is delivered in the post, whereas being caught by the police will generally result in a verbal NIP issued forth from an officer’s mouth.
A verbal NIP is sufficient for the law’s causes, but, if none is forthcoming, the police have 14 days in which to issue one to you through the post. After this, you will have 28 days to respond – if you allow this period to elapse without reply, you could face 6 points on your licence, or, if you have failed to identify who was driving at the time of the offence, a £1,000 fine may be charged.
Fixed Penalty Notice
Minor speeding offences are usually resolved through a Fixed Penalty Notice, which may mean you do not have to appear before a court. Fixed Penalty Notices will slap you with 3 penalty points on your licence and a £60 fine, though sometimes you will be offered the opportunity to attend a speed awareness course instead. These are conditional offers and do not have to be accepted by the accused.
If you feel you have a legal defence against the accusation of speeding, or you have been incorrectly issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice, you will be able to dispute the speeding offence in court to tell your side of the story. If you should fail in your attempt, however, the court will be able to increase the fine you must pay, so choose wisely. If you do elect to challenge the notice in court, you should consult with a solicitor as soon as possible.
If you are stopped by the police but are not issued a Fixed Penalty Notice on the spot, it is probable that they intend to take the matter to court.
Situations of excessive speeding, usually defined as breaking the speed limit by 20mph or more, may lead to the perpetrator being prosecuted. This means that you will receive a court summons, which the police must lodge with the court within 6 months of the offence. However, this does not mean that if 6 months passes without hearing anything that you have escaped the charge – the summons may have been lodged without you having yet heard anything.
If you are summoned to court, you will be able to plead either ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’. Even when entering a ‘guilty’ plea, you will have the opportunity to reduce your punishment if you are able to demonstrate mitigating circumstances which may have arisen in the situation. In order to give yourself the best chance of success in court, you will need to contact a good motoring solicitor to assist in your case.
If you need advice on your case, the penalty you are likely to face, or any other legal issues, you might benefit from Instant Law Line, a service which offers unlimited legal advice over the telephone for only £7.99 a month.
If you lose in court, you will face a maximum fine of £1,000 – or £2,500 if the offence was committed on a motorway – as well as the potential for 3 - 6 penalty points to be added to your licence.
Disqualification from Driving
Should the speeding offence be particularly egregious – generally defined as breaking the limit by over 30mph, though particulars do vary – you may find yourself disqualified from driving for a period of time. The specific speed that will lead to this, as well as the length of the ban, will be dependent on the practices of the court you attend – there is no hard and fast rule. However, in general, bans last anywhere from 7 – 90 days, varying according to the facts of the case and whether there were mitigating circumstances present.
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