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Do I Need A Solicitor At My Court Hearing For A Motoring Offence?
Do I need a solicitor before my hearing date?
If you are accused of any motoring offence, you have to decide first whether you will plead guilty or not guilty. You should do this before your hearing takes place because the Magistrates Court normally will expect a plea to be entered then.
Making the correct decision about how you are going to plead is vital. If you plead guilty, it is very unlikely the court will let you later change your mind and plead not guilty instead. If you plead not guilty and then don't win your trial, you will be sentenced more harshly and have to pay more money to the court than if you had pleaded guilty at an early stage. A good specialist motoring solicitor will be able to look over the prosecution evidence before the hearing takes place and advise you on the best course of action.
Can a solicitor avoid me having to attend court?
After going over the prosecution evidence and taking your full instructions, your solicitor may find that you have a good defence. They can then write to the Crown Prosecution Service and ask for the allegation to be dropped, thereby potentially avoiding the need for a hearing. Such a letter should detail the nature of the defence and exactly why the prosecution would lose if the matter went to trial. The defence may be technical in nature. For example, you may have been speeding, but the speed camera may not have been appropriately used, or you may have been over the drink drive limit, but the police may not have followed the correct procedure at the police station.
Can a solicitor reduce my offence?
Suppose it is not possible to stop the case against you altogether. In that case, your solicitor may be able to have the original allegation changed to a less serious offence in return for a guilty plea. This is called a "plea bargain". An example of a "plea bargain" would be persuading the Crown Prosecution Service to accept a guilty plea to a careless driving offence, which is not imprisonable, in return for not pursuing a dangerous driving allegation that is imprisonable. Once more, your solicitor would probably put such proposals in writing to the Crown Prosecution Service at an early stage, when they would be more inclined to accept because they hadn't yet invested very much time and money in the case.
How can my solicitor help just before I go into court?
Every Magistrates Court operates slightly differently. Therefore, it is very important that your solicitor is a specialist in motoring law and knows the particular court you are attending. On the day of your hearing, it is a good idea to attend the court early to meet with your solicitor for a pre-hearing consultation. This will give your lawyer a chance to see who is present in the courtroom and then explain to you the procedure followed. Normally, the hearing will take place before magistrates, but occasionally it will be before a District Judge when the court procedure can be more fluid. Your solicitor will be able to explain to you where you should stand in the courtroom, when you will be addressed, and what you can expect by way of questions etc. This should reassure you because you will have more idea of what to expect in the hearing itself.
Often the combination of Magistrates/District Judge, legal advisor and prosecutor in the courtroom will be unique for that day. It is helpful if your solicitor can watch a few hearings before your case is called to see how they are operating together.
Just before a hearing takes place, it is common for a defence solicitor to approach the prosecutor in private and negotiate. This could be a "plea bargain", as described above. Alternatively, it could be where the offence remains the same, but the prosecutor agrees to make their representations to the court more favourable to you in exchange for a guilty plea. For example, in drink drive cases, the prosecution has a habit of saying about the accused's demeanour that "their eyes were glazed, their breath smelt of drink and they were unsteady on their feet" even when the person is just over the drink drive limit. In exchange for a guilty plea, the prosecutor may agree not to say this to the court, thereby giving rise to a lighter sentence.
How useful is a solicitor at the hearing itself?
A good solicitor is most useful during the hearing itself. This is when their input can have the most effect on the outcome of your case. Ideally, you want a solicitor who is a motoring law specialist as opposed to a solicitor or barrister who works in a number of different areas of the law. You also need a solicitor who has had a lot of experience working in the Magistrates Court so that they know what to expect and there are no unpleasant surprises.
Do I need a solicitor if I am pleading guilty?
If you do not have a solicitor, you could be at a huge disadvantage. After you have confirmed your identity, entered your guilty plea, and the prosecutor has outlined their version of events, you will be expected to make a speech putting forward all the reasons why the court should be lenient when it comes to your sentence (this is called your mitigation). Unless you are used to public speaking, this is not easy, and many unrepresented people forget what they wanted to say, similar to what often happens to budding entrepreneurs on the TV show "Dragons Den"!
By contrast, a good lawyer will be able to express remorse on your behalf, ask for a reduction in your sentence in return for your early guilty plea, put forward the circumstances of the offence in a way that is favourable to you, mention any steps that you have taken to make your driving safer, and most importantly put forward all the reasons why a lengthy driving ban would be harmful to you and others. The tone of these representations to the magistrates is crucial. It needs to be polite, respectful and not in the least confrontational.
After your representations have been put forward, the magistrates will probably have some questions. If you are not represented, those questions will be directed at you. However, if you have a solicitor, these questions will almost certainly be put to them rather than you. If your lawyer is skilled, they will be able to answer those questions and put you in a favourable light while doing so.
Do I need a solicitor to argue "Exceptional Hardship"?
If you are guilty of a motoring offence that brings your total number of penalty points to 12 or more, then the law says that you have to be disqualified for at least 6 months unless you successfully argue Exceptional Hardship.
Exceptional Hardship is where you and others would suffer more hardship than most people if you couldn't drive. The majority of people who put forward an Exceptional Hardship argument unrepresented lose. This is because such a hearing is normally dominated by an experienced prosecuting solicitor discrediting you before the court.
However, if you have a skilled solicitor to represent you, then most of the hearing will instead consist of your lawyer asking you questions and using your answers to put you in a favourable light before the court. If your solicitor is very good, then they will question you so thoroughly that they will leave the prosecutor unable to think of anything else to ask and, therefore, will have reduced their input. If the magistrates have hardly heard from the prosecutor, it is not surprising that they are then likely to find Exceptional Hardship and save your driving licence.
Do I need a solicitor at my trial?
It is especially important to have a solicitor if you have a trial. Similarly to Exceptional Hardship hearings, a good solicitor can help lessen the amount of involvement that a prosecutor has. Once more, your solicitor will be allowed to ask you questions first. Again, if your solicitor asks many questions, there will be very little left for the prosecutor to ask. By contrast, if you don't have a good solicitor, the trial will probably primarily consist of the prosecutor portraying you in a bad light before the magistrates.
It is also beneficial to have an experienced solicitor helping you at a trial because they can object if the prosecutor is overly aggressive in their questioning. Trials, by their very nature, are confrontational, but the court will not allow bullying tactics.
When the prosecutor has finished asking their questions, your solicitor will be allowed to do a closing speech. This is a wonderful opportunity for an excellent lawyer to give a concise account of the main points of your defence, the weaknesses of the prosecution objections, and a favourable interpretation of the law.
Can I speak to my solicitor during my hearing?
It should never be forgotten that this is your case, although your solicitor is your legal advisor and spokesperson. During your hearing, even if your solicitor is doing most of the talking, you must not fall into the mindset of just sitting back and watching the show. You should continually be asking yourself if what is being said in the courtroom is accurate. If it isn't, you need to inform your solicitor of this immediately. Also, during the hearing itself, defendants often think of something else that could benefit their case. Again this information will need to be conveyed to their solicitor. You are allowed to call your solicitor over and discuss matters with them in private (as far as whispering will allow) at any stage during the hearing, whether it be a trial or otherwise. The only time that this is inadvisable is if you have just been asked a question because here, the court would be likely to conclude that you have just been "spoon-fed" the answer by your solicitor.
Being able to communicate with an experienced lawyer during your hearing is of enormous benefit. Sometimes matters can take an unexpected turn, and discussing issues can allow for an important change of tactics mid hearing. Other times, just being given reassurance by your solicitor during a stressful hearing can be of tremendous benefit.
How much does a solicitor cost to represent me in court?
If you are eligible for legal aid, then the government will pay for the cost of your solicitor in the Magistrates Court. Legal aid will only be available if you pass both the "interests of justice test" and the "means test". The "interests of justice test" will normally be satisfied if the motoring offence you are accused of is very serious and could result in you receiving a prison sentence. Examples of such offences would be dangerous driving or drink driving, where the alcohol level was very high. The "means test" will be passed provided you don't earn too much money.
Most motoring offences are not imprisonable, and you would therefore not normally qualify for legal aid. For example, speeding, driving with no insurance, using a mobile phone while driving or driving without due care and attention. If you have been accused of a non-imprisonable motoring offence, or if you earn too much money, then you would normally have to pay for your solicitor privately. It is important if you are thinking of paying privately to make sure that the solicitor will accept payment by way of a fixed fee rather than an hourly rate. A fixed fee will mean that if you are delayed at court, as is often the case, you won't end up paying much more for your legal fee than you first thought.
Why should I use "Speeding Law Solicitors"?
Hopefully, from the above, you can see the benefits of using a good solicitor before and at your hearing instead of "going it alone."
Unlike most other specialist motoring law firms, Speeding Law Solicitors will not, at the time of your hearing, pass your matter over to an inexperienced junior barrister who doesn't specialise solely in road traffic law. By contrast, we believe strongly in the benefits of consistency of representation. Our founding specialist motoring law solicitor, Mr Hatvany, will take your initial instructions and then represent you every step of the way and finally be present in the courtroom with you when it really counts.
Philip Hatvany has very high success rates. Over the last decade, he has had over an 85% success rate for winning Exceptional Hardship hearings and over an 80% success rate for winning trials. He has consistently received 5 star Google reviews from grateful clients. In addition, he offers very reasonable fixed fees, as opposed to hourly rates, so that financially you know exactly where you stand.
Call Philip now on FREEPHONE 0800 909 8110 for a FREE initial consultation.