What happens with motoring offences that involve penalty points?
Most UK drivers are aware that if they commit a motoring offence, they run the risk of having points added to their licence. But, few people realise that there are currently 78 offence codes that could attract points, as well as a fine. Endorsable offences are those which are recorded on your driving licence.
Some motoring offences, such as failing to wear a seatbelt, driving a vehicle without a valid MOT or with a fault headlight are non-endorsable. This means that a fine may be imposed but they do not carry penalty points and are not recorded on your driving licence.
Endorsable offences, for example speeding, using a mobile phone whilst driving and careless driving carry an endorsement on your driving licence and either penalty points or a disqualification.
Offences which involve an obligatory disqualification such as drink driving, drug driving and dangerous driving carry with them an endorsement on your driving licence for 11 years. This means that the endorsement remains on your driving licence even after the disqualification has been served. So, it is important to know how to react when you are notified of motoring offences you have committed. Below is a brief guide to help you navigate the process.
If the offence does not automatically lead to mandatory disqualification, a single justice procedure notice will be issued. You can read about them here. When that happens, you can enter a plea by post or online. If you plead guilty a single magistrate (justice) will look at the evidence together with any written mitigation submitted, then decide the appropriate sentence. There will be a legal adviser present whilst this takes place. However, you, the prosecution and legal representatives may not appear.
Should you want to plead not guilty to the charge the process may become more complicated. When entering the plea, you will be required to explain the reason why you are contesting the charge and the witnesses you require to attend the full hearing of your case.
The fact that you cannot send a legal representative to a single justice procedure does not mean that there is no point in employing one. If you want to avoid the consequences of your driving error being more serious than they need to be, taking advice is a good idea. If you plead guilty, the Magistrate will be relying heavily on your written statement. Therefore, obtaining assistance to draft your response properly is a good idea.
In some cases, even where a guilty plea has been entered the offence will be considered so grave that a further hearing will be arranged. This will be a full hearing held in front of a bench of three Magistrates or a District Judge.
If, for some reason, you do not want your case to be heard under the Single Justice system, it is possible to request a full hearing. You will be given a date in advance, to give you time to prepare your case.
You need to respond promptly to a single justice procedure notice. Failure to do so, within 21 days, will not stop the case from proceeding. Usually, you will be found guilty and sentenced, anyway. So, effectively you will have missed your chance to have your say about what happened.
It is important not to take motoring offences lightly. You need to bear in mind that once you have 12 points on your licence this could result in you losing your driving licence. If that happens, holding down a job, picking the kids up and other day-to-day tasks become a whole lot harder.
You can read more about the 78 motoring offence codes that could lead you your accruing penalty points, by clicking here.