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Your motoring conviction - will it need to be declared?

If I am guilty of a motoring offence, will I get a criminal conviction?

When anybody is found guilty, or pleads guilty, to any motoring offence before the Magistrates or Crown Court they will then have a criminal conviction, even if this is for a minor matter such as not wearing a seat-belt.

Strangely, not every criminal conviction will lead to a criminal record. ( See the section below “If I have a motoring conviction does it mean that I have a criminal record?”).

If a matter is dealt with outside the criminal courts then this does not amount to a conviction.  Examples of this would be if you got a parking ticket or attended a “speed awareness course”.  For the same reason if you receive a fixed penalty (for example for speeding or careless driving) then this is not a criminal conviction.  Nonetheless, as will be explained below, fixed penalty notices may still have to be declared even though they are not convictions.

What does a “spent” conviction mean?

If a conviction is “spent” then it means that you don’t have to declare it.  If you are asked if you have any criminal convictions, you can just deny this.

However, if a conviction isn’t spent and you fail to disclose it then there can be drastic consequences.  

It should be borne in mind that although fixed penalties (for example for speeding, careless driving, or driving without insurance) are not convictions, they still have to be declared if you are asked about them and they are not spent.

When you are applying for a job, insurance (whether this is car, building, contents, health or life insurance), or certain educational courses, you may be asked about any convictions or fixed penalties that you have had.  If the conviction or fixed penalty isn’t spent then you will have to inform that organisation about it.  The affect of this may be that you do not get a job, to do your chosen course, or your insurance premiums may be much higher.

If the conviction, or fixed penalty, isn’t spent and you fail to disclose these when asked then your insurance could be null and void, or you may lose the job that you wanted.

How long until my conviction is “spent”?

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 is the legislation that applies as to whether a conviction or fixed penalty is “spent”.  Under the Act, whether these are “spent” will depend on what punishment you received and how much time has passed i.e.

For an endorsement on your driving licence the conviction will be spent after 5 years (this covers any penalty points, including those acquired by a fixed penalty, or disqualification that is endorsed).  It will however be spent after two and a half years if you are under 18.

For a disqualification the conviction will be spent when the driving ban is over (if the ban is less than five years the conviction will still not be spent for five years because there will be an endorsement on the driving licence).

For a fine the conviction will be spent after 1 year from the date of conviction.

What happens if I receive a number of punishments for one offence?

The Act states that only the longest period would apply.  For example if you receive penalty points and a fine then the endorsement for penalty points is the longer period and the conviction would be spent after five years.

How do I find out if I have endorsements on my driving licence?

As every endorsement on a driving licence means that the conviction won’t be spent for five years, it is very important that you check your own driving record.  This can be viewed at www.gov.uk.

If I have a motoring conviction does it mean that I have a criminal record?

You will only have a criminal record if the conviction was for an imprisonable offence or for either refusing to provide a preliminary sample of breath or for tampering with a motor vehicle.

Therefore if you are found, or plead guilty, to speeding, careless driving, using a mobile phone while driving or going through a red light then these will not appear on your criminal record as they are not imprisonable.

If, however, you are found or plead guilty to drink-driving, failing to provide a specimen, drug-driving, failing to stop or report after an accident, or dangerous driving, then these offences will appear on your criminal record as they are imprisonable.

There are just two motoring offences which are exceptions to this rule and are non-imprisonable and yet will still appear on a criminal record.  These are tampering with a motor-vehicle and refusing to provide a preliminary breath-test.

It should be noted that if you receive a police caution for any offence, then this also will go on your criminal record.

What kind of criminal record check can be carried out on me?

If you are an applicant for a job then your potential employer is allowed to do a criminal record check before they employ you.  It is important that you know what kind of criminal record check they will do as only then can you make an informed decision as to whether you need to disclose any convictions or not.

The three main types of record check for employees are a basic check, a standard check or an enhanced check.

If it is a basic check then you would only need to disclose any offences that are not spent.  If however it is a standard or enhanced check, then you should disclose all convictions whether spent or not unless “filtered” (in May 2013 the Government introduced the “filtering” process so that some old and minor cautions and convictions do not have to be disclosed).

Usually, a potential employer will just want to carry out a basic check.  A standard or enhanced check may be required if the job involves working, for example; 

  • in the legal system (eg a solicitor or barrister)
  • with children (eg teacher)
  • with people in vulnerable circumstances
  • as an NHS professional
  • in a high level financial position (eg accountant)
  • as taxi-driver.

Can a motoring conviction make it difficult for me to travel or work abroad?

Some countries have entry restrictions.  For example, you may have to apply for a visa in which case there could be questions about criminal convictions.

Also, if you are subject to a driving ban arising out of that conviction and you drive abroad, although technically you will not be guilty of driving whilst disqualified (as you will be outside our jurisdiction), you will be driving without insurance and without a licence.  For these reasons, you will find it impossible to hire a car.

How can a solicitor help me?

All the points above show the importance of avoiding a conviction for a motoring offence, or even just a fixed penalty notice.  These could have a disastrous and expensive effect on your future.  

In addition, an accumulation of penalty points can mean that you are banned for at least 6 months if you obtain 12 or more penalty points.  In such a situation, you can only avoid a ban if you successfully argue exceptional hardship.  

Many people quietly accept a motoring allegation just for convenience even when they believe that they are innocent.  Yet for all the above reasons, this could be detrimental.  Instead, contact Speeding Law Solicitors.  Our founding solicitor Philip Hatvany, has a 85% rate of success at trials (based on his average from 2011 to the present).  He is very skilled at finding technical defences even when at first glance a defence isn’t apparent.  Ring him now for FREE legal advice on Freephone 0800 909 8110.