Many drivers are unaware of the relatively serious penalties for driving a car without an NCT certificate. Things improved in late 2014 when the fixed charge notice system was extended to NCT offences, so on payment of €60 (or €90 if late) three penalty points are applied. However, you could still be disqualified from driving if you already have 9 or more penalty points.
If you don’t pay the fixed charge within 56 days a court appearance will follow. Usually three summonses are issued:
- not having a valid NCT certificate;
- not displaying a valid NCT disc on the car windscreen; and
- not producing a valid NCT certificate at a nominated Garda station within 10 days.
Strictly speaking this 10 day period to produce is only relevant if you actually have an NCT certificate that pre-dates when you were stopped, but didn’t have it in the car at the time for example. In practice it may mean that if you can get your car tested and produce an NCT certificate within the 10 days or soon after, the Gardaí might exercise their discretion not to prosecute even though a valid NCT certificate was not in place on the day you were stopped. Obviously there is no guarantee of this. Sometimes summonses are served and, because a certificate was produced at the Garda station after being stopped, the driver assumes that the case will be withdrawn. Always attend court or instruct a solicitor if this happens and never assume that the case will be withdrawn.
The most serious charge is for not having a valid NCT certificate. The potential court penalties are:
- a fine of up to €2,500 and/or term of imprisonment of up to 3 months;
- 5 penalty points;
- on a first conviction a disqualification from driving is not automatic but can be imposed depending on the circumstances;
- on a second conviction within 3 years of the first the driver will automatically be disqualified from driving for at least 1 year.
Remember that if you get 12 penalty points within a 3 year period you will be disqualified from driving for 6 months. It is quite easy, therefore, for an NCT offence to lead to disqualification, so make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
- Check your dates. Any car 4 years or older must be tested every 2 years (every year if the car is 10 years or older). The date is calculated from the first registration of the vehicle in Ireland, ie: the day you buy it for a new car.
- You will be notified of the first NCT deadline, but not renewals. Set a calendar appointment or reminder on your phone, computer or online account. Google, Outlook and other free services are useful for this and can be integrated with your phone or will send an email reminder so that you won’t miss it even if you replace your phone.
- Don’t assume early appointments will be available. Set your reminder for at least four months in advance of the deadline. Allow enough time for any servicing that might be required or to allow time for a retest.
- Check all nearby test centres if near the deadline. You can check for available appointments online but extra appointments or cancellations might be available if you ring the test centre. You can get the test done at any centre so check others near you for availability.
- If you get a summons, get advice. Even if it’s your first time being stopped without a certificate, if you have penalty points already you might be at risk of disqualification. If it’s your second time you could be facing a year or more off the road.
- Protect your licence and talk to a solicitor.