Road traffic offences are the most frequently prosecuted offences in the District Court.
If you are charged with any road traffic offence, we can often help you to avoid penalty points and a fine. In more serious cases a custodial sentence may be avoided.
The most common driving offences we come across are:
1. Driving Without a Licence
A person cannot drive or allow another to drive his/her mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place without the driver holding a valid driving licence. A person includes a limited liability company.
There are certain facts that must be proven in order to secure a prosecution:
- It must be established that the person was driving at the relevant time i.e. had control over the vehicle at the relevant time.
- A mechanically propelled vehicle is a vehicle intended or adapted for propulsion by mechanical (including electrical or partly electrical) means, including a bicycle or tricycle with an attachment for propelling it by mechanical power, whether or not the attachment is being used.
- A public place is any public road, street or other place to which the public have access with vehicles whether as of right or by permission and whether subject to a charge or free of charge.
The best defence is obviously the production of a valid driving licence or driving permit covering you for driving on the date in question. It might appear to be a straight forward matter: either a licence covers a driver or it doesn't. However, there may be further factors which need to be considered such as - Was the driver using an international driving permit? How long was the driver in the country? Was the driver disqualified from driving at the relevant time but was unaware of this fact? Each case is different and if you find yourself in this situation, you should contact us as soon as possible for advice.
The penalties for this offence are a maximum fine of €1,000 if your licence had expired for a period of less than 12 months. In any other case the maximum fine is €2,500. If you were disqualified from driving at the time of the offence the maximum fine that may be imposed is €5,000 together with a maximum custodial sentence of 6 months.
2. Driving Without Insurance
The offence of 'using' a mechanically propelled vehicle without a valid insurance certificate is one of the most frequently prosecuted offences in the District Court.
It is also an offence to allow somebody else use your vehicle when they are not insured to drive. In such circumstances, not only is the driver liable to be prosecuted but also the owner of the vehicle for giving consent to a third party.
It is important to note that, once a member of An Garda Siochana has made a lawful demand for you to produce a certificate of insurance, the onus is then on you to prove that you were insured. Failure to do so will result in a conviction being recorded against you.
To show that you were insured, you must produce a valid certificate of insurance that covers you for use of the vehicle on the day you were stopped. The prosecution, and more importantly the Judge, will not accept any other documentary evidence such as your insurance disc or even a letter from your insurance company. You must produce the original certificate of insurance.
Other than by producing a valid certificate of insurance there are a few defences that may be available to you and this is why you should contact us to discuss your options. For example, it may be a defence to show that the vehicle was being used without your consent or that you were an employee using the vehicle on the express orders of your employer.
The penalties for a no insurance conviction are as follows:
- A maximum fine of €5,000
- A maximum custodial sentence of 6 months
- A disqualification from driving (2 years on a first conviction and potentially longer for more than one previous conviction)
- 5 penalty points (these are mandatory following conviction)
3. Dangerous Driving, Careless Driving and Driving Without Reasonable Consideration
Dangerous driving, careless driving and driving without reasonable consideration all vary in degrees of seriousness. They all carry potential disqualifications although dangerous driving is the only one that carries a mandatory disqualification. The court has discretion with regard to careless driving and there is no ‘consequential’ disqualification for driving without reasonable consideration although, as with all road traffic offences, the court may impose a disqualification in certain circumstances.
The penalties for these offences vary and range as follows:
- Dangerous Driving – a maximum fine of €5,000, a maximum custodial sentence of 6 months
- Driving Without Reasonable Consideration – a maximum fine of €1,000
- If death or serious injury results from the offence, the case may be tried in the Circuit Court where the penalties consist of a fine not greater than €20,000 and a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
If you are charged, or think you may be charged, with any of these offences you should seek immediate legal advice. Contact us.
4. Drunk Driving and Drug Driving
'Intoxicant Offences' are among the most contested offences in the District Court. Once a conviction has been recorded there is an automatic disqualification from driving regardless of whether or not a guilty plea was entered.
The proofs required for this offence are notoriously technical and the relevant legislation is constantly changing and being updated. For this reason, it is essential that you seek advice in particular, for these types of offences. Contact us today.
The maximum fine for these offences is €5,000 and there is a maximum custodial sentence of 6 months.
5. Fixed Charge and Penalty Point Offences
A list of the most common road traffic offences was compiled with the intention of freeing up court time by providing a mechanism for people to effectively, ‘plead guilty’ to an offence without the necessity of going to court. This list is constantly reviewed and additional offences being added.
You can view this list here, along with the penalty points and fixed charge imposed. The most common offences are, driving above the speed limit and holding a mobile phone while driving.
Once an offence has been detected by Gardaí or an automated speed detector, a fixed charge notice will issue to the registered owner of the vehicle. You are allowed 28 days to pay a fixed charged fine or, if you were not the driver, you must nominate the person who was driving the vehicle at the relevant time. A typical fine for these offences is €80. Penalty points will also be imposed.
If payment is not made within the period of 28 days the fine increases as does the time period to make payment. If payment still hasn’t been made within the expiry period, a summons will issue and the matter will be dealt with in the District Court.
A defence arises to these offences when an accused gives evidence in court that they did not receive the fixed charge notice. You should contact us if you did not receive the fixed charge notice.
It is worth noting that District Court Judges have no discretion with regard to the imposition of penalty points. Once a conviction is recorded, the penalty points are automatically applied to your licence and a Judge has no jurisdiction to make an order for them not be imposed.
Restoration of driving licence
If you have been disqualified from driving you can, in certain circumstances, make an application to the District Court to have your licence 'restored' without the necessity of completing the full period of your disqualification.
You may only apply for your licence to be restored if it was your first disqualification from driving within the last 10 years. If it is your second disqualification within the last 10 years, it may still be possible to have your licence restored but only if you were not disqualified for a period greater than 2 years. If you were disqualified for 3 years, you cannot make an application for restoration.
You can only apply for your licence to be restored once you have completed half of the disqualification period. Your licence can only be actually restored once you have completed two thirds of the disqualification period. If you would like to make an application to have your driving licence restored, contact us.
Seeking advice quickly is essential in any of the above instances. Talk to us.