Summons / Requisition
The vast majority of motoring offences are dealt with by way of a Summons which will be heard in the Magistrates' Court. Upon receipt of the Summons, you will normally be given 3 options:
- Plead guilty and ask for the Court to deal with the matter in your absence;
- Plead guilty but attend the Court hearing in person;
- Plead not guilty;
Motor Lawyers specialise in dealing with such offences. We detail below the most common issues raised but please contact us direct for further assistance.
How long have the Police got to issue the Summons?
In the vast majority of cases, the Police must "lay information" within 6 months of the offence occurring. This means that the Police must ask the Court to issue a Summons within that period of time. As long as the request is with the Court before the 6 months expires, it will still be valid even if the Court does not actually issue the Summons within 6 months of the offence.
It is now almost 6 months since the offence occurred and I have heard nothing at all from the Police. Can I still be prosecuted?
The Police do not physically have to serve proceedings within 6 months of the offence. Their obligation is to lodge sufficient information with the Court so that the process can be started. Although steps to issue the Summons must be taken within 6 months, there is no requirement for a Defendant to receive it within that period of time. On the basis that the information is laid before the Court within 6 months, the Police are entitled to proceed and it may be that delays in processing paperwork or even obtaining a Court date can result in the Summons being received after 6 months.
Can the Police issue a Summons if they did not serve a Notice of Intended Prosecution?
If you were not stopped at the scene, and told of the potential prosecution, you are entitled to receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution, which has to be dispatched within 14 days. There is no requirement to send a written Notice of Intended Prosecution if you were stopped at the time of the offence, in which case proceedings can be commenced without any further contact. If the Summons is for driving without due care following an accident, there is no need to serve a Notice.
Does the 6 months start from the date of the offence or from the date the Defendant is identified?
For the vast majority of offences, it is from the date of the offence. On some offences, it is from the date on which the Police had sufficient evidence in which to commence proceedings and in those circumstances, if there is a delay in identifying the Defendant, time does not run from the incident itself. However, this is limited to a specific number of offences to include driving whilst disqualified or uninsured use of a vehicle.
What if the Summons has incorrect details, eg vehicle registration number, colour, model/make of car etc?
If you have been stopped by the Police and subsequently receive a summons or evidence which contains such an error, the Police will be able to amend the documents at the Court hearing. You would only be able to successfully challenge such errors if you were able to show that you are genuinely prejudiced by such errors to the extent that you are unable to establish the nature of the allegation against you. The Court will not throw out a case where you are familiar with the facts but there is either a typing error or the Police have quoted a non essential fact incorrectly. However, such inaccuracies may be used to throw doubt on the credibility of the officers in relation to other parts of their evidence if that is also disputed.
What range of punishments does a Court have when hearing a Summons?
For the majority of cases, the punishment will be penalty points and a fine. For more serious cases, there can be an immediate disqualification and for some offences, to include drink driving, dangerous driving or death by dangerous driving, community service, a curfew order or a prison sentence can be imposed. Please refer to our Motoring Offences/Maximum Penalties page for further information on potential penalties.
Can a driving ban be avoided?
Yes. Please see our separate Driving Ban page.
When should I seek legal advice?
As soon as possible. If you anticipate that you are going to receive a Summons, quite often thorough preparation in advance of receipt can pay dividends immediately. We strongly recommend that you seek advice at the earliest opportunity as the more thorough the investigation/preparation, the greater your prospects of success.
Can I get the matter transferred to my local Court?
Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the matter should be dealt with in the Court which has jurisdiction for the area in which the offence occurred. Thus a case would not normally be transferred at the Defendant's request.
What happens if I plead guilty by post?
If you choose not to attend the hearing, the Court will deal with your case in your absence provided you have supplied your licence and Statement of Means. You do have the opportunity to put forward a written plea of mitigation, ie the chance to explain how the offence occurred and why you should not be punished severely. This is a useful option and should not be overlooked. Many Defendants simply fail to raise any mitigation at all and as a result receive far harsher penalties than anticipated. If you need assistance Motor Lawyers will discuss the case fully with you and then prepare a unique letter of mitigation specifically for your case. Please use our Letter of Mitigation Service. We cannot stress enough that you should not waste the opportunity to put forward a written plea of mitigation.
The Court rejected my letter of mitigation or I was not allowed to plead guilty by post. What happens next?
If you face possible disqualification, either under the 'totting up' procedure or for the offence itself, the Court would normally demand your attendance when considering your punishment. If you have not been given the option to plead guilty by post it is a very clear indication that disqualification is being considered. If your letter of mitigation has been rejected the Court will normally explain why; either because disqualification is being considered, or possibly because your letter may in fact be construed as a 'not guilty' plea. We strongly recommend that in either situation you seek full legal advice. The Motor Lawyers Court Hearing Services are designed for this scenario. We will discuss the case fully with you and then advise you in detail on the best way to convince the Court that a disqualification should not be imposed. Additionally, Motor Lawyers will explain the Court process and provide you with all the information you require in advance of the hearing.
Am I likely to get a better result if I attend Court in person?
Although it is always tempting to attend the hearing and throw yourself upon the mercy of the Court, in our experience if you are pleading guilty, a letter of mitigation is normally just as or more successful. Further, it avoids any inconvenience on your part and allows you to go to work on the day of the hearing and thus earn money towards the fine imposed! One of the reasons for this is that if you do not attend, the case can be dealt with more quickly and judicial time is saved. This can be used to your benefit.
I want to plead not guilty. Can Motor Lawyers assist me?
Yes, please see our Not Guilty Service for further details. We will investigate the case thoroughly and advise you accurately on the prospects of success and the appropriate tactics to be used. We will also be able to advise you on the quality of the evidence and either assist you in representing yourself or we can instruct a Barrister on your behalf.