Motoring offences and when not to hire a lawyer
When should you hire a lawyer to help with your motoring conviction? Motoring lawyer Jeanette Miller offers her advice.
I regularly stress the importance of engaging a lawyer to represent you if you ever face prosecution for a motoring offence.
But to be honest, there are some offences that probably do not warrant a solicitor's involvement.
This is because it’s simply uneconomical to pay for legal advice to challenge a matter that involves a potential fine and no other penalty.
So when should you represent yourself or simply stump up the cash? That depends on what kind of offence you are charged with.
When to engage a lawyer
There are four categories of motoring offences worth considering:
1. Fine only
2. Endorsable offences that can carry penalty points
3. Offences carrying a mandatory disqualification
4. Imprisonable offences
Without doubt, you should always hire a lawyer if facing the possibility of a prison sentence, not least to ensure you receive a fair penalty if pleading guilty.
The same can be said when you’re at risk of a driving disqualification or revocation. I’d again suggest that engaging a lawyer would be a sensible move.
When to go it alone
If the offence is a non-endorsable, fixed-penalty-only offence, then my advice is to adopt a DIY stance.
There are numerous offences that can attract fines of up to £1,000, but no penalty points. For example:
Failing to comply with box junction markings
Unless you're letting an emergency vehicle pass, if you're caught in the middle of a yellow box, there isn't much of a defence and you may be better off just paying up.
Motorway offences, such as stopping a vehicle on the hard shoulder
Stopping on the hard shoulder of a motorway is reserved for temporary breakdowns and not to simply pull over and have a picnic.
Sounding your horn
Your horn is there to warn other road users of your presence, and only while your car is moving. The Highway Code states you should never sound your horn aggressively.
You must not use your horn while stationary on the road, or when driving in a built-up area between 11.30pm and 7am, except when another vehicle poses a danger.
Failure to wear a seat belt while driving
Thankfully, the habit of not wearing a seatbelt has become far less common than 30 years ago.
It could be the introduction of the fine or increased awareness of the dangers that stamped this out. Either way, you really do have to be a dummy to not buckle up these days.
Opening your car door so as to cause injury/danger
This is something that particularly affects cyclists. If you, as a motorist, fail to check your blind spot when opening your car door, you could face a fine.
Driving a vehicle without a valid MOT
If you're found driving without a valid MOT you could face a fine of up to £1,000.
The only defence available to the MOT offence is where you can prove you were driving to a pre-booked garage appointment to have your MOT done.
If you don't have an up-to-date MOT it could invalidate your car insurance, which means you could arguably be accused of the far more serious offence of driving without insurance.
The fine for driving without insurance is unlimited, and can get you six to eight points on your licence, or discretionary disqualifications.
You can find a full list of motoring offences and their potential penalties on Gov.uk.