Driving Whilst Disqualified
With a growing number of people being banned from driving, it comes as no surprise that the number of people driving whilst disqualified and prosecuted for this offence is increasing.
Am I likely to get caught if I drive whilst disqualified?
Yes! The chances of being caught are significant due to the array of equipment available to the Police. The most powerful tool the Police have is the Automatic Vehicle Registration Recognition system fitted to the most Police cars and is also installed on numerous static sites throughout the country. In simple terms, a camera fitted to the Police car or elsewhere, scans the registration number of any vehicle in its field and then, via the DVLA database, establishes whether that car is taxed, insured, MOT'd and to whom it is registered. If there is any concern as to the legality of the vehicle, a message is automatically sent to the Police who will then stop the vehicle.
Consequently, it does not matter how carefully you drive, the Police will still stop the vehicle so the prospects of getting away with driving whilst disqualified are too low to justify the risk.
If you take on board the consequences by way of the penalties available to the Court, it soon becomes clear that there is no point taking the chance.
What happens if I do get caught driving on a ban?
Driving whilst disqualified is an arrestable offence so it won't be a case of a stern ticking off at the side of the road. Offenders will be arrested immediately and then processed via the Police system which can be an alarming experience. You will be taken to the Police station in handcuffs, finger printed, DNA tested, searched, photographed and then held in a cell prior to a taped interview being undertaken.
If you are fortunate, you will then be bailed to attend Court. If, however the custody sergeant decides that there is a risk of you committing any further offence, he can refuse bail and you can be held at the Police station until the prison van arrives to take you to Court along with other prisoners who have committed "real" crimes.
What is the maximum penalty for driving whilst disqualified?
There is a wide variety of options available. An immediate prison sentence of up to 6 months is a very real possibility, particularly if the Court feels that by driving you have shown disrespect to the Court that imposed the original suspension.
If you are fortunate enough to avoid prison, then expect either a community service or curfew order to be imposed. Finally, there will be a fine and a further disqualification for 6 to 18 months depending on the severity of the offence.
What is the minimum penalty for driving whilst banned?
The Court guidelines are that there should be at least a further disqualification and a fine. In exceptional circumstances, a further ban can be avoided but there will be a fine and 6 points.
Is there anything that can be done to reduce the penalty?
Yes. Although the Court will regard the matter as a very serious offence, with the correct preparation and representation, there are various ways to persuade the Court to adopt a more sympathetic approach. Each case is decided on its merits but if you are intending to convince the Court that leniency should be applied, it would be prudent to obtain detailed legal advice as soon as you can, although the nature of the offence means that you may only have a few days notice of the hearing.
One of the major difficulties you face is that it is very difficult to commit the offence by mistake. Accordingly, the Court may proceed on the basis that anyone who drives whilst disqualified has chosen that option whilst fully aware of the consequences.
I was not aware that I was banned. Is this a defence?
If you have been disqualified following a Court process that you did not attend it is unlikely that this will amount to a full defence, even if you were unaware of the proceedings. Whilst it will depend upon the exact circumstances, you do have an obligation to ensure that your licence is valid. If the disqualification arose without your knowledge, this may amount to special reasons which can significantly reduce the punishment even if it does not lead to dismissal of the allegation. It makes sense to obtain expert advice so the best approach can be taken.
What is the difference between driving whilst disqualified and driving otherwise than in accordance with licence?
The offences are quite separate. Driving whilst disqualified can only be committed if you have been banned following a Court process and thus an order has been made removing your licence. Driving otherwise than in accordance with your licence can occur in various ways; for example, the licence has not been renewed, does not cover the vehicle you were driving etc., but is not because of a formal Court order disqualifying you from driving.