When will the courts consider disqualification from driving?

There are a number of instances when the courts will consider disqualification as the most viable penalty following motoring offences. The court will decide how long the disqualification will last, based on the seriousness of the offence. For some more serious offences, the court must impose a driving ban.

Penalty points

You could be disqualified from driving if you build up 12 or more penalty points on your licence – eg, for repeated speeding offences – within a period of three years.
Your ban can last:

  • six months, if you get 12 or more penalty points within three years;
  • 12 months, if you get a second disqualification within three years;
  • two years, if you get a third disqualification within three years.

If you’re banned for 56 days or more you must apply for a new licence before you’re allowed to drive again. You might also be ordered by the court to retake your driving test or take an extended driving test before getting your full licence back.

Newly qualified drivers

If you’re a newly qualified drivers who is still within two years of passing your driving test, your driving licence will be revoked if you build up six or more penalty points.

Drink driving

In England and Wales, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, 35mg per 100ml of breath or 107mg per 100 ml of urine.

If you’re caught in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink, you may get a driving ban but this is at the discretion of the court.

If you’re convicted of driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink the court must disqualify you from driving for at least a year or three years if you’re convicted twice in 10 years.

If you fail to supply a breath or urine sample on request, the normal disqualification period is a minimum of 18 months.

If you cause someone’s death through careless driving while over the legal alcohol limit, a ban of at least two years will be imposed and you’ll have to take an extended driving test before your licence is returned.

High risk offenders

If you’re considered a ‘high risk offender’ by the court, you won’t get your new licence until you can prove you’re fit to drive again. You’ll need to pass a medical examination with one of DVLA’s appointed doctors.

You’re a high risk offender if you:

  • were convicted of two drink driving offences within 10 years;
  • were driving with an alcohol reading of at least 87.5mg of alcohol per 100 ml of breath, 200mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, or 267.5mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine;
  • refused to give the police a sample of breath, blood or urine to test for alcohol;
  • refused to allow a sample of your blood to be tested for alcohol (eg, if it was taken when you were unconscious).

Drink Drive Rehabilitation Scheme

If you’re convicted of an offence involving drink driving you can obtain a reduction in the length of your 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 three months, but no more than one-quarter of the period originally imposed.

Drug driving

You’ll be disqualified from driving for at least a year if you’re caught driving and you’re unfit to do so because you’re on legal or illegal drugs or if you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood (even if they haven’t affected your driving). Your driving licence will also show you’ve been convicted for drug driving. This will last for 11 years.
You can drive after taking certain drugs if you’ve been prescribed them and followed advice on how to take them by a healthcare professional and they aren’t causing you to be unfit to drive even if you’re above the specified limits. These drugs are:

  • amphetamine, eg dexamphetamine or selegiline;
  • clonazepam;
  • diazepam;
  • flunitrazepam;
  • lorazepam;
  • methadone;
  • morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, eg codeine, tramadol or fentanyl;
  • oxazepam;
  • temazepam.

Other offences

A court may disqualify you if you’re convicted of an endorsable offence, such as careless driving or speeding. Such disqualifications are generally for between two weeks and six months, or you may be disqualified until you pass a driving test.
If you’re convicted of stealing or attempting to steal a motor vehicle or of any form of assault using a motor vehicle you may be disqualified. A Crown Court may also disqualify you where a motor vehicle has been used in the commission of an indictable offence.

Under s 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

What factors will the court take into account?

When deciding the length of a driving ban, the court will consider aggravating factors such as lack of co–operation, having children in the car or being involved in an accident. Mitigating factors can reduce the severity of the penalty and can include a previously clean record, co-operation with the police or an early plea.

Article written by...
Nicola Laver LLB
Nicola Laver LLB

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A non-practising solicitor, Nicola is also a fully qualified journalist. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a legal journalist, editor and author.