Driving Bans & Disqualification Explained
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There are three types of driving disqualification. Whether you can avoid a ban will depend on the type of offence and your circumstances. It will also depend on the strength of the mitigation you can provide the court.
You may want to look at the relevant webpage for the particular offence you are facing.
Sometimes driving bans can be used to your advantage.
For example, if you are a new driver and penalty points would result in the revocation of your licence. Unlike penalty points, a ban will not cause your licence to be revoked.
Types of Driving Disqualifications
Totting up Ban
A totting disqualification is a special type of ban, only appropriate for the ‘totting up’ of points. A person who accumulates 12 penalty points or more within a three year period must be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of six months. The exception is if you can demonstrate that this would cause exceptional hardship.
Some motoring offences such as drink driving carry mandatory driving bans upon conviction. These offences require the court to impose a period of disqualification, even if they are sympathetic with your position. Most offences that carry an obligatory ban require you to be disqualified for a minimum of 12 months.
Most low-level motoring offences carry penalty points. However, the court also has the discretion to impose a period of disqualification if it sees fit.
A discretionary driving disqualification is an alternative to penalty points, rather than in addition to them. For instance, high-level speeding offences or going through a red traffic light a long time after it changed to red may result in a discretionary ban.
Avoiding a ban
It is possible to plead guilty to a motoring offence and avoid a ban or points.
Most people know that if you successfully defend a motoring offence, you:
- Will avoid a penalty ie. you will not receive penalty points, disqualification or a financial penalty.
- May be able to apply for reimbursement of some of your legal fees.
Also have a look at our driving disqualification FAQs below.
Driving Ban FAQs
Which offences carry discretionary disqualification?
High-level speeding offences may result in a discretionary ban.
However, the court may impose a discretionary ban for most driving offences.
Section 34 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 provides that where a person is convicted of an offence involving discretionary disqualification, and either—
(a) the penalty points to be taken into account on that occasion number fewer than 12, or
(b) the offence is not one involving obligatory endorsement,
the court may order him to be disqualified for such period as the court thinks fit.
This effectively means that all offences which usually carry penalty points can theoretically carry a discretionary driving ban. If the court thinks it is so serious that the usual penalty points would not be appropriate, it can exercise its discretion and impose a disqualification.
There is no maximum period of disqualification. Theoretically, the minimum period is one day, but it would be unusual for a court to impose a period shorter than 7 days.
For example, it is possible to receive a disqualification for driving through a red traffic light. This would usually only be considered where the vehicle passed through the red light more than a couple of seconds after the lights changed. Ordinarily, the penalty would be 3 points and a fine.
Which offences result in obligatory disqualification?
Some of the more serious offences carry obligatory disqualification. These include:
Failing to provide a specimen for analysis when driving or attempting to drive
Causing death by driving (this includes various offences)
Motor racing or speed trials
Using a vehicle in a dangerous condition (if a similar offence has been committed within the previous 3 years)
The minimum period of disqualification for some offences is 12 months.
For certain offences such as causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving, the minimum period is 2 years. Certain offences require the driver to pass an extended driving re-test before they can be granted a full driving licence.
How does Exceptional hardship avoid a ban?
Accumulating 12 points or more is commonly known as ‘totting up’. There is more information on our exceptional hardship page.
A driving ban as a result of reaching twelve or more points is supposed to cost money, and cause inconvenience. After all, it is meant to be a punishment. Therefore the court will only find exceptional hardship when the consequences are something ‘out of the ordinary’.
Loss of a job is not usually enough in itself, but the consequences of losing your livelihood and the roof over your head may be a different matter.
Exceptional hardship does not need to be financial. It can exist if there will be a substantial impact on mental health or if it impacts in other ways. Courts are obliged to take into account the impact on others and should have more sympathy when there is to be an impact on innocent third parties.
How do special reasons avoid a ban?
A special reason Is not a defence. To put it simply, it is similar to saying “I am guilty, but there is such a good reason for me committing this offence, that the court ought to take account of it when sentencing.”
It is a high threshold to meet, and it is rarely enough just to say that you did not know you were committing an offence. Whether circumstances will amount to special reasons will depend partially on what is alleged. The more serious the allegation, the more persuasive the special reason must be to succeed.
If the court does find special reasons, it then has the discretion to move away from the usual mandatory penalty. The penalties available to the court will depend upon the offence.
Most frequently, special reasons are used in cases involving driving without insurance, drink-driving and speeding, but they can be used with many driving offences.
The leading case of R V Wickens 1958 lists criteria for circumstances to amount to a special reason:
To amount to a special reason, a matter must:
- be a mitigating or extenuating circumstance;
- not amount to a defence to the charge;
- be directly connected with the commission of the offence; and
- be one which the Court ought properly to take into consideration when imposing sentence.
For more information, please get in touch.
Can I ask for a bigger fine to avoid a ban?
The law provides that points are mandatory for many offences upon conviction.
There’s no provision enabling the court to order you to pay a greater fine to avoid points. However, where the number of points imposed may vary, with careful mitigation, it may be possible to persuade the court to stick to the lower end of the penalty points scale and impose a larger fine.
Can I appeal a driving ban?
If you want to appeal a decision of the Magistrates’ Court, this will be done in the Crown Court.
The notice of appeal must be lodged with the Magistrates’ Court that made the original decision. Although you effectively get a new hearing of your case, the Crown Court is slow to interfere with Magistrates’ decisions unless they are wrong.
If you are unsuccessful, the court can order you to pay costs. For this reason, you must seek advice well before the appeal hearing. You can choose to abandon your appeal if the advice is not favourable. Provided you do this in plenty of time before the hearing date, it is unlikely the court will order costs.
If you have been banned from driving, the disqualification will not be lifted automatically when you lodge your appeal. You will usually need to make a separate application to the Magistrates’ Court.
It is best to submit your appeal notice at court immediately after the court has made its decision. As soon as you have done this, you can ask the court to lift the ban pending your appeal. If you do not do this immediately, it can take weeks or even longer before the court will hear your application. It is therefore advisable to do this on the same day as the original decision.
Please be aware that there is a 21-day deadline for appealing to the Crown Court from the Magistrates’ Court, so you need to take advice as soon as possible. Downloadable court forms can be found here. Please be aware that appeals to the Crown Court must be sent to the Magistrates’ Court and the prosecuting authority involved.
See more about appeals here.
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