Road traffic law is a technical area and one where numerous challenges can be made in order to avoid endorsement with penalty points and disqualification. Defects in procedure, if picked up, can be a bar to conviction. Evidence can also be challenged as to recollection and accuracy. Sometimes initial advice in writing or in person is all that is needed before clients feel able to proceed on their own, once they know if they can challenge charges and which points they should raise in their own mitigation.
Some of the more common areas which are argued include:
- special reasons – where an offence was only committed because of particular circumstances existing at the time, such as an emergency, it may allow the court a discretion not to impose a disqualification or endorsement, or to it being reduced/ not imposed
- exceptional hardship – where endorsement with penalty points would lead to a disqualification, a finding of exceptional hardship would allow the court a discretion not to impose the minimum six month disqualification, such as a travelling salesperson who would lose their job and family home if unable to drive
- procedural errors – although increasingly rare this could include circumstances where the police have taken a sample incorrectly and the evidence becomes unreliable or inadmissible as a result
- timing requirements – notification of most (but not all) intended prosecutions for road traffic offences should be provided to an offender within 14 days (unless an accident occurred or an arrest took place at the scene); proceedings themselves should usually be started against an offender by means of a summons from the court within 6 months – breaches of these timeframes can provide a bar to the prosecution proceeding
- evidential defects – this covers situation where the perception of how an incident unfolded can be challenged so, for example, the culpability for an accident can be reassessed in a careless driving allegation
What evidence can be challenged and which arguments can be made depends on the particular facts of a case. Sometimes a conference can be arranged to discuss a case before deciding whether to contest charges or not, whether by telephone or in person. This can include advice as to how to present mitigation if a client decides to plead guilty and then represent themselves.
It is advisable to seek legal advice as soon as possible in order to maximise the chance of successfully challenging road traffic allegations as well as the effectiveness of any mitigation. For example if CCTV evidence is sought early it is more likely to be recoverable, but even if it does not cover an incident the fact it is sought can still be used to boost a client’s credibility – why would a person seek CCTV evidence of an incident if they knew it showed them committing an offence?
It is worth noting that whilst there is invariably a way to challenge road traffic allegations, doing so is not always the best way forwards. This depends on the wishes of clients, but contesting a case with only a negligible or hypothetical chance of success may increase a sentence and will certainly increase the legal fees incurred. Edward ensures clients receive practical and clear advice to make informed decisions, before fighting for the best outcome according to his client’s instructions. This ensures clients’ interests and not the commercial objectives of their advisers remain paramount throughout.