By: Simon B
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Penalties, Fines and Points
Driving offences attract many different types of penalties. The courts can endorse the driver’s licence with penalty points, issue fines, send offenders to prison, or opt for a mix of penalties. In some cases, the magistrates must impose a particular penalty – for example, in speeding cases, they must endorse the licence. They can choose to disqualify or fine the person as well. In other cases, no minimum penalty must be imposed. All cases have maximum penalties.
If magistrates endorse your licence, they give you penalty points. Magistrates have no choice but to endorse your licence as a minimum penalty if you’re found guilty of speeding and can add between 3 and 6 points to your licence, depending on the seriousness of the offence. If they decide that an endorsement isn’t a stiff enough penalty because of the seriousness of the offence, they also have the power to disqualify you and fine you.
If you have your licence endorsed, the points are recorded on your driver record on the DVLA computer. The police or the courts can ask for your driver record. The offence isn’t recorded on the national criminal records. Most offences are removed from your licence after four years if you send it back to be exchanged for some reason – perhaps a change of address. Drink-driving offences stay on your licence for 11 years.
Some offences have fixed penalties, such as an on-the-spot fine or a fixed-penalty notice telling you that you can pay a certain fine and/or have a certain number of points added to your licence. If you accept a fixed penalty, you’re admitting guilt, but it can be preferable to a court hearing.
Unless you’re sure you didn’t commit the offence and want your day in court, give the fixed penalty careful consideration. You may, though, be in the position where accepting a fixed penalty will add points to your licence and may lead to you losing it for a period of time, (in which case you may want to plead your case in court). Get legal advice and speak to the CAB.
Fines and prison sentences
If you receive a summons to appear in front of magistrates, they may decide on fines and prison sentences as penalties for more serious offences. In most cases, the sentences handed down are well below the maximum fines and jail terms. But if you’re in danger of being fined or imprisoned, you should get legal advice.