Every year, thousands of drivers face the consequences of breaching the Road Traffic Act. The exact nature of those consequences varies from case to case. The court has a set of basic guidelines that it follows for the most common road traffic offences, but will take various other factors into account when deciding what action to take.
For some offences, such as causing death by dangerous driving or driving whilst unfit through excess alcohol or drugs, the decision is an obvious one. For others, such as careless driving, or where penalty points have totted up through more minor offences such as speeding, the situation is not so clear-cut.
Here's what to expect if you're facing action for a driving offence.
Get some expert advice
The first and most important thing to understand is that you will never get a definitive answer that relates to the circumstances you face from searching online. Every case is examined on its own merits, and it is essential to get some expert legal assistance.
You have the choice of either consulting a high street law firm, or you could use a motoring offences specialist. If you have an existing relationship with a local lawyer, then that will probably be your choice, but otherwise there are definite benefits to going with the motoring professionals.
As they deal with motoring offences every day, they understand how courts are likely to react to different situations. They are also accustomed to dealing with bodies like the DVLA.
Totting-up rules ostensibly say that if you exceed 12 penalty points on your licence, then you will face disqualification. However, those who can demonstrate 'exceptional circumstances' might be able to retain their licence, even if it has more than 12 points on it.
Last year, the BBC revealed that there are more than 10,000 drivers on UK roads with more than 12 penalty points. That is a lot of exceptional circumstances, and has prompted some road safety campaigners to suggest that the exception seems to be becoming the rule.
There are more than 200 drivers on the roads with at least 18 points on their licence, and last year, the story of an unnamed man in West Yorkshire caused something of a media frenzy when it was revealed that he was still driving with 62 penalty points.
What are the circumstances?
Clearly, this driver's circumstances must be more than exceptional - but the bizarre thing is that despite Freedom of Information requests to find out, there seems to be no information as to exactly why he is still driving.
Court guidelines say that "needing to drive to keep your job" is not a sufficient reason to be granted extenuating circumstances. A representative from the Magistrate's Association only said that each person's personal circumstances are assessed on a case-by-case basis to assess whether they would face "exceptional hardship" from losing their licence, and that the assessment process is a robust one.
If you're facing losing your licence, it's essential to get expert legal advice as soon as possible.
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