ARTICLE: Attending court for a driving offence

Posted 2nd March 2018

Written by Estella Prince - Senior Solicitor - Newtons Solicitors

Attending Court can be very intimidating and scary. It is important to be properly prepared and understand how the court process works in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

In England and Wales, most driving offences are dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court and the case will be referred to one of the Courts local to where offence was committed.

How long will my case take to get to Court?

For most offences, the Police have 6 months from the date of the incident to start the Court process. However, depending upon the Police force, some will serve papers within weeks of the offence, but others can wait until the 6 months is almost up. In addition, you do not have to be served with the Court papers within 6 months, the Police just have to have begun the process in that time. Therefore in some cases, it can be 7-8 months following the offence before you actually attend Court.

Do I have to attend Court?

This depends on the offence you have been charged with. Many cases can be resolved by letter, however, more serious matters will require a personal attendance, especially if the Court is considering disqualification.

The fact that your Summons/Postal Requisition may infer that attendance is not necessary does not mean that the Court cannot subsequently demand a personal attendance. Sometimes the all the necessary checks on your licence will not have been conducted before this letter goes out and it is only later that the Court will decide a court attendance is required.

How long will my hearing last?

Again, it depends on the offence you have been charged with and the possible penalty options available to the Magistrates. Normally, if you are fully prepared you will be allowed as much time as required, which on most guilty pleas for a straightforward offence will be in the region of 30 minutes.

If a probation service report is required by the Court where they are considering a Community Order or Custodial penalty, then the case is normally stood down (paused) to allow the report to be prepared. A second hearing is required so the Court can consider the probation service report – this is usually done the same day.

A plea of not guilty will likely mean more than one hearing date. The case will be listed for a trial which can take several months to be heard.

Will my case be dealt with at one hearing?

For a guilty plea, the Court will always aim to conclude cases on the same day. However, this is not always the case and the Court has the power to adjourn cases in certain circumstances, for example to enable additional Court ordered reports to be prepared.

Please note that an adjournment is very much at the discretion of the Court. You are unlikely to be granted an adjournment because you have failed to adequately prepare for your hearing – there is the risk that the Court will simply impose a punishment that it feels appropriate.

Will the Court assist me at the hearing?

You are expected to prepare the case or obtain advice and/or representation well in advance of your attendance.

Am I entitled to legal aid?

At Newtons Solictors we do not undertake these types of cases on a legal aid basis. Legal Aid may be available for cases that have potential prison sentences but for the majority of driving offences, the Defendant has to fund his legal costs privately.

Can I represent myself at Court?

You can represent yourself in Court but it is unlikely that you can do as good a job as a solicitor experienced in motor law.

If your driving licence is at risk, we would always recommend that you have representation to help you at Court.

What are the benefits of being legally represented at the hearing?

We will arrange to meet with you at one of our offices before the Court hearing to review the strengths and weaknesses of the case and, where appropriate, prepare your plea in mitigation.

On the day of the hearing we will arrange to meet you at Court before your hearing time in order to review your case/plea in mitigation and ensure we are as prepared as possible prior to you going before the Magistrates.

This also gives us time to discuss your case and with the prosecution to see if there is any room for negotiation.

Court can be a very stressful process for clients who are unfamiliar with the criminal law. Overwhelmingly, our clients have told us how reassuring it was to have someone there with them every step of the way for the duration of their case.

For more information about how we can help you, contact info@newtons.co.uk