Appealing against a sentence for a motoring offence

What is a motoring offence?

A motoring offence is a crime committed which concerns driving. Many people in the UK have driving licence, which means motoring offences are a common occurrence.

Some of the more common motoring offences are:

  • drink driving: driving while under the influence of alcohol;
  • speeding: not abiding by specified speed limits;
  • tyres: illegal or defective tyres;
  • using a mobile phone while driving: you must now use a hands free device to comply with the law;
  • not wearing a seatbelt;
  • careless driving;
  • driving under the influence of drugs.

Penalties and convictions for motoring offences

There are now many different penalties which can be given to people when they are caught committing a driving offence. These include:

  • Penalty charge notice (PCN) – this is what you may receive if you park your vehicle illegally or ignore certain traffic rules and regulations (eg, going against a ‘no right turn’ sign or driving in a bus lane). You usually have 28 days to pay the fine. If you pay it within 14 days, you normally get a 50% discount. If you don’t pay a PCN within 28 days, you’ll get a ‘charge certificate’ and you’ll have 14 days to pay the original fine plus 50% more. You have 28 days to challenge a PCN with the authority that issued it. You won’t have to pay the fine if your challenge is accepted. If your challenge is rejected, you’ll get a ‘notice of rejection’ – it will give you 28 days to pay or appeal to an independent tribunal. If you don’t pay or appeal, you’ll have to pay a late penalty (‘charge certificate’).
  • Fixed penalty notice (FPN) – you can get an FPN for parking illegally from the police, local council or Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). They may also be issued for speeding and minor motoring offences. You can be fined up to £200 and get penalty points on your licence if you get a FPN – you may be disqualified from driving if you build up 12 points within three years. If you fail to pay a FPN within 28 days, you’ll have to pay 50% more. To challenge a FPN, you need to go to a magistrates’ court. The back of the ticket will tell you how to do this. You’ll be sent a summons with a date to attend a court hearing.

With more serious offences like drink driving, your case is likely to go to magistrates’ court and there are many different penalties available, depending on the severity of the incident. You can get points on your licence, be disqualified from driving and/or fined, or even receive a prison sentence.

How to appeal against sentence for a motoring offence

Most of the successful defences to motoring charges are based on points of law or procedure rather than the actual evidence. The Human Rights Act 1998 guarantees a ‘right to a fair trial’ and this is where much of the power to challenge motorists’ sentences/convictions for driving offences comes from.

Most cases for driving offences will go through the magistrates’ court; if you’re not satisfied with the outcome of the case then you do have the right of an appeal against conviction and/or sentence to the Crown Court.

This kind of appeal is basically a re-trial where all evidence will be re-heard again and the case will be re-considered by a Crown Court judge and two magistrates, neither of whom had any involvement with the initial hearing in the magistrates’ court. This can work for or against the person appealing as the Crown Court can increase or decrease the sentence imposed by magistrates.

If you had been disqualified from driving a motor vehicle for a fixed period of time, it may be possible for this disqualification to be suspended pending appeal.

Another route of appeal which can be used is an appeal to the Administrative Court (High Court) by way of judicial review. This type of appeal is not a re-hearing but is decided on the basis that the court has made an error of law which should be looked at being overturned. This route is much more time consuming and complex and cases can take around 12 months to be heard.