Driving Offences - Be Prepared for Your Case   

Many people who are charged with driving offences find themselves faced with the prospect of appearing in court for the first time in their life. This is a step into the unknown and it is important to have expert advice from a driving offence lawyer based locally in East Anglia before your court date.

Facing court on a driving charge is likely to be very stressful and daunting. Major worries include losing your licence, which may affect your livelihood, as well as the prospect of a fine and in some cases even going to prison.

On top of this, if you are facing court for the first time you are likely to be worried about the whole process. Fortunately, however, barristers in Ipswich experienced in motoring cases, such as Marcus Croskell, can explain it all to you and make sure that you are properly prepared.

Likely Timescales

Although some minor driving charges can be resolved by post, for more serious charges such as drink-driving or careless driving you will have to attend court. This will usually be the magistrates’ court.

Timescales can vary, depending on the type of charge and other factors. But in many cases after being arrested or summonsed you will be required to attend court within a short time period, possibly just a few weeks. This means time is very short and it’s essential to prepare properly, since you will only have one chance to put your case.

A first court appearance is often referred to as a “plea hearing”, but you shouldn’t assume it will just be a case of registering your plea. Where you are pleading guilty, courts usually try to go ahead with the case and decide on sentencing on the day. If you plead not guilty, however, the case will usually be adjourned, and there may be a wait of several months before your trial date.

Being Prepared and Arranging Representation

When appearing in court, it’s important to ensure you have all the relevant documentation with you. This includes the charge or summons, your driving licence and any documents which police have sent you about the case. You should also remember to take along any other documents you want to refer to. In the case of a guilty plea, it’s a good idea to write down full information about your personal circumstances and what led to the offence before attending court and to bring this statement with you. Your lawyer can advise you on what to include.

You will also need to fill in an income and expenditure form, as the court will refer to it if a fine is imposed. It’s essential to have a means of payment with you, such as cheque book or cash, so you can pay at least part of any fine right away. 

When attending court, it is not a good idea to rely on help from a duty solicitor, as they may not be available. Even if a duty solicitor is present, they have to give priority to the most serious cases, so they may not have time to help you. They also won’t know anything about your case beforehand. For all these reasons, it is much better to arrange in advance for an expert motoring offence lawyer to represent you. You can then be sure that your case will be properly prepared, helping to make the case less stressful.

What to Expect in Court

Although you will be sent a time to attend court, this doesn’t mean that your case will be heard at this specific time. Everyone due in court on that day is told to attend at the start of the session and then cases are called by the usher. This means you will need to wait until your name is called, which could be at any time during the session.

The best advice is to get to court in advance, so that you aren’t in a hurry and have time to get used to the court setting. If you could be facing a driving ban, this will take effect immediately, so it’s not advisable to drive yourself to court.

If you are accompanied by a lawyer, they can explain to you the court layout and what will be happening. Your lawyer can help to reassure you so you understand what is going on, and will guide you through the hearing.

There are usually three magistrates and a court clerk, who will ask you your name and address and whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty. The prosecution will then outline the case, and if you are pleading guilty your lawyer will explain your circumstances and any mitigating factors. Although individuals can do this themselves, it is difficult to put your own case forward properly and to know what is a mitigating factor. Lawyers have the professional expertise for this.

Various factors are taken into account in calculating fines and bans from driving. For instance, in a drink-driving case you will normally be banned for at least 12 months, but a longer ban could be imposed if you had a higher level of alcohol or if it isn’t your first offence.

You are also likely to face a longer ban if various aggravating factors applied – for example, if you were carrying passengers or were involved in an accident. Fines are based on income and will typically be one and a half week’s net income, but you may also have to pay a victim surcharge and a contribution towards prosecution costs. If you had a particularly high alcohol level, you could face a community order or even a prison sentence.

A guilty plea will be taken into account and mean a reduction in fine. Also, if the court offers you the chance to take part in a Drink Driving Rehabilitation Course and you accept this, it can lead to a reduction of up to 3 months in your ban.

A court appearance on a motoring charge is bound to be daunting, but it will help if you have expert representation and advice. As a specialist driving offence lawyer, Marcus Croskell can give you all the advice you need and present your case expertly, assisting you at every stage of your case. He represents clients across East Anglia as a direct access barrister, and appears in courts in Ipswich, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, London and further afield.

To contact Marcus Croskell, send an email or phone for initial free advice on 0843 886 2603.