Totting Up & Exceptional Hardship
Disqualification and the exceptional hardship defence
Road traffic offences under UK law are varied in terms of their seriousness and the amount of danger that someone who commits one could put other road users in. The more serious offences, such as dangerous driving or driving under the influence of alcohol, can see the perpetrator hit with a lengthy ban from driving, and even some jail time.
Less serious offences, such as speeding, are unlikely to result in a ban, unless your particular offence was particularly grievous (driving at 50mph in a 20mph area, for example.)
However, if you are found guilty of any driving offence, you will most likely have points put on your driving licence. Again, the number of points added to your licence will depend on the severity of the offence committed – speeding can result in 3-6 points, while failure to stop after an accident could see as many as 10 points added to your licence. You can learn more about the point values of each offence from our Table of Driving Offences.
Those points can add up all too easily, and if 12 or more points have been accrued on your licence within a three-year period, you will face disqualification from driving.
This is known in legal parlance as “totting up”. Totting up is a method used to ensure that drivers are not able to keep on committing minor offences indefinitely.
In accordance with Section 35 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, the Court is bound to disqualify a “totter” from driving unless it can be proven that to do so would cause them “exceptional hardship”.
“Exceptional hardship” is a difficult term to qualify, because the fact is that there is no strict definition of what the term means or which situations it will necessarily include. It should be noted, however, that exceptional hardship does truly mean exceptional; even arguing that you will lose your job as a result may not be a sufficient defence.
On the other hand, if you can show that your or other people’s lives will be severely impacted as a result of your disqualification, this may suffice for exceptional hardship – for example, if you are disabled or a disabled person is dependent on you for transport, or if you are involved in a business where other employees will suffer a great deal as a result of your disqualification.
If your plea of exceptional hardship fails, disqualification from driving is mandatory, and if you have previously been disqualified for more than 56 days within the last three years, your disqualification will last a minimum of one year rather than the usual minimum of six months.
Making a plea of Exceptional Hardship
The system that allows drivers to keep driving in cases of exceptional hardship can be abused – in one notable case, a man was able to accrue 54 points on his licence before being banned from driving, almost 5 times the usual limit. However, not all those who exceed 12 points are quite so brazen and irresponsible.
If you are looking to argue exceptional hardship, you should seek legal advice to ensure that you make your case correctly and that it is presented professionally and properly.
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