Driving Whilst Disqualified
Driving whilst Disqualified (Section 103(1)(b), Road Traffic Act 1988)
This offence is committed in any circumstance where a person drives any motor vehicle during a period of disqualification imposed on them by a court. Disqualification takes effect immediately from the moment it is imposed by a court. Following a period of disqualification, it is necessary to apply to DVLA for the return of your driving licence. Subject to certain time limits an application can be made for removal of disqualification before the period of disqualification is due to end. It is also an offence to obtain a driving licence if you are disqualified. If a person does so the licence will not be valid, and they will face a separate prosecution for obtaining a driving licence whilst disqualified.
Disqualification is an order of the court and given that an order of the court has been breached, this offence is treated as a serious one. The maximum penalty is a fine of up to £5000- and 12-months imprisonment. Disqualification is discretionary but mostly inevitable. In exceptional circumstances, however, the court has the power to refrain from disqualification and can impose 6 penalty points.
The Prosecution Case
To secure a conviction the prosecution must lead sufficient evidence that the person accused of the offence was both: Driving a motor vehicle; and disqualified from driving at the time. In practice, the prosecution will lead evidence from two police officers who will give evidence about the identity of the driver and the driving that took place.
Defences and Mitigation
Unless you can prove that you were not in fact driving or were not the subject of a period of disqualification, defences are limited. However, a valid defence of necessity or duress is available should that apply to your particular case. Here, the defence is only available where the disqualified person is able to establish that they drove because of an immediate danger to themself or another person. Problems arise where people are unaware that they are disqualified. This may happen where a person has been disqualified in their absence; or been ordered to re-sit their test following a period of disqualification, or simply made a mistake about the dates of disqualification. It is not a defence that a person did not know that they were disqualified or that they made a genuine mistake. However, such an explanation may serve to reduce the penalty that the court imposes.
It may be possible to establish that there are special reasons for not disqualifying or even endorsing a licence with penalty points. Special reasons can be defined as mitigating circumstances that explain why the offence took place and which justify the court imposing a lighter sentence.
If you have been charged in relation to driving whilst disqualified within the Highlands and Islands, contact our office for advice on your options in defending this charge.