Getting caught speeding is perhaps the most common criminal offence. After all, it is so easy to creep over 70mph when passing on the motorway unintentionally or fully slow to 30mph in a village after entering from a 60mph open road.
In most circumstances, if you are caught speeding by a speed camera or a police officer, you will receive a Fixed Penalty Notice, a fine, and perhaps penalty points on your driver’s licence. It is inconvenient, but nothing more.
However, if you already have numerous penalty points, the new points may result in you being banned from driving for a period, as David Beckham discovered last week after receiving a six-month driving ban after pleading guilty for using his mobile phone while driving.
There is little doubt, the threat of prosecution significantly raises the consequences of a speeding offence.
For some, losing their licence means not being able to earn a living. And if you are successfully prosecuted, you may then have a criminal record (if the speeding was part of a more serious offence such as dangerous driving), which can impact on almost every area of your life, including limiting your employment opportunities and which countries you can enter.
Contesting a speeding fine is not easy as there are almost no defences available for driving too fast.
However, with the aid of experienced legal advice and representation, there are ways to lessen the impact of a speeding prosecution and/or successfully argue that you must retain your right to operate a vehicle so you can work.
Defences available for speeding
If you’re caught speeding by either a traffic officer or a camera, you will be:
• Given a verbal warning (if caught by a policeman)
• Offered the chance to attend a speed awareness course, which you’ll have to pay for
• Issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice (a speeding ticket), with a fine of £100 and penalty points
• Prosecuted for speeding. You will have to go to court and could face a fine of up to £1,000 (£2,500 if you were caught speeding on a motorway), between three and six penalty points on your driving licence, and a possible driving ban.
If you are prosecuted, or the totting up of your points means you will likely be disqualified from driving, you may be tempted to defend yourself in Court. This is almost always a mistake. Court’s have heard every excuse for speeding there is; from it being an emergency to not knowing the speed limit of a particular area. Trust me; these will not work.
The best chance of defending a speeding offence is on a technicality. The three main examples are:
• The Fixed Penalty Notice was missing certain details or issued incorrectly.
• You were not driving the vehicle at the time of the offence.
• The speed limit signs where you were caught were obstructed, damaged or incorrect.
Let’s examine these in more detail.
Incorrect Fixed Penalty Notice
There is a lot of information on the internet suggesting that if there are mistakes on the Fixed Penalty Notice, it is not valid. This is incorrect. The fact your name was spelt wrong or date of the alleged offence is recorded incorrectly will not invalidate the Notice. What an experienced barrister or solicitor will normally do is use the evidence of mistakes to build an argument that the officer was sloppy at performing his or her duties, thereby throwing reasonable doubt on whether an offence of speeding was actually committed.
You were not driving the vehicle at the time of the offence
To succeed in this defence, you must be able to prove you were not driving. For example, if your car was stolen, you need to show copies of police reports and evidence that you have contacted your insurers. It is not enough to simply say “it wasn’t me”.
The speed limit signs were obstructed, damaged or incorrect
Again, to achieve a positive result, you need to provide proof. This could include photographs of the obstructed signs and/or evidence from the Highways Authority responsible for the road of an obstruction or incorrect signage.
In most cases, there is no defence available in a situation where you have been caught speeding. But if your licence is at risk, you can present a plea of mitigation to have the sentence reduced.
This is where the expertise of a barrister or solicitor comes to the fore. They know the court system and are likely to have been before the Magistrates or Judge before. A Plea of Mitigation is usually made in the form of a letter, which is read by the clerks to the Magistrates before sentencing.
A well-drafted mitigation letter has an excellent chance of resulting in your penalty being reduced. It should contain the details of the offence, genuine remorse, and reasons why the penalty should be reduced (for example, you will lose your job if you cannot drive or you have a child with special needs and need to take them to various appointments).
Taking legal advice before writing a Plea of Mitigation letter will dramatically improve your chances of success.
If you require legal advice on defending a speeding offence, you can contact me directly on 020 3870 3187.