Know the law: Points and fines for riding and driving convictions

Dr Ken German
By Dr Ken German

Previously an officer in the Metropolitan Police Stolen Car Squad – part of the Flying Squad – Dr Ken German has a BA and PhD in international vehicle crime; he’s been key to many anti-theft policies and vital governmental and insurance decisions. He also developed the potential for transponders and parts marking, helping to create Datatag. Dr Ken is a world authority on motorcycle crime, and a key advisor to the industry...

Know the law: Points and fines for riding and driving convictions

 

While many road traffic offences are minor in nature, a prosecution will be most riders’ only experience of criminal law enforcement.

The Road Traffic Act of 1988 deals with the legislation necessary to control our behaviour on the public roads, and contains a comprehensive list of over 179 offences, ranging from causing death by dangerous driving/riding to forgery and even hover vehicles.

The following are the most common offences a motorcycle rider could be involved with, along with the penalties they could receive, and any defence that might be offered in mitigation…

 

Quick links to the offences covered:

What is the penalty for speeding?
How many points will I get for speeding?
Do I need to tell my insurer about a speed awareness course?
Is there any defence for speeding?
How can I check if I've been caught speeding?
How long do penalty points stay on my licence?
How many points can I get for the most common offences?
How many points can you get before you lose your licence?
What are the penalties for careless of dangerous riding?
Do I need a lawyer if charged with dangerous or careless driving/riding?
What could I face for riding without due care and attention?
How many points could you get for riding while drunk?
Is there any defence to drink-driving or riding?
What drugs affect driving or riding?
What’s the penalty for driving or riding without a licence?
What’s the penalty for driving or riding while disqualified?
What’s the penalty for driving or riding without insurance?
What’s the penalty for jumping a red light?
What’s the penalty for riding or driving without an MoT?
When can you ride or drive without an MoT?
How many points do you get for riding or driving without tax?
What’s the penalty for failing to stop after an accident?

 

What is the penalty for speeding?

By far the most common offence – if you ever receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) for speeding, it will be because you’ve either been warned at the time of the offence about the possibility of prosecution, or you’ve also been sent a notice of the alleged offence outlining the possibility of prosecution.

The Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 states that this section 172 notice must be served on the registered owner of the vehicle within 14 days of the alleged offence. They are requested to divulge the name of the rider at the time of an offence that has alleged to have been caught on a camera.

Service of this notice is satisfied by it being posted first class mail to the address of the owner, held by the DVLA. In some cases, the notice may be received by you outside of that period, for example where it is sent first to a rental or lease company.

You then have 28 days to respond to it. Failure to do so could create a separate offence that carries Six penalty points. Completing the form with details that you know to be incorrect is also likely to lead to a charge of perverting the Course of Justice, which can lead to imprisonment if proved.

If you simply can’t say who was using the machine at the relevant time, you will have to find a good defence as to why you failed to give details.

If you have not received a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP), and there is no intervening owner, and the vehicle is registered to the correct address, then any prosecution against you might fail.

You cannot be convicted of speeding unless a policeman has stopped you at the roadside or you have not been notified by post within 14 days in a written Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP).

 

How many points will I get for speeding?

The penalties for speeding can be the following:

  • A ‘Speed Awareness Course’ for a first offence. This can be offered by the police – at their discretion – when the exceeded speed is lower than 10% of the speed limit plus 9mph; for instance, a 30mph speed limit would allow up to 42mph. You might be offered one again for a relatively minor offence after a period of three years.
  • A Fixed Penalty Notice, consisting of £100 a fine and three penalty points
  • A Magistrate’s Court prosecution can issue a punishment of a £1,000 fine (£2,500 if on a motorway) together with three or six penalty points. This is usually guided by the ‘Magistrate’s Court Sentencing Guidelines’; both the fine and penalty points will be determined by the speed you travelled. For example, if you exceeded a 30mph limit by over 20mph, the Magistrates Court guidelines indicate that you could face disqualification from driving for between seven and 56 days, or receive six penalty points. A summons must be issued in the Magistrates Court within six months of the offence.

If you have committed an endorsable offence, the points are recorded at the DVLA, either when you enter a guilty plea or when you accept a fixed penalty.

These points remain on your licence for four to 11 years, depending on the type of offence. Each offence has a code making it easier to identify on a record. You can check your endorsements by using the ‘my licence’ section of the DVLA website.

 

Do I need to tell my insurer about a speed awareness course?

If you’re attend a Speed Awareness Course, you have not been convicted of an offence, so it does not need to be declared when asked if you have any convictions.

While Bennetts Insurance will not ask you, if another broker does ask if you’ve taken a speed awareness course, you must admit it.

 

Is there any defence for speeding?

Depending on the facts, there are various defences that can be offered to the court to challenge a speeding allegation. These can include:

  • Incorrect details on the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP)
  • That it was not you riding the motorcycle at the time
  • That you were riding an exempted machine attending an emergency
  • Road signs were incorrect or absent
  • The speeding motorcycle was incorrectly identified
  • The speed camera was not authorised or operating correctly.

There are certain cases where ‘special reasons’ may be put before the court to persuade the magistrate not to impose any penalty points, further penalty points or a disqualification; riding away from an aggressive driver, or in an emergency. Taking somebody to hospital, for example, could be used as a defence.

 

How can I check if I've been caught speeding by a camera and have a pending ticket?

You cannot find out if a speeding prosecution is imminent; if you think you've been flashed by a speed camera, you'll need to wait a couple of weeks to see if a notification arrives in the post. Some websites claim use vehicle data or even DVLA systems to check a database, but they're fake. One features small print at the bottom of the page saying that it's intended for 'entertainment' and to raise speed awareness, but as these sites are generally swamped with advertisements, we'll leave you to decide on their purpose.

 

How long do penalty points stay on my licence?

Committing an endorsable offence can lead to penalty points that are registered at the DVLA, either when you enter a guilty plea or when you accept a fixed penalty. They will remain on your licence for three years, while the DVLA keeps a record for four years. For more serious offences, the endorsement can stay active for up to 10 years, and on your licence for 11 years.

 

How many points can I get for the most common offences?

The number of penalty points you can receive is dependent on the type of offence and any aggravating features that were associated with the offence. For example, in speeding cases, fixed penalties will lead to three points, but if your speed is higher a court may order up to six points.

If you accumulate 12 or more penalty points within a three year period, the court must disqualify you for a minimum of six months, unless you can establish exceptional hardship or some other special mitigation. This disqualification, known as ‘totting up’ will show as a TT99 endorsement on your licence.

The usual points given for some of the more common offences are:

Offence

Penalty

Undefined speed limit offence

3 to 6 points

Failing to adhere to traffic light signals

3 points

Driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence

3 to 6 points

Exceeding goods vehicle speed limits

3 to 6 points

Exceeding motorway speed limit

3 to 6 points

Exceeding public road speed limit

3 to 6 points

Exceeding speed limit for type of vehicle (excluding goods or passenger vehicles)

3 to 6 points

Exceeding passenger vehicle speed limit

3 to 6 points

Driving without due care and attention

3 to 9 points or disqualification

Failing to stop after an accident

5 to 10 points

Failure to give information as to identity of a driver

6 points

Using an uninsured vehicle

6 to 8 points or disqualification

Driving/attempting to drive over the alcohol limit

Disqualification for minimum 12 months unless ‘special reasons’ accepted, then 3 to 11 points

Dangerous Driving

Disqualification for minimum of 12 moths plus mandatory re-test unless ‘special reasons’ accepted, then 3–11 points

Failing to supply a specimen for analysis

Disqualification for minimum 12 months unless ‘special reasons’ accepted, then 3–11 points

 

How many points can you get before you lose your licence?

If you acquire 12 or more points, the Court will have to disqualify you for a minimum of six months, unless you can provide some special mitigation about the effect of disqualification on you, or those who depend on you.

Under the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995, every rider who has passed their driving test since 1st June 1997 is subject to a two-year probationary period from the date that they acquire their full licence. If within two years they accumulate six points, the DVLA will revoke it. That means that to drive again they will have to apply to the DVLA for a provisional driving licence, successfully pass the theory and full driving test, and are bound by all the Provisional Driver requirements until you pass your test again.

 

What are the penalties for careless of dangerous riding?

The more serious offence of careless and/or dangerous driving or riding takes several forms; recent changes mean that even a momentary inattention that leads to fatal consequences can carry a prison sentence.

According to Section two of the Road Traffic Act, it’s a criminal offence for you to dangerously drive or ride a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place. The Courts have been given very wide scope to decide what constitutes dangerous driving, but common examples include:

  • Failing to stop for police
  • Ignoring the speed limit
  • Aggressive riding
  • Racing
  • Riding while very tired or knowing of an illness
  • Riding while knowing that the bike has a serious defect
  • Trying to ride  while doing something else, for instance drinking or eating
  • Undertaking and tailgating

 

Do I need a lawyer if charged with dangerous or careless driving/riding?

If your riding has caused the death of another person, then you have committed the offence of death by dangerous driving. In 2003 the maximum sentence for this was increased from 10 to 14 years, meaning that you could potentially be faced with a lengthy prison sentence, alongside a two year driving ban and a mandatory retake of the driving test to regain your licence.

There are two related offences – causing death by careless driving/riding and causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs or drink driving. If you are found to have caused death by careless riding alone, the sentences are less severe. The maximum custodial sentence is five years along with a mandatory one year driving disqualification or three to 11 penalty points. Investigations into such matters are carried out by experienced police officers and if accused, the rider will need expert help.

If you are charged with or reported for dangerous or careless riding, it is strongly recommended you seek legal advice.

 

What could I face for riding without due care and attention?

The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that it is an offence to be guilty of driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, and is defined as riding that falls below the standard expected of a competent rider, or that does not show reasonable consideration for other people using the road/pathways. Offences such as driving through a red traffic light, undertaking and driving into a pedestrian are common.

If the Police get involved they will be looking to see if the criminal law has been broken and if they do they will start criminal proceedings.

The Court can impose three to nine penalty points, or disqualify you. You may also face an unlimited fine. Usually the penalty will increase if there are aggravating factors, for example:

  • Excessive speed
  • Allowing yourself to be distracted by doing something else, for instance eating or drinking
  • Tiredness
  • Carrying an unsafe load
  • Causing an accident where injury results
  • Causing damage to another vehicle or property
  • Where the incident happens in a high risk area, for instance near a school, crowds of people or on a particularly busy road.

The police can now offer fixed penalties for careless riding.

If you’ve been charged then you will be prosecuted at the Magistrates’ Court. If the Police did not attend the scene and there was no accident. you should receive a notice of intended prosecution within 14 days. Otherwise you will receive a court summons.

 

How many points could you get for riding while drunk?

Driving any mechanically propelled vehicle on any public road or a place to which the public have access while you are over the prescribed alcohol limit is an offence.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 163, the police have the authority to request a specimen from you if they have suspicion that you’ve been driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. This can be given at the roadside or at the police station, depending on what type of specimen they require from you.

If you are convicted, the Court must impose a minimum penalty of a 12 month driving ban. Being drunk in charge of a vehicle is brought where there is no evidence of ‘driving’. The onus is on the rider or driver to show that the machine would not have been ridden or driven while their levels of alcohol were over the limit. In these cases, the Court has a minimum sentence of 10 penalty points, but in serious cases immediate bans can follow. If the rider fails to provide a specimen, the Court’s starting point is an 18 month ban.

If the police do not have breathalyser equipment available, or there is some reason preventing a breath sample, the police may take a sample of urine or blood and send it for analysis.

Alcohol levels depend on many factors. The alcohol content of your drink is one factor, and your weight and size also come into play, along with the timings of your drinks and how much you’ve eaten.

The current limits are:

Breath Alcohol Maximum

35 micrograms in 100ml

Urine Alcohol Maximum

107 milligrams in 100ml

Blood Alcohol Maximum

80 milligrams in 100ml

The maximum penalty for drink driving is an unlimited fine, up to six months imprisonment and a minimum period of a 12 month disqualification.

The penalty depends on the level of alcohol in your blood at the time of the offence and whether there were any other features to your casen like an accident.

Fines are based on the level of your weekly income. You will also have to pay prosecution costs and a victim surcharge. In more serious cases the court will consider extending the minimum ban, adding a community order and in some cases imposing a prison sentence.

A second offence within 10 years will incur a strict minimum three year ban, in addition to possible community orders or a prison sentence. Repeat offences will suggest more severe penalties or prison.

Drink driving is a criminal conviction and will remain on your driving record for life, but will only directly affect sentence if another offence is committed within 10 years.

 

Is there any defence to drink-driving or riding?

Special reasons for mitigation such as being under duress, drinks being spiked or driving only a short distance could give the Court discretion not to impose the otherwise inevitable ban from driving. For a first offence the Court will usually offer a rehabilitation course, which has the effect of reducing the driving disqualification by 25%.

If you fail to provide a specimen without a reasonable excuse, then you are breaking the law and will face a hearing in court. However, in order for a prosecution for this offence to be successful, you must be warned by a police officer that you could be prosecuted if you fail to provide a sample.

Quite often, you can be charged despite doing your best in providing a specimen, whether it is a medical, physical or psychological reason. Excuses usually put before the court are a genuine phobia of needles, stress and/or anxiety, asthma, small lung capacity, prostate problems and chest infections.

If found guilty the sentence you can receive for failing to provide a specimen would be similar to those given for driving after consuming excess alcohol levels and will take place at the Magistrate’s Court. It is important to note that a prison sentence will be considered if you have committed a second similar driving offence within the last ten years. Penalties given are usually a prison sentence of up to six months and/or a fine of up to £5,000, a minimum driving ban of 12 months, a potential community service sentence.

 

What drugs affect driving or riding?

It is illegal to ride a motorcycle while unfit to do so because of taking drugs.

The law has now been amended to make it an offence to drive or ride while the level of certain drugs in your body is over limits set by the Government. This new offence does not require any evidence that your driving has been impaired or made worse by the drug in your body. It simply requires evidence that the drug is there above the prescribed limit.

The Police have roadside saliva tests that enable them to check for the presence of cannabis and cocaine. If there was a positive test they would then seek a blood sample and the results of testing that sample would determine whether or not you were prosecuted.

The list of prohibited drugs includes many that are prescribed to people by their doctors and the offences carry the same penalties as the related drink offences. Just a few to be aware of include:

  • Amphetamine, for instance dexamphetamine or selegiline
  • Clonazepam
  • Diazepam
  • Flunitrazepam / Rohypnol
  • Lorazepam
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Opiate and opioid-based drugs
  • Codeine
  • Tramadol
  • Fentanyl
  • Oxazepam
  • Temazepam

Always check with your Doctor or health service provider about the use of any prescribed drug, but do not stop taking medication because of this legislation.

Remember to only ride or drive after taking these 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.

 

What’s the penalty for driving or riding without a licence?

Under section 87 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, driving without a full and appropriate driving licence can lead to three to six points on your licence and a potential fine of up to £1,000. Additionally, if you drive without both a licence and insurance, you can be given a further six to eight penalty points on top of the points you received for the initial offence, and a fine of up to £5,000. If the Courts feel it necessary, they have the authority to ban you from obtaining a full licence for a period of time that they see fit.

The punishments you can face therefore are the following:

  • Penalty points on your licence
  • Fines of up to £5,000
  • Face a ban of acquiring a driving licence for a period of time
  • Additional costs from potential car insurers
  • Difficulties finding employment in certain job fields
  • Paying for any damages you may have caused

Although driving or riding without a full licence is deemed as an ‘absolute offence’, you can be given credit for entering a guilty plea early in the proceedings. If you’re a first -time offender and you enter a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity, you’re likely to be given a more lenient sentence than if you’re a repeat offender and maintain that you’re not guilty. When entering a guilty plea, depending on the circumstances, you can use ‘special reasons’ to argue your case as to why you unintentionally committed the offence. 

 

What’s the penalty for driving or riding while disqualified?

Riding while disqualified is a serious offence that will lead to you being arrested if you are caught and being taken straight to the police station, interviewed and held in a cell until you are either bailed or held for court, and could lead to a prison sentence. Nowadays the Police have the technology to track you and they can tell if your motorcycle or car is insured, MoT’d and if you have a valid licence.

In court the punishment given depends on the circumstances of the case, but a first time offender who pleads guilty could be faced with community service, or a curfew along with an order for prosecution costs and a further extension to your disqualification from riding. Generally, riding while disqualified is seen as an ‘absolute offence’ i.e.it does not matter that you did not know you were disqualified. Courts view breaches of their orders very seriously. Custodial sentences are often passed and can be as long as 26 weeks.

 

What’s the penalty for driving or riding without insurance?

It is a compulsory requirement for anyone who uses a vehicle on the road or any other public place to have the correct and valid insurance against third party risks. This includes vehicles that are only parked and are not driven. As long as the vehicle is on the road, it must be insured. The Court’s treat riding without insurance very seriously because of the potential consequences were you to crash when uninsured. Usually a fixed penalty, six to eight penalty points and a £200 fine will be given. In serious cases the court will consider disqualification from riding.

Riding without insurance is an offence of strict liability; not knowing that you are driving without insurance will not usually provide you with a defence.

 

What’s the penalty for jumping a red light?

You are committing a Road Traffic Offence if you fail to stop for a red light. Only certain emergency vehicles are exempted, but in general it is the driver or rider’s obligation to stop at traffic lights unless they are on green. If the amber light is showing, then you must stop unless you have already crossed the white stop line or if you are too close to stop the vehicle safely, and without causing an accident. If the red light is illuminated, then you must stop regardless of the circumstances.   

Many traffic lights now have cameras attached to them, which can provide compelling evidence of an offence. If your vehicle is captured by a traffic camera, you will be sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution asking you to confirm who the driver was. Failure to return the notice properly completed is an offence that carries a fine and six penalty points.

The penalty for riding or driving through a red light is likely to be a fine and three penalty points. That will be the case if you accept a fixed penalty. If the case goes to court, there’s discretionary power to disqualify you, and the fine could be up to £1,000. In some cases you may be offered a ‘driver awareness course’ as an alternative, which will involve attending a re-training course for half of a day, which usually costs between £85 and £110.

 

What’s the penalty for riding or driving without an MoT?

Every motorcycle and scooter in the UK over three years old must undergo an annual MOT to ensure that it adheres to the minimum road safety and environmental standards.

All UK registered vehicles’ test status regarding road tax, insurance and Ministry of Transport (MOT) are stored on computer databases that the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has access to.

The DVLA takes monthly checks on the status of each vehicle, and if it finds any without an MOT, those details are passed on to the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) of police vehicles and road-side cameras that can identify you.

The penalty is usually a fixed £60 penalty notice, a fine of up to £1,000, six to eight penalty points on your licence, the potential impounding of your machine and invalid cover of your insurance.

 

When can you ride or drive without an MoT?

The only exception to riding or driving without an MOT is if you are on your way to a garage to MOT your vehicle. If you are stopped by the police, you must prove your appointment, most commonly by giving your garage’s contact details. If you do not cooperate, you could face prosecution.

If the MoT finds your vehicle to have a dangerous fault, it cannot be ridden or driven away.

 

How many points do you get for riding or driving without tax?

While the DVLA will send an automated fine of £80 to the registered keeper of a car or motorcycle that’s not taxed – unless it’s declared SORN – you will not receive penalty points on your licence. If that fine is paid within 28 days, it should be reduced to £40. Failure to pay the fine can lead to a prosecution and £1,000.

The DLVA can clamp your vehicle, and remember that any vehicle must be taxed if it’s on the road, moving or not. If it’s kept off the road – on private land like a drive or in a garage – you can declare it as SORN, Statutory Off Road Notification.

Regardless of if your vehicle is tax exempt (for instance electric), you must still apply for tax. You can only ride or drive without tax if on the way to a pre-booked MoT test.

Remember that tax no longer comes with a vehicle – when selling you will receive a refund of any full months outstanding tax, and when buying you must have tax in place before riding or driving away.

 

What’s the penalty for failing to stop after an accident?

If you’ve been involved in a motoring accident, the law requires you to stop at the scene and exchange correct personal details with any person who has reasonable grounds to request them. If details are not exchanged, you must report to the police as soon as reasonably practicable and in any event within 24 hours.

According to the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 170, it is an offence for a driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle to fail to stop and give their details when involved in an accident that has caused either damage or injury to someone other than the driver or the driver’s vehicle. You must give correct details to enable prompt communication and if you do not you are breaking the law. It doesn’t matter whose fault the accident was, and the requirement is to stop ‘at the scene’. If you revisit the scene after initially driving away for a short time you may still have committed an offence.

If for some reason you fail to stop after being involved in an accident, or fail to exchange details, you must report the incident to the police as soon as reasonably practical and in any event within 24 hours of the time of the accident. The report must be made at a Police Station or to a Police Constable; a phone call will not necessarily be acceptable.

If you fail to do this ‘as soon as practicable’ and within the 24 hour period then it could result in a conviction. The court will decide what was ‘reasonably practicable’.

Failing to stop at the scene of an accident involving injury or damage is an offence that carries a fine of up to £5,000, with five to ten penalty points on your licence and a potential driving ban or a prison sentence of up to six months imprisonment.

The Road Traffic Act of 1988 is not a riveting read but it is a comprehensive list of all the offences one can commit driving and riding on our roads today.

Understanding any situation you find yourself in can usually be better understood through a careful search on the internet, but when it comes to offering a defence – should you need one – then seeking legal advice from a solicitor or legal company has to be the best option.
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