12 Points – What Exactly IS Totting Up?
Most people know that you are in trouble if you reach 12 points. To a lawyer, when you reach 12 points, you have totted up – or to use the common phrase, you’ve become a totter.
When it comes to your licence, points definitely do NOT make prizes.
Most motoring law offences bring with them penalty points. The minimum you will ever receive is 3 – usually for a low level speeding offence – but there is quite a range. The faster you speed, the more points your offence may be worth. Certain offences bring a guaranteed 6 points – No insurance, using your mobile whilst driving or failing to identify a driver when required all fall into this catergory. If you are convicted of drunk in charge or failing to provide a specimen when being investigated for drink or drug driving you face disqualification. Even if you are not disqualified, you will find a whole 10 points added to your licence.
Before things start getting too technical, there are 2 things you need to know:
- As far as the court is concerned, points disappear after 3 years. (your insurance company may well see things differently, but that’s for another blog.)
- Points go on your licence on the day of the offence, not the day of you conviction – so there is no point trying to delay a court case in the hope that some old points disappear before you are convicted.
So what exactly is the law when it comes to totting up?
It starts with the Act of Parliament that’s says:
Where a person is convicted of an offence and the penalty points to be taken into account on that occasion number twelve or more, the court must order him to be disqualified for not less than the minimum period unless the court is satisfied, having regard to all the circumstances, that there are grounds for mitigating the normal consequences of the conviction and thinks fit to order him to be disqualified for a shorter period or not to order him to be disqualified.
The first important word here is must, which is why I underlined it and made it bold. This is not a situation in which the Magistrates will think about disqualifying you if you’re unlucky. All things being equal, the Magistrates’ will disqualify you – for a minimum of 6 months.
Of course, there is that second important word – unless. There is one, and only one, way to avoid a disqualification. That is to prove that the disqualification will cause exceptional hardship.
Everyone knows that lawyers have specific definitions for everything right?
Wrong. There is no definition of exactly what ‘exceptional hardship’ actually means.
One thing is for certain, though. In recent years, the Magistrates have taken far more note of the need for the hardship to be ‘exceptional’ than used to be the case. It has become ever more difficult to persuade a court not to disqualify.
(This is the point where you’d expect me to say “so you best get yourself the help of a specialist motoring law barrister.” …and you’d be absolutely right – you best get the help of a specialist motoring law barrister.)
It’s actually easier to say what exceptional hardship isn’t. It isn’t ‘mere hardship’ and it isn’t ‘inconvenience.’
Many courts take the view that ‘merely’ losing your job is not enough to say that the hardship is exceptional.
If you are facing the prospect of hitting 12 points, you really do have to look at all aspects of your life to show that there will exceptional hardship – and the hardship must be unavoidable. If there is a way round the hardship, then by definition, it is not exceptional. You have to consider everyone else in your life, whether it be at home or work.
Most importantly, you have to be able to prove it. Giving evidence under oath is the very minimum you’ll have to go through, but don’t expect to be able to prove anything if you don’t have the documents to back it up.
Just one more thing to throw in the pot – your case may be the 17th the Magistrates have heard that day. Human Beings can only listen to so much information. Prove it, but prove it quickly.
It’s all quite tricky really, but it is crucial to get things right. Many clients that we see drive 40 or 50,000 miles a year (which, of course makes it easier to accumulate the points) and every day off the road can cost hundreds of pounds. Bear in mind that 6 months equates to 130 working days and it doesn’t take a specialist to realise that the cost of being a totter really can be astronomical.
If only there were some experienced professional who could help…