Do I Need a Solicitor if I Have to go to Court for a Driving Offence?
You are not required to have a solicitor for court. You can represent yourself if you choose to. So why should you consider getting a lawyer?
Driving lawyers help you understand your case
We help you understand the law and any charges you are facing. It is important that you understand what the case is against you and whether you can defend it. We identify the strengths and weaknesses of each case.
Can the prosecution prove its case? What evidence is admissible and what is not? Is a police officer’s word enough to prove the case against you? Will you need to give evidence? Do you need to provide supporting documentation and will this be admissible?
These are all basic questions that lawyers should be able to answer after assessing your case. You can then make an informed decision about your plea.
Defences vs mitigation
People often confuse defences with mitigation. Defences are set out in law and can result in a ‘not guilty’ verdict. Mitigation is what is put forward after a guilty plea or conviction to try to reduce the penalty the court imposes.
We have seen countless unrepresented defendants trying to defend a charge by using mitigation. This will not work. If the prosecution can prove its case and you have no defence in law, the court must convict you. It is important you understand what the defences are to the charge you are facing.
Pleading not guilty simply because you don’t want the points or the ban is not a good idea.
The court’s powers
A lawyer should ensure you understand the maximum and minimum sentence that the court can impose for the offence you are facing. These are set out in law and cannot be changed.
For example, speeding carries a mandatory minimum of 3 points and a fine. Therefore, you cannot ask the court to give you a fine but no points. The court has no power to do this.
Preparation and procedure
A successful court hearing depends on careful preparation. It needs someone with an understanding of the Criminal Procedure Rules and court procedures.
The prosecution is there to bring the case and will not routinely try to assist defendants. If you are served with a witness statement that you dispute, it will be up to you to make this known to the court and prosecution within the timeframe. Otherwise, you will not be able to challenge the evidence at a later date. This may be fatal to your case.
A good driving offence lawyer will ensure that mistakes are not made and guide you through the process.
Giving you confidence at court
The value of this should not be underestimated. Many professionals who are seasoned public speakers find it difficult to express themselves in a courtroom. It is an unfamiliar environment where the terminology used does make a difference. Having someone who knows the procedure and what is and is not important, can significantly reduce the stress on you.
A solicitor should let you know what to expect and guide you through each step. You won’t need to worry about doing anything to upset the court or what the correct etiquette is.
Having a solicitor does not make you look guilty
This is a myth. Solicitors show you are taking your case seriously. The fact that you are represented will almost always have a positive impact on your case.
Choose a specialist
Lawyers are not all the same. It’s now quite rare for solicitors to be general practitioners. Almost all have expertise in a particular field. Some lawyers see clients but never actually attend court. Others may be experts at family law or conveyancing, but have no experience in the criminal courts.
For this reason, it’s important that you choose your solicitor wisely. A solicitor who specialises in driving offences should have the majority of answers to your legal questions already in their heads. Any questions they can’t answer immediately will be at their fingertips.
It’s not just about getting correct legal advice. It’s also about having a solicitor who is an experienced advocate and is familiar with the court procedures. Only with this experience can you be sure you will get the best outcome. Often, a decision can be made for tactical reasons and we can advise you when this may be appropriate.
Solicitors charge may charge vastly different amounts. There is no harm in shopping around but it is dangerous to choose a lawyer just because they are the cheapest.
There can be an element of ‘you get what you pay for’ but this isn’t the main factor to consider. Find someone whose ability you have confidence in and that you feel comfortable with.