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Penalty Points & how to avoid them

For many drivers facing a driving offence or motoring allegation, the threat of receiving penalty points is far worse than any financial penalty they will face. It means they’re a step closer to disqualification, as well as facing an increase in their insurance premiums.

Whether you’re likely to receive penalty points will depend on the allegation you’re facing and of course whether or not you have a good defence or special reasons argument.

The range of penalties for a given offence are set out in legislation. However the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines assist courts in deciding what penalty to impose.

The Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines specifically refer to the most common road traffic offences that are dealt with in the magistrates’ courts.

The court must have regard to these guidelines when sentencing, but may also be influenced by previous cases and are bound to follow decisions of the higher courts eg. the Court of Appeal, the House of Lords.

Can I ask for a bigger fine to avoid penalty points?

The law provides that points are mandatory for many offences upon conviction. There’s no provision enable the court to order you to pay a greater fine to avoid points. However, where the number of points imposed may vary, with careful mitigation, it may be possible to persuade the court to stick to the lower end of the penalty points scale and impose a larger fine.

What if I’ve already got penalty points on my licence?

If you’ve already got penalty points on your licence, then it’s even more important to get good advice and representation to keep the penalty points to a minimum. Don’t forget that if you reach 12 penalty points or more within three years, you face a mandatory disqualification. However it’s worth getting in touch in case we can put forward an exceptional hardship argument to avoid a ban.

How many penalty points could I get?

Obviously this depends on the type and seriousness of the offence, but the penalty points which may be imposed are listed in full on our driving offence codes page

How long are penalty points valid for?

It depends what they are for, but as a general rule:

  • They are valid for the courts’ purposes ie. ‘totting up’ for 3 years from the date of the offence;
  • They are usually valid for insurance purposes for 5 years.

These time limits do not apply to certain offences such as drink driving & drunk in charge etc. See the section below on “when can I have my endorsements removed” for more detail.

When can I get endorsements removed from my licence?

It depends on whether the endorsement is penalty points or a driving ban:
(a) if you were disqualified,  (subject to (d) below), you must wait four years from the date of conviction. In practice, this covers the majority of offences such as speeding, using a mobile phone etc. where points are imposed instead of disqualification;
(b) if you were not disqualified, you must wait until either:
  • four years have elapsed since the commission of the offence or,
  • an order of disqualification under the totting up rules is made;
(c) if you were convicted of:

the endorsement must stay on your licence until four years have elapsed since the conviction; and

(d) if you were convicted of:
  • causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, or
  • driving or attempting to drive while unfit or
  • driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol, or
  • refusing to provide evidential specimens of breath, blood or urine while driving or attempting to drive or
  • failing to allow a specimen to be subjected to a laboratory test,

then the endorsement will remain until 11 years have elapsed after the conviction. (The period of 11 years applies to any conviction for these offences even if a disqualification was not imposed for “special reasons”).

If you’re unsure about whether or not an endorsement is still ‘relevant’, get in touch and we’ll advise you.

Can I go on a driving awareness course instead of getting penalty points?

The offer of a course is discretionary and usually, to be eligible you must meet the following criteria:

  • you admit to being the driver of the vehicle and this is received by the police within 42 days of the date of the offence;
  • you haven’t attended a Speed Awareness course for that type of offence (eg. careless driving, speeding, driving whilst using a mobile phone or handheld device, driving through a red light) within the last three years
  • If it is a speeding offence, the speed you were travelling at the time of the offence must fall within the acceptable speed range (Speed limit + 10% + 9mph). For example, in a 30 mph limit – you could attend a course up to 42mph inclusive.
  • If it is a red light offence, the time past the red lights must not exceed three seconds.
  • There are no specific criteria for careless driving, so your eligibility will depend on the nature of the offence and possibly the level of injury/damage caused. The position is similar for driving using a mobile phone.

If you successfully complete the course, you will avoid penalty points. However you should be aware that the offer of a course cannot currently be made by a court (although there is legislation pending which, if enacted will make this a possibility). Therefore if you want to accept the offer, you must do so promptly.

Unless you did not commit the offence, it’s almost always worth accepting such an offer as it will be cheaper and less stressful than defending an allegation in court.

 

For free advice, speak to a solicitor on our local rate number 0330 1330 081 or, if you prefer, fill out our Contact Form and we'll call you back: usually the same day and often within the hour. You can also email us here.