Contesting a speeding ticket

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1 Contesting a speeding ticket If a driver wishes to contest a speeding charge they must complete and return the Section 172 notice (or, notice of intended prosecution) within 28 days. Even if the driver is certain that they weren t breaking the speed limit they must still respond to the charge and provide their name as the driver. Failure to do so will result in prosecution for failure to furnish information which has an automatic penalty of 6 points. There is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty and the prosecution must prove their case. However unless the driver challenges the allegations or evidence against them it will be assumed to be correct. Guilty plea A driver must decide whether they accept that they were above the speed limit. They can either accept the allegation in full or argue the exact speed alleged. Arguing the exact speed would require what is known as a Newton Hearing, which allows a driver to dispute the exact speed in order to obtain a reduced punishment. Not guilty plea If the driver denies breaking the speed limit then the only option available is to plead not guilty via a Court hearing, and conclude the matter at trial. The process of contesting a ticket or fine 1. The first step when a driver receives a Notice of Intended Prosecution is to complete and return the Section 172 notice within 28 days providing details of the driver at the time of the alleged offence. 2. The Police will normally send a Conditional Offer of a Fixed Penalty after receiving the Section 172 notice. These Conditional Offers do not have an official system for appeals however some Police forces will accept informal letters of appeal, especially in cases where the speeding ticket has been issued in error, such as if the car has been reported stolen when caught speeding. If this is a possible course of action the driver should write to the address provided explaining why they believe they shouldn t have received the ticket. 3. If there is no informal appeals option or the speeding ticket appeal has been rejected, the driver must either pay the fine or formally contest the speeding offence. To formally contest the offence the driver must request a Court hearing by completing the relevant section of the Fixed Penalty Notice and attaching a statement of mitigation. The driver will then receive a Court Summons providing the date when their case will be heard in court. Before taking the case to Court it is advisable that the driver seek expert advice from a specialist motoring solicitor to establish the chances of winning and the consequences of losing. Penalties can often be more severe after taking the case to Court, with the financial penalty increasing significantly on conviction at after trial.

2 Defences There are various defences against a speeding charge, some of which are listed below: The driver was not speeding The person was not driving when the speeding happened There was not clear or proper notice of the speed limit The vehicle caught speeding on camera has been misidentified. Technical defences if the Police failed to follow correct procedure bringing the case. Technical defences Procedural issues must be reviewed including: Are all documents correct? Have the documents been served on time? Are there any errors or discrepancies that can be used to dismiss the case? However even if there are errors amendments are allowed to be made. Therefore the driver must be prepared to show that any such amendments would be fatal to the prosecution and highly prejudicial to the case proceeding. When deploying any technical argument it is always best to instruct a specialist motoring solicitor in order to ensure that any potential defence is identified correctly and presented successfully. Argument against Police actions It is possible to challenge the accuracy of equipment used which will require a Court hearing where the responsibility will be on the driver to put the prosecution on notice of the issues that they intend to take and to seek disclosure of all documentation that is required. In these cases the Police do not have to prove that the device was working correctly at the time of the incident as it will be assumed it was working. All speed equipment used by the Police has been approved by the Home Office, which requires manufacturers to prove that the equipment is accurate and reliable before approval will be granted. They must also provide full guidance regarding training and maintenance of the equipment. If there is any doubt about an allegation of speeding a person can request the operator s statement, the calibration certificate, and manufacturer s guidelines to verify the speed alleged. It should be noted however that although the driver can request this material, it will usually be of little use until it is interpreted and investigated by an expert. If a driver was not stopped at the scene of a speeding incident the Police must serve a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) on the registered keeper of the vehicle within 14 days. If the Notice has not been received within 14 days but the Police can prove that it was sent and should have arrived they may still be able to proceed. Under these circumstances it would be imperative for the driver to contact an expert motoring solicitor in order to discuss the potential defences which may be available.

3 If the driver received a Notice at the scene of the incident and they are fully aware of the circumstances, then any minor errors such as spelling mistakes will not prevent prosecution. There are some errors that can prevent a case proceeding, such as if the location detailed is completely incorrect and some distance from the exact place where the offence allegedly took place. To challenge a speeding offence for reasons such as this the driver must establish that it is practically impossible to relate a Notice to the incident. The only action that the Police have to take is to give adequate warning to the driver at the scene that action will be taken. They are not required to give an exact recital of the recommended caution. Therefore if the Police did not give a full caution it cannot be used as a defence. There is also no obligation for the Police to provide any paperwork at the time of the offence as most documents can be checked at the roadside. This avoids the need for a producer to be issued or for the driver to take documents to the Police station. If a driver was told that it was unlikely any further action would be taken and later receives a Summons, this cannot be used as a defence. The decision to prosecute is made by the Police officer s superior/the CPS, therefore the officer s opinion at the scene is not binding. The Police have 6 months from the date of the offence to begin proceedings (lay the information at Court), however there is no requirement for a driver to receive a Court Summons within 6 months. The Court confirms the date the papers were received using the Date when the information was laid and if there is any doubt about the validity of the papers it is important to check this date. If a driver believes that the Police did not follow the correct ACPO guidelines it will not always prevent a case proceeding. As long as the Police officer complies with the law the then adherence to the guidelines is not compulsory. No clear speed camera signs or speed limits There is no obligation for a 30mph speed limit to be sign posted except when entering the zone from a section of road where the speed limit was not 30mph. As 30mph is the national speed limit on residential roads the Courts will take the view that a person should drive on the basis that the limit is 30mph. If a motorist is ever in any doubt then they can make an assessment of the speed limit by judging the distance between the street lighting. If the lampposts are 200 yards apart or less, then the speed limit will be 30 miles per hour. Therefore unless it can be shown that there was good reason to believe the limit was not 30mph there would not usually be grounds to dispute the allegation. There are no specific requirements for the location of mobile speed camera units to be sign posted. Although many Police forces will advertise the location either on the Police website or traffic information on the radio, and ensure they are visible with clear and distinctive livery. The Police are entitled to gather evidence and prosecute motorists wherever they decide to place the unit as long as the method in which they do so is legal.

4 If signs are not obvious or clear, a speeding offence will not necessarily be dismissed. Although the court will take into account the specific circumstances of the case, they can conclude that the motorist should have appreciated they were travelling in excess of the speed limit even if signs were not visible. Contesting in Court Before taking the case to Court it is advisable to get specialist legal advice from a motoring lawyer who will be able to advising on the likely outcome if the case went to Court. When returning the plea and mitigation form the driver must give their plea to the speeding offence and any other relevant information. The two plea options are guilty with mitigating circumstances, or not guilty. Guilty with mitigating circumstances If there is no possible disqualification from driving the driver can usually plead guilty to a speeding charge by post, and they can also submit a statement of mitigation. This statement will state the circumstances that caused the driver to exceed the speed limit and the reasons why they should not receive a severe punishment. If a person has been summonsed to Court however, this is usually an indication that an instant driving ban is a real option which the Magistrates may consider when sentencing. It is advisable under these circumstances to instruct an expert motoring lawyer to present the case before the Court in order to secure the most lenient outcome. Please see our mitigation guilty plea guide for further details. Not guilty A not guilty plea must be entered at the initial speeding charge hearing. The Court will ask whether the defence wish to call any witnesses and will relist the case for trial. There may sometimes be arguments over which witnesses should attend and why. The defendant would be expected to outline the issues in the case. It is essential that the first hearing is dealt with properly, as any mistakes at this initial stage could undermine any future defences and could lead to a motorist being found guilty when proper handling of the case at the beginning could have led to an acquittal. The driver can request the Police and prosecution s evidence of the speeding offence before a Court hearing. This is useful if there are technical defences, if the driver can t remember who was driving, if they believe an error was made identifying the vehicle, or if they believe that mistakes have been made recording the speed. The evidence can then be examined by an expert or the driver s legal team in order to prepare their defence. Trial At the trial the prosecution must prove every element of the offence including that the defendant was the driver of the vehicle at the time and place in question, and that the speed exceeded the limit for that part of the road.

5 Legally, there is no reason why a person cannot represent themselves at court. However it is always advised that a person has specialist representation as the Court will not provide any assistance and the person will be expected to understand the law, the process of the Court and must be able to conduct the case correctly. This could include the process of cross examining the Police or other witnesses, calling expert evidence and presenting their own version of events in a manner which is convincing to the Court. Obtaining legal representation means that all defences are investigated and presented in full, and ensures that your rights are upheld at Court. Outcome of the case If the driver is found guilty after a trial there is a risk that the fine and penalty points will be more than the Fixed Penalty Notice. If the case is heard at Court then Magistrates have the power to impose a fine of up to 1,000 ( 2,500 if speeding on the motorway) and between 3 and 6 penalty points. There is also a possible instant driving ban if driving 10mph over the speed limit. If the driver is found not guilty there will be no further action and a proportion of their legal fees can be recovered. Legal advice It is always advisable that if a person has any doubts about contesting a speeding charge, or need expert advice regarding mitigation or challenging an offence, they should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Feel free to contact Forster Dean Solicitors any time on to discuss your options. We look forward to hearing from you.

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