When will the courts consider disqualification from driving?

Types of Disqualification

There are a number of instances when the courts will consider disqualification as the most viable penalty following motoring offences. The court may implement an obligatory, discretionary or mandatory disqualification on drivers depending on the nature of the offence.

Obligatory Disqualification

Obligatory disqualification is part of the overall sentence a court may impose on a defendant; in a serious case the court may impose a custodial or community penalty. If the court is considering such a sentence, it will normally adjourn the case so that a pre-sentence report may be prepared by the probation service. In such cases, the court is entitled to implement an interim disqualification period on the defendant until sentence is passed. 

Magistrates also have the power to impose interim disqualification if they commit the defendant to the Crown Court to be sentenced following a guilty plea because they consider their sentencing powers to be insufficient.

When the court has an obligation to disqualify

A court must disqualify a defendant from driving for at least 12 months if he/she is convicted of an offence carrying obligatory disqualification, such as driving whilst over the prescribed alcohol limit or dangerous driving. The prescribed alcohol limit is 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath, 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood and 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine. The only exception to this disqualification is if the court finds that there are ‘special reasons’ for not disqualifying the defendant 

The minimum period of 12 months is increased to 2 years disqualification if the defendant is convicted of causing death by dangerous or careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs. The period may also be extended if it in 3 years prior to the current offence, the defendant has received more the one disqualification for a fixed period of at least 56 days. 

The minimum period may be increased to 3 years if the defendant is convicted of any offence involving ‘drink driving’ or driving whilst unfit through drugs and the defendant has a conviction within the 10 years preceding the current offence for any similar type of offence. 

A court must disqualify a defendant until he passes an extended driving test if the defendant is convicted of motor-related manslaughter, causing death by dangerous or careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs. The defendant may only take such a test after the period of his disqualification has ended.

Drink Drive Cases

A defendant convicted of an offence involving drink driving can obtain a reduction in the length of his disqualification by agreeing to take part in the Drink Drive Rehabilitation Scheme, when offered to do so by the court. Following completion of the course, the original disqualification may be reduced by at least 3 months, but no more than one-quarter of the period originally imposed.

High Risk Offenders

A high risk offender will be: an offender disqualified from driving whilst at least two and a half times over the prescribed limit, an offender disqualified on two or more occasions within 10 years for either exceeding the legal limit or being unfit to drive through drink, or an offender who failed to provide a specimen for analysis without a reasonable excuse.

Section 13 of the Road Safety Act 2006 provides that if a driver is categorised as a high risk offender, he will not be able to apply for the return of his licence at the end of the disqualification period until he has undergone a medical examination.

Discretionary Disqualification

When the court has a discretion to disqualify

A court may disqualify a defendant if he/she is convicted of an endorsable offence, such as careless driving or speeding. There is no minimum or maximum period of disqualification, although in practice, such disqualifications are generally between 2 weeks and 6 months, or the defendant may be disqualified until he/she passes a driving test.

A defendant convicted of stealing or attempting to steal a motor vehicle may be disqualified, or if a defendant is convicted of any form of assault using a motor vehicle, he/she may be disqualified. A Crown Court may also disqualify a defendant where a motor vehicle has been used in the commission of an indictable offence and a custodial sentence of two years or more could be passed.

Under section 146 of the Powers of criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, the courts have a general power to disqualify a defendant from driving for such a period as the court thinks fit in respect of any offence

Mandatory Disqualification under the Points System

A defendant will be disqualified under the penalty points system if he collects 12 or more points on his licence. These points are any penalty points imposed for any offences that are committed within a period of three years

The Period of Disqualification

The minimum period of disqualification is 6 months, unless the court finds there to be mitigating circumstances. This period is increased to one year if the defendant has been previously disqualified for 56 days or more during the three year period prior to the most recent offence. If the defendant has more than one disqualification for 56 days or more, within the tree year period, the period of disqualification is extended to 2 years. If a driver is caught driving whilst disqualified there are serious penalties.

Newly Qualified Drivers

Newly qualified drivers have a probationary period of 2 years after passing the driving test. If he/she receives 6 or more penalty points within this 2 year period, his/her full driving licence will be revoked and he/she will be required to pass a further driving test.