If you drive a vehicle, then statistically you are likely to face prosecution for some sort of motoring offence. For most people these will thankfully be relatively minor matters such as exceeding the speed limit. Some motoring offences however are much more serious, such as dangerous driving, driving with excess alcohol in your breath or blood, and even causing death by careless or dangerous driving. The law can be complicated and doing or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can make things worse. We specialise in this field and our specialist solicitors have for many years having regularly appeared in the Magistrates and Crown Courts in connection with driving matters.
We offer a specialist service over and above an extensive knowledge of the law as we have real knowledge of the local courts and road conditions in Cumbria. Being based in Carlisle where the main Road Traffic Court is held enables us to offer advice and representation at a price that national motoring law firms (who frequently instruct local agents) cannot.
- Careless Driving
- Using a mobile phone whilst driving
- Driving without insurance
- ‘Totting up’ and Disqualification – Exceptional Hardship
- Drink Driving
- Drug Driving
- Dangerous Driving
- Causing death by Careless or Dangerous Driving
- Applications to remove disqualification
- Appeals against disqualification
Speeding itself is very simple- the allegation is that somebody drove their vehicle faster than the speed limit permits! In contrast the procedural law that both the police and the prosecution must comply with, are far from straightforward. This is particularly so when the accuracy of the device recording the transgression is challenged or the identity of the driver.
There have been many high profile cases in this area. The evidence is often overwhelming in such cases but speeding allegations can be successfully defended. It is also sometimes possible to persuade the police not to prosecute or for a prosecution to be reviewed, but this would depend on the particular circumstances of the case.
Driving carelessly (without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users) is an offence which can be committed by anybody. A moment’s inattention is all the law requires. The consequences of such a moment can be serious and it may be the case that an allegation of careless driving is upgraded to dangerous driving following a review of the evidence. Careless driving cases can only be tried in a Magistrates court. In can attract a fine, points, or a disqualification.
It may be possible in certain circumstances to persuade the police not to prosecute in favour of a Driver Improvement Scheme but such decisions are made on a case to case basis.
Mobile Phone Offences
Using a mobile telephone or other hand held device whilst driving is a specific offence, and most offences are dealt with by 3 penalty points and a fixed penalty notice. However, if a matter proceeds to court then the maximum fine can be much higher. If using the telephone is believed to contribute to an accident, then the police can prosecute for offenses such as Careless or Dangerous driving to secure more severe sentences.
Driving Without Insurance
When using a motor vehicle, third party insurance is compulsory and a failure to have this basic cover is an offence. It is also an offence to permit another to use a vehicle in contravention of this requirement. Whilst it can be dealt with by a Fixed Penalty of 6 points and a £300 fine, if the case is prosecuted in Court, a substantial fine and 6 to 8 penalty points or disqualification are amongst the recommended penalties. This is an offence that can be particularly damaging for those that have not had their licence for more than 2 years and could lead to automatic revocation of a driving licence.
‘Totting Up’ and Exceptional Hardship
All of the above offences and many others carry mandatory fixed penalty points. The number of points depends on the offence itself and may depend on the particular circumstances ie speed driven. Once a driver reaches a total of 12 points within any 3 year period, the court must impose a minimum disqualification of at least 6 months unless the offender can show that to be deprived of their licence would cause them, or more importantly others, to suffer exceptional hardship.
It is accepted that any disqualification will bring hardship, the disqualification is supposed to be a punishment. However, if the disqualification brings with it for example a loss of employment, loss of ability to care for elderly or disabled relatives or an inability to travel for intensive medical treatment the Court may take a merciful approach and allow a Defendant to retain their driving licence.
Every case turns on its own facts as this disposal is entirely within the discretion of the Court. Such arguments will take place in the Magistrates Court in the first instance and unsuccessful arguments can be appealed to the Crown Court if done soon after the hearing.
Driving or attempting to drive a vehicle in a public place with alcohol in your body over the legal limit, is a serious offence. Disqualification is automatic, and for a minimum of 12 months. Depending on the driver’s alcohol reading and any other aggravating factors, disqualifications can increase up to 3 years, and 3 years is mandatory if the driver receives 2 convictions within 10 years for drink driving offences. For a second offence, disqualifications may be of greater length.
It is also an offence to fail to provide a specimen of breath to a police officer when requested if he or she is investigating a road traffic offence. Depending on the circumstances, the sentences are often the same as offences being investigated: – mandatory disqualification if driving a vehicle, discretionary if the driver was purely ’in charge’ of one. Technical defences may, albeit rarely, be available.
We can advise about these offences, the limited defences available, and the possibility of arguing that ‘special reasons’ exist, which would permit the Court not to disqualify an offender or endorse their licence. This is a highly technical area of the law, separate and distinct from an ‘exceptional hardship’ argument referred to above. This is because disqualification is mandatory for this type of offence.
In very serious cases, these offences can and do attract prison sentences.
This area of law has had an increase in the number of prosecutions recently due to improvements in technology and detection. Traditionally, the only way to prosecute such offences was to demonstrate that the offender was under the influence and that his driving was impaired as a result.
Now, due to a modernisation in the law, an offence can be committed purely by having a quantity of an illegal drug in one’s blood above the legal limit. The same is also true of certain prescription medications if they have not been prescribed to the driver. The law on drug driving now bears a far greater resemblance to the law relating to drink driving.
If they suspect that you may be under the influence of drugs, the police can stop you and make you do a ‘Field Impairment Assessment’. This is a series of tests, eg asking you to walk in a straight line. They can also use a roadside drug kit to screen for cannabis and cocaine. If you were to fail the tests then you are likely to be arrested and taken to the police station to provide a blood or urine specimen.
This is an evolving area of the law and a technical one. Your driving licence is very much at risk as disqualifications for driving or attempting to drive whilst unfit through drugs are compulsory.
Dangerous Driving is a considerable step up from careless driving. The vast majority of Dangerous Driving cases will end up in the Crown Court. Anybody convicted of this offence will receive a minimum disqualification of 12 months and will remain disqualified until an extended re-test has been completed.
Regrettably, even the most mild mannered of people can carry out dangerous manoeuvres whilst driving on their daily commute or otherwise. On the other hand, it may be that a pure accident has occurred or that any accident was the result of careless, rather than dangerous driving. We have represented Defendants charged with Dangerous Driving for many years and are privy to a network of experts who can assist in reconstructing accidents.
These issues are important as Dangerous Driving offences can lead to sentences of up to 2 years’ imprisonment. If serious injury is caused to another, the maximum sentence is 5 years’ imprisonment.
Causing death by Careless or Dangerous Driving
These are very serious offences due to the consequences for the deceased and their family. Second post mortems may need to be carried out to establish exact causes of death. There is often considerable media attention and each Court appearance is highly emotionally charged due to the attendance of family members of the deceased.
There are massive differences in the sentences imposed for causing death by careless driving and death by dangerous driving. The latter will attract lengthy sentences of imprisonment. The low threshold for careless driving means that a large number of people will face this ordeal when what has happened is a genuine accident.
Applications to remove disqualification
The obvious starting point for any Court is for a disqualification to take its course. It was a punishment after all and there is a clear public interest in somebody serving that punishment.
That said, there are circumstances where the change in somebody’s circumstances has been of such significance that the Court may allow early removal of the disqualification. This only applies to certain types and lengths of disqualification and the application can only be made at certain points.
We have successfully applied for removal in the past and should you require advice on your situation, please do not hesitate to call us.
Appeals against disqualification
If a person is convicted at the Magistrates Court of a road traffic offence then that person has an automatic right of appeal to the Crown Court. The appeal is by way of a fresh re-hearing of the evidence at the Crown Court by a Judge and 2 Magistrates; there is no jury. There is also an automatic right of appeal from the Magistrates Court to the Crown Court if a person feels that the sentence that has been imposed by the Magistrates Court is wrong or unduly harsh.
Appeals must be submitted within 21 days of the sentencing hearing taking place and decisions to appeal should be made without delay. Public funding may be available for the appeals depending on means and the merits of the case.
Also, where the DVLA have revoked, or refused to issue, a licence on medical grounds we can help with any appeal.
Who will do your work.
The motoring department is supervised by Mr. Toms
The details of our partners and staff are set out in our ‘Our Team’ section.
In each case you will be represented by either of the partners (who are qualified Solicitor advocates), or our Solicitor Advocate Mr. Tweddle. All have many years’ experience in this work.
We offer a free 10 minute telephone consultation with a Solicitor. (NB – we cannot give specific legal advice about your matter and this does not constitute a ‘retainer’). During this call we should be able to assess whether or not you are likely to be eligible for Legal Aid.
We firmly believe in costs certainty and transparency for our clients. There will be no hidden costs or surprises at the conclusion of the case. We accept that attending at Court or a Police Station is stressful enough without having to “clock watch” if the case takes some time to proceed. If we cannot be sure that you will qualify for Legal Aid for the appointment we will then offer you a fixed fee appointment to discuss the specifics of your case. If you qualify for Legal Aid for the appointment, our assistance may cost you nothing. You must bring all relevant paperwork with you to enable us to make this decision.
We will be in a position to then provide you with initial advice about the future progress of your matter and will offer you a fixed fee quote for representation throughout the case if you are not eligible for public funding. This means that you will never receive an unexpected bill from us.
Our fees are £250 (plus VAT @ 20% = £300) per hour. That is the basis of how we calculate our invoices. We will always endeavour having viewed the case to give you a fixed fee quote calculated at that rate, as early in the case as reasonably possible.
Our ‘Standard’ Fixed Fees
Fixed fee for motoring matters that can only be dealt with in Carlisle Magistrates’ Court which will be dealt with by a single court hearing.
Our Fees – £500 plus VAT (£100) Total – £600
IF (rarely) there are additional ‘hearings’; if for some reason beyond our control the matter is adjourned, or the matter is adjourned for a separate sentencing hearing, or for some other good reason there will be an additional hearing fee of
£250 plus VAT = £300
IF the matter is listed at some other court in the country and you want the matter transferred to Carlisle Magistrates court there is an additional fee of £250 plus VAT (£50) = Total £300 for that. It can be surprisingly difficult to achieve that.
There are literally hundreds of motoring offences; Too many to list all of them here. We can however say this fee would cover the following most common types of case:
- ‘Drink driving’ offences
- ‘Drug driving’ offences
- Speeding offences, including:
- ‘Exceptional hardship’ arguments
- ‘Excessive speed likely to lead to disqualification’ offences
- Applications to a Magistrates’ Court for early return of a driving licence following disqualification
- Careless driving offences sometimes referred to as ‘Driving without Due Care and Attention’
- Most non Commercial Vehicle condition offences.
- Driving whilst disqualified, without insurance. MOT or an excise licence
- Failing to stop after a collision or when required to do so by a police officer in uniform
- Failing to report a collision to the police.
- Failing to notify the identify of driver under s172 Road Traffic Act 1988
- Advice, Assistance and Representation in relation to a ‘Special Reasons’ hearing:-
- A ‘Newton’ Hearing (sometimes referred to as a ‘Trial of Issue’) or any other contested hearing where other witness evidence will be called.
- Appealing medical/other revocation of a driving licence. There is often considerably work required for these matters, Normally these matters fall outside the ’Single hearing’ costs rule. Once a plea has been entered, the local court practice is to adjourn the matter for a full hearing at a later date. These are usually quoted for individually at an estimated hourly rate.
These matters can take on the aspects of a trial with witness statements to be taken, preparation of legal argument; and can easily take from several hours to a whole day at court
- Any situation where a not guilty plea has been entered and you then approach us to act for you at a trial of one day or less.
Our fee range for these is normally:-
£1000 – £2000 plus VAT @ 20% = £1200 – £2400 Total
However, we reserve the right to quote a higher fee if there are exceptional circumstances involved.
Normally these matters fall outside the ’Single hearing’ costs rule. Once a plea has been entered, the local court practice is to adjourn the matter for a full hearing at a later date. These are usually quoted for individually at an estimated hourly rate. Any of these matters can take on the aspects of a trial with witness statements to be taken, preparation of legal argument; and can easily take from several hours to a whole day at court.
This Fee Does includes:
(The following key stages of your matter are based on the presumption that you have entered, or are entering a guilty plea and have a date for your hearing)
- Meeting with your solicitor to provide instructions on what happened. This can be at our office, or for your convenience via telephone or email
- Us considering initial disclosure, and any other evidence and providing advice to you.
- Us explaining the court procedure to you so you know what to expect on the day of your hearing, and the sentencing options available to the court
- Us conducting any further preparatory work, obtaining further instructions from you if necessary, and answering any follow up queries you have
- Us attending court on the day and meeting with you before going before the court (including waiting). We anticipate being at court for half a day. (Please note that we cannot provide a timescale of when your hearing will take place, as this depends on the court listing for that day)
- Us discussing the outcome with you and formally confirming the same in writing. If detailed advice is required on appeal, this will carry an additional cost.
The fees quoted above do not include:
- Advice, Assistance and Representation in relation to: a ‘Special Reasons’ hearing,
- A ‘Newton’ Hearing (sometimes referred to as a ‘Trial of Issue’) or any other contested hearing where evidence will be called. We will explain to you before accepting instructions if this applies to your case and will quote you a bespoke fixed fee for conducting that work.
- Fees of any expert witnesses. Fees for expert witnesses can vary dramatically depending on what is being asked for, from Approximately £100 for a ‘doctors letter’, to £2000 – £3000 + VAT (£400-£600 extra) for a full ‘Accident Reconstruction’. (It also does not include their fees for attending court to give evidence).
- Taking statements from any witnesses. (Arranging to take any witness statements, if necessary, at our office, via the telephone or other electronic media will incur an additional cost, of £250 per witness plus VAT – £300).
- Detailed Advice or Assistance in relation to any Appeal.
- Travel to any Court other than Carlisle in Cumbria. There will be a minimum charge of £250 plus VAT – £300 travel to any other court. This is based on a minimum charge of 1 hour (or part thereof) ‘each way’, and in practice covers Workington Magistrates’ court. Additional travel charges to other courts will be calculated at a rate of £125 per hour plus VAT – £150 (or part thereof), to a maximum of £1500 plus VAT – £1800.
It is not our practice or policy generally to charge ‘Mileage’ or ‘Parking’, ‘fuel’ or ‘subsistence’ (food and drink), in addition to travel.
- In the unlikely event that representing you in another court area means in practice staying at a Hotel overnight, before and or after the event. The hotel bill (including in that case ‘subsistence’) will be charged to you. In practice, this is very rare and will be discussed and agreed with you before we contract for a room.
Rates vary (as do currently VAT rates), but a gross figure of £160-£320 per night is the normal range depending very much on where your case is being heard.