As the District Courts reopened this month after the summer break there has been some good news for drivers who get fine notices for road traffic offences but fail to pay within the 56 days allowed. Since 1 June 2017, a third payment option has been introduced and while the amount of the fine doubles, the number of penalty points imposed does not increase. However, if you receive a summons for a road traffic offence and pay the fine before court, you should still make sure your case is discontinued.
There are now three payment opportunities:
- If you are accused of a fixed charge offence, like speeding or driving while holding a mobile phone, you will receive a fixed charge notice which allows 28 days to pay a fine (for example €80) and receive penalty points.
- You can pay an increased fine (e.g. €120) within a second 28 day period.
- If you do not pay the fine at step 1 or 2 a summons will issue and be served, but you will now be able to pay a further increased fine (double the fine from step 2, e.g. €240) not later than 7 days before the first court date.
- If you do not pay the fine at step 1, 2 or 3 the case will proceed in court and, if you are convicted, you will receive a higher number penalty points and, often, a higher fine.
According to reports, summonses for these offences will be served by registered post. In that case they must be served at least 21 days before the court date before the court date, which allows 14 days for payment. Summonses for fixed charge offences will now be accompanied by a section 44 notice which sets out the payment details. It is important to read the notice properly and act as soon as it is received, if not contesting the charge.
The third payment option is a welcome development for drivers and should lead to some reduction in cases being heard in court. However, at least until the new system beds down, anyone who receives a summons for a fixed charge notice offence and makes a payment on foot of a section 44 notice should still either attend court on the date in the summons or arrange to have a solicitor present to ensure that the case is discontinued.
Because the section 44 notice allows for payment to be made until quite close to the court date it remains to be seen whether the systems in place will ensure that all appropriate prosecutions are discontinued. It is quite easy to see, at least in the early days, how miscommunication or error might lead to a case not being discontinued. The driver in that situation might not attend court or arrange representation, thinking the case would be withdrawn but if it is not will likely be convicted in his/her absence.