Some driving offences, like drink driving, result in automatic disqualification from driving and people are generally aware of the risks involved. However, penalty points disqualification is now an increasing threat to drivers, particularly as the points for many offences has increased while the the threshold for disqualification has not.
If you get 12 penalty points in a three year period you will be automatically disqualified from driving for 6 months, even if you never got a court summons or conviction. For learner and novice drivers the limit is 7 penalty points.
Keeping your licence and staying on the road is crucial to employment and day to day life, particularly if you do not live in an urban area. If you are stopped by Gardaí or receive a fixed charge notice or court summons these tips will help, but always take advice if you are unsure or if you are at risk of disqualification.
- Act immediately. Deadlines can easily be missed and you could find your case becoming more serious than it originally seemed to be. Delays in dealing with driving offences can result in having to go to court when it might not have been necessary, or receiving fines and a disqualification that could have been avoided.
- Get your documents together. Make sure your tax, insurance and NCT discs are on your car windscreen and that you have your driving licence, insurance and NCT certificates in the car itself – discs alone are not enough. If stopped by Gardaí you can be asked for all of these and if the documents are not in the car you will be given 10 days to produce them at a Garda station of your choice. Make sure that the documents all cover the date you were stopped. If, for example, you renewed your insurance two days after being stopped, it is the ‘old’ insurance certificate you need to produce. When you attend the Garda station with your documents, you should be given a production number as a reference: be sure to keep a note of it.
- Read fixed charge penalty notices carefully. The rules for fixed charge notices are complicated so be sure to read the full notice. If guilty, you must pay and return the notice within 28 days. If you don’t, you have an extra 28 days if you pay an increased fine (a single payment only will be accepted, two cheques will be returned). Don’t leave it to the last minute as payments sent by post can be delayed and the payment deadline can be missed. If you were not driving when the offence was committed you can nominate the driver, but only in the first 28 day period. When completing the notice, include all names that are on your driving licence.
- Always go to court if you receive a summons. You might have produced your insurance certificate or driving licence to your local Garda station within 10 days of being stopped and received a summons for court months later. Don’t assume that you don’t need to go to court. You should contact the prosecuting guard or your solicitor but, whatever happens, make sure that you or your solicitor attends court on the day even if you have been told that the summons will be withdrawn or struck out. Don’t risk being convicted and disqualified due to a breakdown in communication.
- Tell your insurance company. Check your insurance policy to see what must be reported to them. Depending on the offence your premium might be increased, but the potential consequences of non-disclosure could be worse if your insurance company refuses to cover a later accident.
If in any doubt you should take advice to ensure that your case is checked properly and that any necessary or relevant points are made on your behalf. You might not be guilty, or there might be something about your circumstances that makes your case more serious than you realise. Protect your licence and speak to a solicitor.
PG McMahon Solicitors have over 50 years’ experience of defending driving offence prosecutions and advising clients on protecting their licence. We regularly contest a range of driving offences, including speed and drink/drug driving cases.