Driving Offences in the Criminal Courts

Driving offences are dealt with in the criminal courts. There are two types of criminal courts that deal with these cases in the first instance. 


Magistrates’ Courts


Crown Courts


All offences begin in this court, no matter how serious they are.

The more serious offences are sent to the Crown Court from the Magistrates’ Court.

Which court deals with driving offences?

Summary Only

The Magistrates’ Court deals with Summary Only offences from start to finish. This includes most driving offences such as speeding, drink driving, using a mobile phone while driving and careless driving.

Either Way

Some offences such as dangerous driving or causing serious injury by dangerous driving are known as Either Way. This means they can be dealt with by either the Magistrates’ or the Crown Court.

Indictable Only

The Magistrates’ Court cannot deal with serious cases such as causing death by dangerous driving so will have to send these to the crown court. These are known as Indictable Only offences.

Serious Offences

Either way or Indictable Only Driving offences that may be dealt with in the Crown Court include dangerous driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving or causing death by careless or dangerous driving.

Less Serious Offences

Summary only offences can only be dealt with by the Crown Court if you are appealing a conviction or sentence imposed by the Magistrates’ Court.

You cannot choose to have a summary only driving offence dealt with in the Crown Court.

Who hears the case? 

Magistrates’ court cases are decided by:

  • A single magistrate (in Single Justice Procedure matters) or, in other cases,
  • two or three magistrates, or
  • a district judge or deputy district judge.

There is no jury in a magistrates’ court. Your guilt and sentence will often be decided by the same magistrates or judge.

In the Crown Court, if you do not plead guilty and have a trial, your case will usually be heard by a judge and a jury of 12 lay people.

The Jury decides on the facts after hearing the evidence.

The Judge directs the Jury on how to apply the law. The jury then decides on the verdict ie. guilty or not guilty.

If you are found guilty, the Judge will decide on the sentence.

Court Powers

Magistrates’ Courts cannot send you to prison for most driving offences such as speeding, careless driving or failing to provide driver details. With many driving offences, the worst outcome is that you are disqualified from driving. This can still be catastrophic for many people.

However, Magistrates’ Courts have the power to send you to prison for certain driving offences. This includes offences such as drug or drink driving, failing to provide a specimen for analysis, failing to stop or report after an accident and dangerous driving.


Unless you are appealing a decision from the Magistrates’ Court, if your case is heard in the Crown Court, you are at risk of custody. 

We strongly advise against anyone attempting to represent themselves in the Crown Court.

“If you are worried about going to the Magistrates Court or Crown Court, get in touch. We have experienced lawyers who can help you to get the best result.”

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