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From reckless or dangerous driving, speeding, to driving under the influence, there are a number of ways in which drivers could be considered to be breaking the law on the road in England & Wales.
Breaking any speed limit (including temporary speed limits) is an offence, and it is the driver’s responsibility to be aware of the limits. The only requirement for signposting 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 registered keeper of the vehicle.
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 enough, but if the police do not give you one, they have 14 days to issue a NIP to you through the post. After this, you will usually have 28 days to respond – if you don't reply in time, you could face 6 points on your licence and a fine of up to £1,000.
Minor speeding offences are usually resolved through a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), which means you do not have to appear in court. A FPN for speeding will give you 3 penalty points on your licence and a £100 fine, though sometimes you will be offered the opportunity to attend a speed awareness course instead.
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.
However, if you are unable to convince the court to let you off, they will be able to increase the fine you must pay. You should get legal advice if you are considering challenging the FPN in court.
You are not entitled to have a FPN offered to you – the issuer may choose to have you taken to court instead.
Situations of excessive speeding, usually defined as breaking the speed limit by 20mph or more, may lead to prosecution. If you are prosecuted and convicted, you could receive a fine of up to £1,000, or £2,500 for motorway offences. You could also receive 3-6 points on your driving licence.
If you are prosecuted, you will receive a court summons. The police must lodge the summons 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 summonsed 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.
If you lose in court, you will face a maximum fine of £1,000, as well as the potential for 3-6 penalty points to be added to your licence.
Should the speeding offence be particularly serious – generally defined as breaking the limit by over 30mph – you may be disqualified from driving.
Driving bans for speeding can last anywhere from 7 to 56 days, varying according to the facts of the case and whether there were any mitigating circumstances (for example, if you were under duress at the time).
If you are caught committing a speeding offence, you may be offered the chance to take a speed awareness course. This is a one day course, in which drivers learn about speed limits and the consequences that can come from exceeding them.
The cost of the course varies, and you will have to pay for it out of your own pocket – however, successfully completing the course can spare you from receiving a fine or any penalty points.
It’s worth noting that the cost of the speed awareness course may be more than the £100 fine that you would pay for a fixed penalty notice.
You are more likely to be offered a speed awareness course if you have committed a relatively minor offence, or if it is your first driving offence. You can only attend a course once every three years, so if you commit another offence within three years of taking your first course, you will have to accept your fine and/or penalty points.
Bear in mind that while taking a speed awareness course may spare you of a fine or any penalty points, it may not prevent your offence from having an effect on your insurance premiums. The BBC reported in late 2012 that car insurer Admiral was hitting those who had attended a speed awareness course with higher insurance premiums, despite police and council officials reassuring drivers that taking part on the course would prevent this from happening.
|SP10||Exceeding goods vehicle speed limits|
|SP20||Exceeding speed limit for type of vehicle (excluding goods or passenger vehicles)|
|SP30||Exceeding statutory speed limit on a public road|
|SP40||Exceeding passenger vehicle speed limit|
|SP50||Exceeding speed limit on a motorway|
|SP60||Undefined speed limit offence|
There are several defences you could use to dispute a speeding offence.
If you do wish to defend yourself against a speeding charge, you should get legal advice. If you do dispute a speeding offence on your own, only do so if you legitimately have a case – offering up a fictional defence will not help, and could see you prosecuted further.
If you don’t know the identity of the driver at the time the offence was committed, you may be able to argue this. However, you must prove that you have done your best to try and find out who was driving at the time. If you still cannot establish the identity of the driver, you may have a successful defence.
Speed trap guns have to be calibrated regularly, and you could avoid any punishment if you can prove that the gun that resulted in your charge was not properly calibrated could spare you any punishment.
You can request to see the calibration records to see if the gun was properly calibrated – however, the police do not have to let you see the records.
This 14-day period does not include the day of the offence and the couple of days to allow for postage of the NIP (Notice of Intended Prosecution).
However, if you still did not receive the NIP within the time period you may have a valid defence. This will not count as a defence if:
If the speeding charge was brought through an eye-witness account rather than by record from a camera or speed gun, there must be at least two witnesses. One witness alone is not enough for a speeding charge.
It’s possible that you were not even involved in the speeding offence, and you were implicated in a case of mistaken identity. For example, the vehicle’s registration plate could have been read incorrectly, or someone may have duplicated your licence plates. Ask to see photos of the offending vehicle if you think this is possible.
You may have felt forced to speed in order to escape from someone who was pursuing you. If you felt that you and/or your passengers were under threat from your pursuer, this may be considered to be a valid defence.
None of the following can be used as a defence against a speeding charge, even if you felt that you were justified in speeding at the time.
Although none of these arguments will be considered a valid defence, one or more of them could be considered as part of a plea in mitigation.
A plea of mitigation should be taken into consideration by the court and could result in a lighter sentence. No plea of mitigation can be given for a. The following are possible grounds for mitigation:
Other circumstances could also be valid to each individual case, and the help of a solicitor can help you in determining if their merit is sufficient. It is advisable that you pursue mitigation through a letter as this limits the amount of the court’s time that you take up and currying their favour can only be of help to your case.
In 2001 the law was changed so that speed cameras had to be painted yellow to ensure visibility. Many other rules were also brought in regarding speed cameras.
The regulations decree that:
The presence of speed cameras can also be indicated with road signs, but this is not a legal requirement.
All police forces taking part in the netting-off scheme, where the money recouped from speeding fines is put back into setting up more speed cameras in hazardous spots, are bound by the rules above. Non-compliance may result in expulsion from the scheme.
However, if you’re caught by a speed camera which falls short of the rules, this will not be considered a defence against a speeding charge.
The Department of Transport (via DOT Circular Roads 1/92) recommends that speed cameras be placed at sites where a large number of speeding accidents occur. Before they are deployed, it should be ascertained whether there are other measures that can be taken beforehand to improve safety (e.g. improving road layout, anti-skid surfacing, improved visibility).