Topic overview

Traffic offences

Traffic offences

The UK's road traffic laws are designed to promote road safety and to protect members of the public. The laws are relatively inflexible to make it easier for the authorities to prosecute offenders, hand out fines and to disqualify dangerous drivers.

Legal arguments in road traffic cases often focus on how harsh the sentencing should be. Should someone be disqualified for six months, 18 months, or not at all? A joy-rider speeding is vastly different from a nurse who is caught speeding after having been unavoidably delayed on her way to a shift on an emergency ward. All sorts of factors can make a court pass a tougher, or more lenient, sentence.

Much of the law is complex and technical. When defending a case, a lawyer will often focus on whether the authorities followed the correct procedures at every stage of the legal process. If they have not, the charges may be invalidated.

Nearly 600,000 traffic offence cases pass through the courts each year, mostly in the magistrates' courts, with the more serious offences being dealt with in the Crown Court. [Source: Ministry of Justice; 2017]

Penalty points for traffic offences

Penalties range from a fine to imprisonment. Many traffic offences carry a range of penalty points. While some involve obligatory disqualification from driving, in many cases the courts have the choice of whether to disqualify or not.

If you accumulate twelve or more penalty points in a three-year period, you are liable to a minimum disqualification for six months, unless you can demonstrate that this would cause you exceptional hardship.

If you are facing proceedings in the courts for a driving offence, you should seek expert legal advice about your prospects of a defence and the likely penalties in the event of conviction.

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