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What if I am stopped by the police and accused of having committed a road traffic offence?

What happens if you are accused by the police of a road traffic offence?

Because you were present at the time that the offence was allegedly committed and have been made aware of it by the police, the likelihood is that you will be reported by the police for consideration of prosecution.  Normally you will then receive a summons or postal requisition by post within six months of the date of the commission of the offence requiring you either to complete a form under the single justice procedure if you are pleading guilty and if the offence is a relatively minor one.  This means that the court could deal with you in your absence by way of a driving endorsement of a fixed number of penalty points, normally three, and a predetermined fine.

If the offence is a more serious one, then you may receive a postal requisition or summons requiring you to attend court on a specific date.  If you fail to do so, without good reason, the court might then issue a warrant for your arrest to bring you before the court.

What happens if you are arrested for a road traffic offence?

If the case is a particularly serious one and you have been arrested and been taken to a police station and possibly interviewed under caution, then you might be charged by the police there and then given a court date.  in those circumstances, you will normally be bailed to attend at court and if you fail to do so again without good reason, you may well commit an additional offence under the Bail Act and will be liable to arrest if the court issues a warrant not backed for bail.

If you have been arrested and have been taken to a police station for interview, you are entitled to free legal advice under the Duty Solicitor Scheme.  You are entitled to have a solicitor of choice and if you are a client of this firm or would like to be a client of this firm, you should ring our office number (01442 242 999) or ask the police to do so to arrange for legal representation whilst you are at the police station. We do operate an out of hours scheme which provides 24 hour coverage for our existing and future clients.

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What happens if you commit a driving offence but are not stopped by the police?

If you have committed a driving offence but have not been stopped by the police at the time, then a different procedure is followed.  Typically, this would involve you being caught either on a speed camera or an automatic number plate recognition camera.

As the police cannot know who was driving, the notice of intended prosecution (NIP) will be sent out by the police to the person or company to whom the vehicle is registered at the DVLA at Swansea.

The NIP will set out the details of the alleged offence including:

  • The vehicle registration
  • The date the offence was committed
  • The time of the offence
  • The location of the offence

The registered keeper of the vehicle has a legal requirement to complete the NIP and return it within 28 days.  This is known as a section 172 notice.

The position is straight forward if you were the driver at the material time as all you will have to do is to enter your details.  If you were not the driver, there is a legal requirement on you to notify the police who was actually driving.  If you do not do this within the required period, you, as the registered keeper, will commit the offence of failing to notify the identity of a driver which in itself carries 6 penalty points and a fine.

If you were the driver and the offence is a relatively minor one, you may well receive a conditional offer of a fixed penalty with a fine at a fixed level and an endorsement of 3 or 6 penalty points on your licence.

What happens if someone else is accused of a road traffic offence whilst driving your vehicle?

If you were not the driver, you must tell the police who was driving.  If the registered keeper of the vehicle is a company, it may not be immediately apparent who the driver was, particularly if the vehicle is a pool vehicle.  In those circumstances, the company would be expected to keep records of who was driving the particular vehicle on any given date and if a company were to fail to do that, it may well end up on the wrong end of a prosecution for failing to notify the identity of the driver.

If you as an individual genuinely do not know who was driving the vehicle at the relevant time, you must return the notice of intended prosecution and you should write on it that you do not at this stage know who the driver was.  You can request photographic evidence or other evidence from the police to enable you to help identify the driver and you yourself should do all that you can to try and identify the culprit in the meantime. You need to be aware that if it was not you driving the vehicle, the person who was driving would need to be insured to drive that particular vehicle.

If your vehicle had been stolen prior to the date of the offence itself, in the normal course of events, you would have reported this to the police and would have been issued with a crime number. Clearly you should inform the police of this on the section 172 notice.

What happens if you do not know who was driving your vehicle?

If you were not the driver, once you receive the photographic or other evidence, and still cannot recognise or identify the driver, you should contact the police again and say that you are unable to identify the driver from the photographs and request any further evidence they may have.  If you do not receive any further evidence within 14 days, you should again reiterate that you have been unable to identify the driver and explain that you were not the driver at the time of the alleged offence.  You should then provide the police with a list of all possible drivers such as other insured persons who have access to the vehicle for the police to investigate.

If the police do not accept your claim that you were not the driver at the material time, you yourself may well be summonsed to court for the offence of failing to notify the identity of the driver.

Have you been accused of a road traffic offence?

If so, contact us on 01442 242999 and our specialist team of road traffic solicitors with years of experience in all aspects of road traffic law.  We will be happy to advise and assist you and provide representation in court should that be necessary.



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