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If arrested and taken to the police station, the police can detain you for 24 hours before they have to decide whether to charge, release you under police bail to return at a later date for further questioning, or release you without charge under investigation or with confirmation there will be no further action.

Whether or not you will be detained will be dependent on the circumstances. If drugs or alcohol are involved you may be detained in the police station until considered sober.
If the police feel they have sufficient evidence to charge you with an offence, you will be charged when at the police station.

If you have been released under investigation you will have been released from custody without charge. However, the police investigation will continue and there are many contributing factors that determine how long a police investigation will take. If you are being investigated for a serious offence that involves serious injury or a fatality and the charge is one that is suitable for the Crown Court (also known as an “either way” or “indictable only” offence) there is no fixed time limit on an investigation before charges can be brought against you.

For summary only cases (cases that can be heard only in the Magistrates’ Court such as drink driving, drug driving, careless driving), there is a strict 6 month time limit for a Prosecution to be brought.

In many more serious cases, the police will liaise with the Crown Prosecution Service and will likely pursue lines of forensic investigation such as accident reconstruction, forensic vehicle damage assessment, cell site analysis in the event that any mobile phone/other device is recovered from your vehicle, review of CCTV and ANPR footage, telematics analysis, and in fatal cases, a post-mortem examination of the deceased. They may also obtain witness evidence and make an appeal for witnesses to come forwards. These investigations clearly take considerable time and in cases at the more serious end of the scale it could be over a year before a charging decision is made or communicated to you. During this time, it is highly likely that interview arrangements will take place if further evidence is obtained. In our view, what happens at interview stage can make a significant difference to the further charges brought and so we urge anyone at this early stage to get in touch.

Once the investigation is concluded by police you will either:

  • Receive a letter stating that no further action will be taken;
  • Receive a postal requisition confirming what you have been charged with and bailing you to attend the magistrates’ court; or
  • Be invited back into the police station for a formal charge to be laid by the police in person.

This will be dependent on the type and severity of the alleged offence.

The Police will be seeking to obtain any evidence that incriminates you and proves the particulars of the charge against you.  For example:

  • Eye witness testimonies
  • CCTV/ANPR from the alleged scene or surrounding areas
  • Dashcam footage
  • Telematics-evidence from your sat nav, black box or even airbags.
  • Admissions by way of interview
  • Forensic blood or DNA testing
  • Expert evidence based on road markings, vehicle damage, road layout and signage e.g. road collision investigator expert
  • Vehicle damage (AI damage calculations)
  • Mobile phone data

Whilst pre-charge it is too early to insist on disclosure of the police/prosecution evidence, we are often able to secure and review some of this evidence and, of course, we can also make a start on preparing our own.

Our proactive approach is key to laying the correct foundations for the further strategy involved in attending interview and potentially defending an allegation.

A voluntary interview is a police station interview where the volunteer attends to assist the police with an investigation, but when the interviewee are NOT under arrest. Volunteers have the right to access independent legal advice and are free to leave the police station at any time unless and until they are arrested.

If attendance is refused, then there is a risk that the police will arrest you in order to conduct the interview and so describing the process as being voluntary is somewhat a case of semantics as if you do not co-operate on a voluntary basis, the police can  force your attendance.

During the investigation stage, it is commonplace for the Police to contact you to ask you to attend the Police Station to conduct a formal Police interview under caution. This means that the responses you make to the questions put to you can be used in evidence in a later prosecution. All suspects have a right to remain silent and not answer questions but there can be negative consequences of failing to mention matters you may want to use in your defence at a later date.

Instead of an interview at a police station, a Police Officer may attend your home address or place of work to conduct a voluntary interview under caution. One of the main reasons that the Police would wish to interview you is when they are hoping you will provide them with key evidence that they may not have. In other words, a confession.

How you conduct yourself in the interview and whether you provide an account or say ‘no comment’ can make the difference between a charge or no charge or a guilty or not guilty verdict at trial! However, there are pros and cons of making “no comment” especially if the police choose to put an account to you in interview to which you can offer an explanation, alibi or contrary information. If you fail to mention something when questioned that you later wish to rely on in court in your defence, an adverse inference can be drawn from this. In other words, if you do not mention your explanation that you try to raise later on in your court case, the court can decide your later explanation is not truthful/reliable.

It is fundamentally important that you have expert legal representation at interview so that we can properly assess the strength of the evidence and advise you of the options available. We recommend that you do not agree to be interviewed outside of a police station as the audio recording of the interview can be essential to the defence case.

Careless driving is when the standard of driving falls below an acceptable standard of a competent and careful driver ( this can involve very minor incidents such as clipping someone’s wing mirror to other momentary lapses of attention that affect the standard of driving) , whereas dangerous driving is when the standard of driving falls far below that standard ( often involving excessive and prolonged incidents) and carries a heavier penalty.

We find that the charge of dangerous driving is often overly used when in fact, the charge should be for the lower level careless driving. This offers a potential “plea bargain” opportunity whereby we can suggest that the prosecution for dangerous driving be reduced to this lesser charge of careless driving.

Speeding and Dangerous Driving are two separate offences. A speeding offence does not necessarily mean that a Dangerous Driving offence can be proven.

The sentencing guidelines for a typical speeding offence outlines various sentences the Court can impose.   This can vary between fixed penalty points and low level fines to disqualification and a medium level fine.

Dangerous Driving is when:

The way a defendant drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and that it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

The sentencing guidelines for this offence carries significantly harsher sentences than a typical speeding offence.  They range from a high level fine to up-to two years imprisonment with a mandatory 12 months disqualification with extended retest.

The Court, if deciding whether excessive speeding can equate to dangerous driving will look at the circumstances surrounding the speeding as well as the speeding itself.  For example, the weather conditions, the manner of driving and the presence of harm to pedestrians or other road users.

Ultimately, this will depend on the circumstances of each case.

The Crown Prosecution Service can request that the Judge make specific bail conditions and the Defence will have an opportunity during the hearing to oppose any conditions. However, this is ultimately for the Judge to decide.

Potential bail conditions include:

  • An interim disqualification from driving (especially if there is a suggestion that a collision has been caused by a medical condition)
  • To reside (live and sleep) at a certain address
  • Not to enter a particular area or not to go to a specific address/street
  • To report to a local police station
  • To abide by an electronically monitored curfew at a particular address – known as being on ‘tag’ (each day on a qualifying electronic curfew is considered half a day served in custody should a prison sentence be passed at the conclusion of proceedings)
  • Not to contact directly or indirectly any prosecution witnesses or the complainant
  • Not to have unsupervised contact with a child/minor
  • To surrender a passport/travel document and not to apply for any further travel documentation
  • To provide a sum of money as a security
  • To put forward a sum of money as a surety

A decision to impose bail conditions will likely also take into account the defendant’s prior record and conduct during the investigation stage.

After the first court appearance, unfortunately, there is no way of predicting exactly how long you will be required to wait for your final court date. So much depends on the court’s existing case load and the time required by the Crown and defence to fully prepare your for trial. For Crown Court cases it is not unusual for cases to last between 12 and 18 months*

*COVID-19 UPDATE as at 04 July 2020 there were a reported 1/2million cases in a backlog. This will only add to the length of cases being heard.

Certain types of offences (known as summary offences), can only be tried in the Magistrates’ court, but the more serious ‘either-way’ offences can be tried either in the Magistrates’ Court or in the Crown Court. The most serious ‘indictable only’ offences can only be tried in the Crown Court.

For defendants facing either-way offences, the magistrates/District Judge will send the case for trial to the Crown Court where they consider it is too serious to stay in the Magistrates’ Court; in such a situation the defendant will have a trial in the Crown Court before a jury whether they like it or not.

Sometimes the Magistrates will accept that they can try the offence and in this situation it is up to the defendant whether they want to stay in the Magistrates’ Court or elect for their case to be heard in the Crown Court.

Our experience is that in some cases you may be better to have a Jury trial or sentence in the Crown Court but this will be discussed with you if you are unsure about what is best for you.

A defendant cannot be compelled to give evidence in Court.  However, it may be advisable that you do give evidence to benefit your case and put your explanation to the Court.  If we think your account will help you then of course it is advisable you take the opportunity to help your case. If, for any reason, we think you should maintain your right not to give evidence, we will advise you of the pros and cons.

There is a risk that if there is a court reporter lurking in the court your case is heard in, you could receive unwanted media attention. Restrictions cannot be requested from the court about press coverage unless there is an exceptional ground for making an application. In cases involving fatality or serious injury, that have already had press attention following an accident, it is much more likely the press will attend further hearings and report on the case.

While we cannot prevent press reporting we can advise about ways you can lessen and reputational damage and limit the information the press may try to obtain about you outside of the trial.

A jury is made up of 12 people. Jurors are picked out of a ‘pool’ of people from the community before a trial begins in the Crown Court.

The jury are responsible for deciding whether that person is guilty of the offence(s) for which they are on trial. They cannot convict unless they are sure of that person’s guilt.

If a unanimous decision cannot be reached by a jury, then the judge may decide a verdict can be based on a majority decision if the jury can reach an agreement.

When a jury are unable to agree on a verdict this is known as a hung jury.

When a hung jury has been discharged the usual practice is for the defendant to be tried again by a different jury.  The prosecution will usually be given 7 days to notify the court and the defence if they wish to proceed to trial for a second time. If a jury are unable to agree following a second trial, the convention is for the prosecution not to seek a third trial but to offer no evidence. It will only be in exceptional cases that a third trial would be pursued.

All criminal cases begin in the Magistrates’ Court. As the Magistrates’ Court has limited sentencing powers, your case will be adjourned and relisted in the Crown Court.

If you plead guilty to a fatal motoring offence, while its possible for a sentence to be imposed immediately,  the Crown Court Judge will, in most cases, adjourn for a sentencing hearing to allow for a Pre-Sentence Report to be compiled by the National Probation Service.  Bail conditions are likely to be imposed if the matter is adjourned and if you are released on bail. These can involve curfews, restrictions on travel and interim disqualification.

Following the completion of any pre sentence report it will be submitted to the Judge to consider prior to passing the sentence.  This will be available to your representatives and also the Crown Prosecution Service.

As solicitors our job is to advise and thoroughly prepare mitigation that will assist you and secure the best penalty possible. It may be that if there are medical/psychological issues an independent expert can help to present to the Judge with considerations for sentence.

At the sentencing hearing your Barrister will make submissions to the Judge prior to the sentence being passed, informing the Court of any mitigating circumstances.

In some cases, we may suggest that you prepare a letter for the Judge and for the victim’s family.

The family of the deceased are often also invited to write letters for the Judge to take into account.

The Judge will pass sentence detailing the reasons for their decision.  Depending on when a guilty plea is entered, the Judge can award “credit” for an early guilty plea.

The potential sentences available to the Court to pass are:

  • Death by Dangerous Driving: Up to a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment, minimum two-year disqualification from driving with a compulsory extended re-test
  • Death by Careless Driving: Penalty ranging from a community order to up to five years’ imprisonment, minimum 12-month disqualification from driving with a discretionary extended re-test
  • Causing Death by Careless Driving when under the influence of drink or drugs: The maximum penalty the Crown Court can impose is a custodial sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment.  The court will also impose a minimum disqualification of 2 years and an extended retest would need to be completed before you can drive again.

The length of sentence is very much dependant on the facts, and we will advise you about issues that impact the likely length of sentence in your own case.

If your case involves a fatality or serious injury there is a higher risk of a custodial sentence, but sentence is very much fact dependant. If we think you are at a high risk of prison, we will prepare thorough mitigation and fight as hard as we can to persuade the court to impose an alternative.

When disqualified as a driver, the court can order you to re-sit your theory test and take an extended practical driving test before getting your full licence.

The practical driving test is longer and more demanding than the normal learner driving test. The test lasts for about 70 minutes and covers a wide variety of roads.

Many candidates have found it beneficial to take some driving instruction in advance of the test.

Perverting the course of justice is a serious criminal offence that can only be dealt with at the Crown Court. The offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, but shorter prison sentences can be and are often preferred by the courts.

Mitigation is essential in any case where you are at risk of a custodial sentence as you must provide a judge with the justification needed to sentence you appropriately.

Strong and thorough mitigation can make the difference between a suspended sentence and a lengthy period in prison. Instructing expert legal representation to prepare mitigation work is the best step you can take to ensure you have the best chance of obtaining a shorter sentence in your case.

Unfortunately, we do not offer legal aid. Please see our funding page for more information on criteria to be met to become eligible for legal aid and alternate ways to fund your case.

It is advisable to check the terms of your employment contract. It may be a condition of your employment that you notify your employer of any pending prosecutions, charges or convictions received during your employment. Failure to notify your employer may be considered a matter of gross misconduct and you could find yourself subject to disciplinary proceedings.

If you are subject to periodical standard or enhanced DBS checks, it is advisable to disclose the conviction to your employer as soon as possible rather than wait for your next DBS check to disclose it for you.

It is possible for non-conviction information to appear on your DBS certificate.  However, the police must “reasonably believe” this information to be relevant in order to disclose it.

Furthermore, the Police must also take into consideration the impact on you should this information be disclosed and whether or not you should be given an opportunity to comment on the information.

There should be no presumption regarding the information and this should be assessed on its own merits as to whether it should be included or excluded from the DBS certificate.

Within the terms of most insurance policies, there will be exclusions and limitations. In this section, you can find the various scenarios where your insurance will be limited, or even excluded. The list of exclusions and limitations can include:

  • Injury resulting from you driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs to a level which would be an offence in the country where the accident occurs;
  • Injury caused by failure to wear a seatbelt unless exempt on medical grounds;
  • Any deliberate attempt to put lives in danger; or
  • If the car was not taxed or roadworthy (valid MOT, correct tyres, lights, brakes, windows).

If an exclusion clause applies, your insurance will pay out to third parties for damage and injury, but they will not cover your own losses and may seek reimbursement from you for any money paid to third parties.

Being charged with an offence is not the same as being convicted of one and so it may be the insurer will pay out if you are found not guilty. We will assist you in reviewing your policy if we are instructed so we can advise you specifically.

Magistrates’ Court

The Court can award costs that are reasonable and proportionate if you are acquitted or the Crown Prosecution Service withdraws the case.

An application is made to the Court to consider whether legal fees can be recovered. If the defendant’s costs order (DCO) is granted in your favour then we submit our bill to the National Taxing Team for them to assess.

The granting of a DCO is an order for our bill of costs to be taxed and paid from central funds.

A member of the National Taxing Team will then assess the file and the bill and pay an amount they consider to be fair and reasonable and limited to legal aid rates which are significantly below the rates we charge to you.

Crown Court

If you are charged with one or more serious offences, and  your case is dealt with in the Crown Court, it is unlikely you will be entitled to recover any costs even if acquitted (found Not Guilty),  as costs are only available to a defendant who has applied for legal aid and been found to be financially ineligible to receive it.

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