Got caught speeding? A specialist speeding solicitor explains the law
Any specialist speeding solicitor at our firm deal with this type of offence week in week out. We have seen the law develop and change, and we have seen motorists more and more be shunted into the legal system by the government as if they are criminals.
We take for granted none of the €œperceived wisdoms€ about whether the speed detection technology or legal processes are fair and correctly used. It is our job to challenge the evidence, not to agree with it.
Mary Monson Motoring Solicitors are proactive in fighting our clients’ cases in court and have an excellent success rate in challenging prosecutions. If a client does wish to plead guilty, we can usually limit the damage to save his or her driving licence. Please see below for a recent and typical case study of a client we have successfully represented, followed by an explanation of the law relating to speeding offences.
Our speeding solicitors’ case study
Anyone who claims to be a specialist speeding solicitor true expertise in the area. We have included here a case study to give some idea of how we prepare our cases.
Our client was accused of travelling at 39 mph in a 30 mph zone. He was a businessman of good character with a clean licence, and informed us that he was sure that he was not travelling at that speed. He did not stand to lose his licence, but was so annoyed at what he felt was a clearly incompetent prosecution that he called us.
We requested 19 items of documentary evidence from the prosecution.
Some of our requests included:
- the qualifications of the Police Officer to use the Laser Speed device, an LTI2020
- the certification and usage record of the device itself
- written evidence showing how the device was used when our client was passing the speed trap.
The initial prosecution response was that we were engaged in a €œfishing expedition€, and therefore they did not have to disclose this information. The legal rules relating to freedom of information, however, have never supported this attitude, and we began to put pressure on the Prosecution to provide us with what we required.
When the Police Officer dealing with the case finally received our requests, the prosecution simply dropped the charge. This response gives some idea about Police attitudes towards what a speeding solicitor from our firm regards to be the basic evidence in a prosecution. When put to proof, many of these prosecutions fall apart.
The Law in Reality
A client may come to a lawyer, stressed, and say ‘I’ve got caught speeding‘. But it’s the job of the specialist speeding solicitor to bring some analysis to the situation to see if the client is as ‘caught‘ as he thinks.
Issues such as type approval of Home Office speed detection devices may seem to offer €œopen shut€ defences to these allegations, and often do, but the fact that magistrates are often not used to dealing with legal rather than factual points to the same extent as Judges in the Crown Court can mean that defences on a legal or technical basis can be viewed with scepticism in the Magistrates Court.
To combat this, it is often necessary to call expert evidence, and make specific reference to both legal and procedural documents and good practice guides. Of particular use can be the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) Code of Practice for the Operational use of Enforcement Equipment. It is the police rule book for how evidence should be obtained for these offences, including information on set up of speed trap location, correct use of different devices and methods, (Laser, Radar, Follow Check in Police Vehicle etc.).
Disqualifications for these offences of course vary, depending on speed. For certain speeds, the magistrates can consider awarding points, although these lower speeds will often result in fixed penalties being awarded, meaning 3 points and a fine with no need to go to court if the driver admits the offence.
For higher speeds (usually where the speed is 40 % over the speed limit on force), the magistrates can, and often will impose a ban, starting at 14 days, up to a usual maximum of about a year for anything except the very highest speeds.
The magistrates also have the option of imposing up to six points as an alternative, and often will if this will result in the defendant having a total of 12 or more points, as this can lead to a mandatory 6 month ban (see section on totting up). In this situation, a ban can only usually be avoided if the defendant can either challenge the prosecution, or show exceptional hardship.
For offences where over 140 mph is recorded, the prosecution might try to charge the defendant with Dangerous Driving. These higher speeds must be considered by the defence speeding solicitor in detail. It has been known for highly skilled professional drivers to challenge dangerous driving charges at these high speeds, notably where one defendant was himself an advanced driver who himself trained police drivers.
Will a speeding solicitor advise that a ban is avoidable?
Even for high speeds, a ban can often be avoided or reduced to a period of just a few weeks if the right mitigation is forwarded, even if a guilty plea has been entered. For these purposes, a lawyer is usually advisable, depending on how important the licence is. Good mitigation will include evidence relating to the character of the client, and also to other people who will suffer if he/she loses his/her licence.
Do I definitely need a lawyer?
The answer to this question is a matter of personal preference. If the licence and keeping it for a period of 1-6 months, which are typical lengths of ban, are both important, then representing yourself is always a bad idea.
The law is not complicated, but the sad reality is that in many cases magistrates, the court legal adviser and the prosecution club together to put you at a disadvantage. The unfamiliar territory means that even the most sophisticated of defendants often find themselves marginalised and disrespected in court.
Having someone there who knows both the protocol, what things will help, and what mistakes to avoid can be a real advantage. If you don’t need your car for work or family commitments, then the expense of a lawyer may not be such a priority.