For advice on any of these issues, contact:
John G. Murphy
Road traffic offences are the most frequently prosecuted offences in the District Court.
If you are charged with any road traffic offence in Wexford or throughout Ireland, it may be possible to avoid penalty points and a fine. In more serious cases a custodial sentence may be avoided. The important course of action is to engage with us early in the process.
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 €2,000. If you were disqualified from driving at the time of the offence the maximum fine that may be imposed is €6,000 together with a maximum custodial sentence of 6 months.
A person granted a first full driving licence on or after 1 August 2014 must display N-plates on their vehicle for a period of 2 years, and on any other vehicle which they are entitled to drive. Where the vehicle is a motorcycle, the rider must wear an N-tabard.
Non-display of N-plates is an offence and will incur a fine of up to €1,000 for a first offence. It will carry 2 penalty points on payment of a fixed charge or 4 on conviction.
There is no requirement for novice drivers to have an accompanying driver – this is still only the case for learner drivers. However, a novice driver may not act as an accompanying driver for someone who holds a learner permit.
A learner permit is issued to drivers who are learning to drive. Learner drivers must:
- Have passed a driver theory test
- Display L-plates front and rear
- Take the mandatory driving lessons from a qualified instructor
- Always be accompanied in the vehicle when driving by someone who hold a full driving licence for the category of vehicle you are driving for a continuous period of at least 2 years
A period of 6 months from when the learner permit was issued must have passed before a driving test can be taken.
A first and second learner permit lasts for 2 years each time. A third and subsequent permit lasts for one year. If you are applying for a third or subsequent learner permit you must provide confirmation that you have applied for a driving test or that you have failed a driving test in the last two years.
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 Garda 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 some 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.
Driving Without Reasonable Consideration
If a Garda believes that you have driven carelessly, but no accident resulted, the Garda can issue you with 2 penalty points and an €80 fixed charge for “driving without reasonable consideration”. This rises to 4 points and €120 in court. 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.
If the offence is more serious, you could be convicted of careless driving and fined up to €5000. If you are convicted of careless driving causing death or serious bodily harm, you could be fined up to €10,000 and imprisoned for up to 2 years, or both.
It is an offence to drive dangerously in a public place. If you are convicted of dangerous driving, you could be fined up to €5,000, or be sent to prison for up to 6 months, or both. If you are convicted of dangerous driving causing death or serious bodily harm, you could be fined up to €20,000 and imprisoned for up to 10 years, or both.
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. An intoxicant can be either alcohol, drugs or both.
Legislation came into effect in October 2018 that automatically disqualifies any motorist who is found over the blood alcohol level of 50mg. The limit is lower for learner drivers and professional drivers, at a blood alcohol level of 20mg. A driver who is stopped at a Garda checkpoint and found to be over these limits will face an automatic driving ban for 3 months and a fine of €200. The driving ban can increase up to 6 years and the fine up to €5,000 in certain circumstances. A judge can also impose a prison sentence of up to 6 months.
On 13 April 2017, the drug driving provisions of the Road Traffic Act 2016 came into effect. These give Gardaí the power to conduct preliminary drug tests at the roadside or in Garda stations. Drug testing devices test saliva for cannabis, cocaine, opiates (for example, heroin and morphine) and benzodiazepines (for example, valium). It is an offence to refuse to provide a saliva sample. Gardaí may also carry out an impairment test. In certain circumstances, you may be brought to a Garda station for a blood sample.
It is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs (including prescription drugs) if your driving is impaired to such an extent that you don’t have proper control of the vehicle. For certain drugs, cannabis, cocaine and heroin, it is illegal to drive if you are over the specified limit, even if your driving is not impaired.
The penalties for drug driving are the same as those for drink driving outlined above.
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, holding a mobile phone while driving and failure to display a valid NCT.
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
We can assist you with the early restoration of your driving licence if half your disqualification period is over. However, you cannot apply for an early restoration if:
- The disqualification is for 2 years or less
- The disqualification is not your first disqualification order within the previous 10 years
The court can reduce the period of disqualification to two-thirds of the original period of disqualification or to 2 years, whichever is the greater. When a court is considering an application for the restoration of a driving licence it will look at the nature of the offence, the character of the applicant and the conduct of the applicant after conviction.
Seeking advice quickly is essential in any of the above instances. Talk to us.
Read our road traffic legislation blog.