Driving Bans & Penalty Points and How to Avoid Them


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:

  1. Will avoid a penalty ie. you will not receive penalty points, disqualification or a financial penalty.
  2. May be able to apply for reimbursement of some of your legal fees.

However, few people are aware of the other ways which you can legitimately use to avoid a ban or penalty points.

Some motoring offences such as drink driving carry mandatory driving bans or penalty points upon conviction. These offences require the court to impose penalty points for a period of disqualification, even if they are sympathetic with your position.


Exceptional Hardship used by those accumulating 12 or more points on their licence within three years to prevent the usual mandatory disqualification. You cannot use exceptional hardship to avoid a ban for offences which carry a mandatory disqualification themselves, such as drink driving, dangerous driving or drug driving.

Special Reasons – can be used with most motoring offences to avoid penalty points or a ban. There is no exhaustive list of special reasons, but examples can be found in previous court decisions. The likely success of a special reasons argument will depend on the facts of the case and the nature of the offence.

Discretionary Ban often used by new drivers facing the revocation of their licence as a result of reaching six or more points within the first two years of passing their test. Can sometimes be used by those wishing to avoid totting up ban which is usually longer than a discretionary ban.

If you are considering any of the above, get advice from us today.


For many drivers facing a driving offence or motoring allegation, the threat of receiving penalty points is far worse than any financial penalty they will face. It means:

  1. they’re a step closer to disqualification,
  2. an increase in their insurance premiums.

Whether you’re likely to receive penalty points will depend on the driving offence and of course whether or not you have a good defence or special reasons argument.

The minimum and maximum penalties for a given driving offence are set out in legislation.

The Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines assist courts in deciding what penalty to impose.

The Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines deal with the most common road traffic offences. These Guidelines are only for use in the Magistrates’ Court, not the Crown Court.

The court must have regard to these guidelines when sentencing, but are also bound to follow decisions of the higher courts, e.g. the Court of Appeal & the Supreme Court.


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. This disqualification is an alternative to penalty points, rather than in addition to it.


Ordinarily, a disqualification is seen as a more severe punishment than penalty points. However, there are occasions when a short period of disqualification is preferable to points. For example, if you are a new driver who is facing 6 points for driving without insurance, you may prefer a ban to avoid DVLA revoking your licence.

The decision to impose a ban rather than points is entirely at the court’s discretion; it is not your choice. You must put forward an argument to convince the court that it should exercise its discretion. You are effectively asking the court to go against the new driver legislation, so you must prepare your argument carefully.


A discretionary disqualification may be used is to avoid a ‘totting up’ ban. The courts may be more reluctant to impose a discretionary ban in these circumstances, but we have been able to persuade them on multiple occasions.


Which offences carry discretionary qualification?

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 carry obligatory qualification?

Some of the more serious offences carry obligatory disqualification. These include:

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 two 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 is 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.

Courts need a certain level of detail if they are to make a favourable decision. It is not advisable to attend court without documentary evidence of some sort. Courts are aware that no-one wants to lose their licence and can be sceptical if claims are not backed up somehow. We can advise you of the evidence that you need to take with you to satisfy the court of your argument. Please get in touch for initial advice on 0115 784 0382

How do special reasons avoid a driving 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:

  1. be a mitigating or extenuating circumstance;
  2. not amount to a defence to the charge;
  3. be directly connected with the commission of the offence; and
  4. be one which the Court ought properly to take into consideration when imposing sentence.

For more information, please see our page about special reasons

How do I appeal a driving ban?

If you want to appeal a decision of the Magistrates’ Court, this will be to 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.

Can I ask for a bigger fine to avoid penalty points or 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.

How long are penalty points valid for?

It depends what they are for, but as a general rule:

They are valid for the courts’ purposes ie. ‘totting up’ for 3 years from the date of the offence;
They are usually valid for insurance purposes for 5 years.
These time limits do not apply to certain offences such as drink driving & drunk in charge etc. See the section below on “when can I have my endorsements removed” for more detail.

How can I get endorsements removed from my licence?

It depends on whether the endorsement is penalty points or a driving ban:

(a) if you were disqualified,  (subject to (d) below),

you must wait four years from the date of conviction. In practice, this covers the majority of offences such as speeding, using a mobile phone etc. where points are imposed instead of disqualification;

(b) if you were not disqualified, you must wait until either:

four years have elapsed since the commission of the offence or, an order of disqualification under the totting up rules is made;

(c) if you were convicted of:

Causing death by dangerous driving or
Dangerous driving,
the endorsement must stay on your licence until four years have elapsed since the conviction; and

(d) if you were convicted of:

  • causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, or
  • driving or attempting to drive while unfit or
  • driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol, or
  • refusing to provide evidential specimens of breath, blood or urine while driving or attempting to drive or
  • failing to allow a specimen to be subjected to a laboratory test,

Then the endorsement will remain until 11 years have elapsed after the conviction. (The period of 11 years applies to any conviction for these offences even if a disqualification was not imposed for “special reasons”).

If you’re unsure about whether or not an endorsement is still ‘relevant’, get in touch and we’ll advise you.

Can I go on a driver awareness courses to avoid points?

The offer of a course is discretionary and usually, to be eligible you must meet the following criteria:

  • you admit to being the driver of the vehicle and this is received by the police within 42 days of the date of the offence;
  • you haven’t attended a Speed Awareness course for that type of offence (eg. careless driving, speeding, driving through a red light) within the last three years
  • If it is a speeding offence, the speed you were travelling at the time of the offence must fall within the acceptable speed range (Speed limit + 10% + 9mph). For example, in a 30 mph limit – you could attend a course up to 42mph inclusive.
  • If it is a red light offence, the time past the red lights must not exceed three seconds.
  • There are no specific criteria for careless driving, so your eligibility will depend on the nature of the offence and possibly the level of injury/damage caused. If you successfully complete the course, you will avoid penalty points. However, you should be aware that the offer of a course cannot currently be made by a court (although there is legislation pending which, if enacted will make this a possibility). Therefore if you want to accept the offer, you must do so promptly.

Unless you did not commit the offence, it’s almost always worth accepting such an offer as it will be cheaper and less stressful than defending an allegation in court.

How do I find out what an endorsement code on my driving licence is?

Below is the official list of codes for various types of driving offences. If you are convicted of an offence, the relevant code will show on the paper counterpart of your licence.

The tables below also show the penalty points which may be imposed for each offence. However, you should be aware that some of the offences carry discretionary or mandatory disqualification depending on the offence, the state of your licence, and the length of time you’ve been driving. Also, some of the most serious offences (such as dangerous driving, and offences which result in the death of another) carry possible imprisonment, so the table mustn’t be relied upon in isolation. This table is provided to provide a point of reference for those drivers who already have points on their licence, but are not certain what the codes relate to.


CodeOffencePenalty Points
AC10Failing to stop after an accident5-10
AC20Failing to give particulars or report an accident as soon as practicable and within 24 hours5-10
AC30Undefined accident offences4-9


CodeOffencePenalty Points
BA10Driving while disqualified6 (min)
BA30Attempting to drive while disqualified6 (min)
BA40Causing death by driving while disqualified3-11
BA60Causing serious injury by driving while disqualified3-11


CodeOffencePenalty Points
CD10Driving without due care and attention3-9
CD20Driving without reasonable consideration for other road users3-9
CD30Driving without due & attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users3-9
CD40Causing death through careless driving when unfit through drink3-11
CD50Causing death through careless driving when unfit through drugs3-11
CD60Causing death by careless driving with alcohol level about the limit3-11
CD70Causing death by careless driving then failing to supply a specimen for alcohol analysis3-11
CD80Causing death by careless, or inconsiderate driving3-11
CD90Causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers 


CodeOffencePenalty Points
CU10Using a vehicle with defective brakes3
CU20Causing or likely to cause danger by reason of the use of unsuitable vehicle or using a vehicle with parts or accessories (excluding brakes, steering or tyres) in a dangerous condition3
CU30Using a vehicle with defective tyre(s)3
CU40Using a vehicle with defective steering3
CU50Causing or likely to cause danger because of load or passengers3
CU80Breach of requirements as to control of the vehicle, eg. using a mobile phone or hand-held device whilst driving6


CodeOffencePenalty Points
DD10Causing serious injury by dangerous driving3-11
DD40Dangerous driving3-11
DD60Manslaughter or culpable homicide while driving a vehicle3-11
DD80Causing death by dangerous driving3-11
DD90Furious driving3-9


CodeOffencePenalty Points
DR10Driving or attempting to drive with alcohol level above limit3-11
DR20Driving or attempting to drive while unfit through drink3-11
DR30Driving or attempting to drive then failing to provide a specimen for analysis3-11
DR31Driving or attempting to drive then refusing to permit analysis of a blood sample that was taken without consent due to incapacity3-11
DR61Refusing to permit analysis of a blood sample that was taken without consent due to incapacity in circumstances other than driving or attempting to drive 
CodeOffencePenalty Points
DR40In charge of a vehicle while alcohol level above limit10
DR50In charge of a vehicle while unfit through drink10
DR60Failure to provide a specimen for analysis in circumstances other than driving or attempting to drive10
DR70Failing to provide a specimen for a breath test4


CodeOffencePenalty Points
DG10Driving or attempting to drive with drug level above the specified limit3-11
DG60Causing death by careless driving with drug level above the limit3-11
DR80Driving or attempting to drive when unfit through drugs3-11
DG40In charge of a vehicle while drug level above the specified limit10
DR90In charge of a vehicle when unfit through drugs 


CodeOffencePenalty Points
IN10Using an uninsured vehicle6-8


CodeOffencePenalty Points
LC20Driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence3-6
LC30Driving after making a false declaration about fitness when applying for a licence3-6
LC40Driving a vehicle having failed to notify a disability3-6
LC50Driving after a licence has been revoked or refused on medical grounds 


CodeOffencePenalty Points
MS10Leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position3
MS20Unlawful pillion riding3
MS30Play street offences2
MS50Motor racing on the highway3-11
MS60Offences not covered by other codes (including offences relating to a breach of requirements as to control of a vehicle)3
MS70Driving with uncorrected eyesight3
MS80Refusing to submit to an eye test3
MS90Failure to give information as to the identity of a driver 


CodeOffencePenalty Points
PC10Undefined contravention of pedestrian crossing regulations3
PC20Contravention of pedestrian crossing regulations with a moving vehicle3
PC30Contravention of pedestrian crossing regulations with a stationary vehicle3




CodeOffencePenalty Points
SP10Exceeding goods vehicle speed limits3-6
SP20Exceeding the speed limit for the type of vehicle (excluding goods or passenger vehicles)3-6
SP30Exceeding statutory speed limit on a public road3-6
SP40Exceeding passenger vehicle speed limit3-6
SP50Exceeding the speed limit on a motorway3-6


CodeOffencePenalty Points
TS10Failing to comply with traffic light signals3
TS20Failing to comply with double white lines3
TS30Failing to comply with a stop sign3
TS40Failing to comply with the direction of a constable/warden3
TS50Failing to comply with traffic sign (excluding stop signs, traffic lights or double white lines)3
TS60Failing to comply with a school crossing patrol sign3
TS70Undefined failure to comply with a traffic direction sign 


CodeOffencePenalty Points
TT99Reflects that the licence holder has reached 12 or more points within 3 years and has been disqualifiedn/a

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