FRUSTRATING driving fines and unclear road rules can quickly land you in hot water.
Knowing the right and wrong time to argue your case can save you a fortune, and there are plenty of important driving regulations that all Brits should know – but many don’t.Knowing when to challenge a speeding ticket and when not to can save you plenty of time and money[/caption]
The Sun spoke with Dominic Smith, director of the UK’s leading criminal driving legal firm Patterson Law, to find out what you should do when facing a driving penalty – and which cases you’ll have the best chance of winning.
If you decide to challenge – nominate yourself as the driver
After deciding to challenge a driving penalty, one of the easiest things to overlook is nominating yourself as the driver.
However, not doing so can be a serious mistake – and it is one that plenty of Brits make.
Dominic stressed that although it is often disregarded, nominating yourself as the driver when you receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) is not actually an admission of guilt.
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Instead, he said that the best way of challenging a speeding matter is first to nominate yourself as the driver – then wait to be offered a fixed penalty or speed awareness course.
“That is just an offer, you don’t have to accept it,” he said.
“It’s not the police giving you three points, the police are offering you three points instead of going to court.
“So if you don’t want to accept it, just reject it and you can take it to court,” he added.
The legal expert warned: “If you don’t nominate, you can get prosecuted for failing to provide driver information – that’s six points and £1000 fine.”
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Check the signs
Dodgy speed signs are another common issue that can often catch out motorists – but they can also be an opportunity turn your luck around.
If the signage is insufficient in the area you were caught speeding, you may have grounds to argue that you couldn’t know the correct speed to be going.
Dominic said: “If you are challenging a fine on the basis of signage, I always advise going back to the scene and take a couple of videos. Or have a look on google earth and follow the map.
“If it’s not clearly signed, if it’s confusing – it is worth challenging.”
Know the rules on holding your phone
Earlier this year, the laws around using your phone on the road were harshened significantly.
Although driving while using your phone has been illegal since 2003, the rules have since been toughened up to where many think you can’t touch your phone at all.
While using your phone while driving is never a good idea, plenty of people are still prosecuted despite technically not breaking the new laws.
Dominic pointed to two very important aspects to the law that could save your skin.
“Firstly, it still has to be handheld,” said the lawyer.
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“So if the phone is in a cradle, you don’t commit an offence while driving, just so long as you don’t hold it.”
“You might be committing another offence of driving carelessly, but in order for it to be a mobile phone offence it HAS to be handheld.”
Secondly, while the law states you have to be holding your phone, you also have to be caught USING your phone.
“You could be using it for anything, if you’re even just telling the time you’re technically using it, but if you are just holding it in your hand – that’s not an offence,” he said.
The lawyer said that police often try and prosecute people for holding their phone – and those cases can be challenged by the simple matter that you may not be able to prove the phone was even on.
When did you received your penalty?
One of the most common mistakes that drivers make right off the bat is believing their penalty letter didn’t arrive in time.
While it is true that if your ticket hasn’t arrived within 14 days you can reject it, there are several important caveats to this that can often see motorists wasting their time.
Dominic said: “Everybody knows with a speeding ticket that when you get a notice of intent of prosecution (NIP), it has to be sent within 14 days – but lots of people try and fail to challenge speeding offences on this basis.”
The lawyer said that a common issue with this challenge includes whether your car is registered to an old address, meaning your letter was sent there instead.
The same rule applies if your motor is registered to someone else, such as if you drive a company vehicle.
Bottom line – the police will always write to the registered keeper.
“So just because you have received your letter outside of 14 days does not automatically mean you can defend it,” Dominic said.
If you do try and challenge your NIP based on this, the legal expert said most successful way to prove it is to use evidence of missing post.
If you are a new driver – take this advice
New drivers are especially vulnerable to the consequences of driving penalties.
The license of a new driver is revoked if they receive six or more points within their first two years – meaning a second speeding ticket is particularly daunting.
During the pandemic wait times for driving tests built up to record levels, and having your license revoked now might mean you won’t be able to try and get it back until next year.
Luckily, Dominic has a top tip that could save you months of hassle.
“We get a lot of new drivers coming to us with three points on their license – and a speeding matter. If that takes them up to six, their license is automatically revoked,” he said.
“However, what a new driver CAN do is take a case to court. A court has a discretion not to impose points but instead to impose a disqualification.
“This means that a new driver can try and argue for a short ban instead of the points. If it is revoked, you can immediately try and retake your test, but at the moment that will take months.
“As long as you have a good reason to not be banned for such a long time, the court may accept it.”
Although taking this route may mean that you lose your license for a month or two, new drivers can get it back far sooner than the alternative.
When not to challenge – don’t take on technology
While there are several legal tricks that can sometimes get you out of trouble, taking on technology is almost always a waste of time and money.
Instead, the kinds of penalties that bring in the chance of human error – such as handheld speed detectors – are the ones you’ll have the best odds of beating.
Dominic’s rule of thumb: If you are challenging technology, you probably won’t win.
He said: “The better way to defend stuff is when human error comes into it.
“For example, if it just a static speed camera, those are correct. But if it is an officer with a handheld speed gun, there is potential for human error, such as whether he has targeted the wrong car.
“Anything with human error is potentially challengeable – where people go wrong is they try to challenge technology.”