How to get your driving licence back early
How we got our client's driving licence back two years' early
I am a specialist motoring defence solicitor and have represented thousands of motorists across the country. I am regularly contacted by clients who have already received driving bans. Some of them were banned many years ago, others more recently. The question is always the same - "Can I get my licence back early?".
There are two common ways of getting your driving licence back early;
- Appeal against the decision in order to reduce the length of the ban
- Apply under Section 42 Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988
This case study looks at Section 42 RTOA 1988 and the process of applying for the early removal of a driving ban. Let's start with the law. Section 42 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 contains the following provision;
42. Removal of disqualification.
(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, a person who by an order of a court is disqualified may apply to the court by which the order was made to remove the disqualification.
Section 42 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 empowers a Magistrates' Court to remove a disqualification before the end of the driving ban. This is a broad power (allowing the magistrates to take into account all circumstances of the offender's behaviour). There is also a criteria the court should consider;
(2) On any such application the court may, as it thinks proper having regard to—
(a) the character of the person disqualified and his conduct subsequent to the order,
(b) the nature of the offence, and
(c) any other circumstances of the case
Subsection 2 of Section 42 of the Act requires the court to take into account the behaviour of the offender during the driving ban. The court should also consider the seriousness of the offences previously committed and, of course, the offenders current circumstances. The burden falls on the applicant to establish these factors.
Our client, Ellie, had been banned from driving for 52 months following a conviction for drink driving. Ellie explained to us that she had already served 2.5 years of the driving ban. Her circumstances had now changed and she was more desperate than ever to start driving again. We took the opportunity to ask Ellie about her two previous convictions for drink driving (the circumstances surrounding the offence can be important when making an application under Section 42). In theory, the more serious the previous conviction, the less likely the court are to grant the application. Ellie had two previous convictions for drink driving, both involving high breath readings.
We explained to Ellie that in order to be eligible for early removal of the disqualification, she must meet one of the following criteria:
- She was given a 3 year disqualification and served at least 2 years, or;
- She was given a disqualification of between 4 and 10 years and served at least half, or;
- She was given a disqualification of more than 10 years and have served at least 5 years.
As Ellie was given a driving ban of 4 years 4 months, the law required that she had served at least half. At the point of contact with M.A.J Law, Ellie had served half of her disqualification. This meant that we could move quickly on getting Ellie's licence back.
You cannot apply to the magistrates unless you've served the required period under the criteria. If you do, your application will be refused.
STAGE 1 - The Application Process
The first step in the application process was for us to submit a detailed written application to the Magistrates’ Court that banned Ellie. Alongside the application, we produced a detailed letter containing many of the reasons why Ellie's licence should be returned to her. The overriding consideration is whether there has been any change in a person's personal circumstances that now makes them more dependent on their licence than before the disqualification was imposed.
In this case, Ellie's personal circumstances had changed significantly. Her son and his family had moved out of the area and in order to visit them she was reliant on either her husband or on public transport. This had become increasingly difficult due to mobility issues and her husband’s increased work commitments. Her son's children were very young and it was not always practical to take them on trains and buses.
The client’s work commitments had also changed. The company Ellie worked for had recently restructured, resulting in a change of job role. She was now required to travel to various sites across the country. She often carried equipment which was too heavy for public transport.
We drafted and served the written application to the Magistrates’ Court that previously banned Ellie. Shortly thereafter we received a hearing date. The next four weeks were used to gather all the relevant information/evidence ready for the court hearing.
Don't take any chances with an application under Section 42. Make sure you have the right team of people around you. You only get one chance to get things right. If the magistrates refuse your application, it is highly unlikely the court will ever return your licence early (even if you apply again at a later date).
STAGE 2 - The Hearing
Before the court agrees to remove the disqualification, the magistrates must be sure that the applicant will not be a danger on the road and are not at risk of repeat offending. Due to the fact that Ellie had only served half of the disqualification and had previous convictions for drink driving, we knew that this was going to be difficult hearing! For this reason we made sure we had all the necessary evidence required. We also invited Ellie to the office for a mock hearing. During this meeting, we discussed the likely questions the court would ask and reviewed all the evidence available. A mock hearing like this familiarises the client with the court process and makes them more comfortable. This can, in turn, improve the quality of the evidence given by the client.
The court will consider the following when making their decision:
- The individual’s character
- The nature of the offence
- Any other circumstances of the case
If an application to end the disqualification period early is unsuccessful, another application cannot be made for 3 months. Therefore, it was essential in this case that the argument on behalf of the client was as detailed and included as much supporting evidence as possible.
In this case, a key part of our supporting evidence involved character references from a friend and former colleague of the client. These references stated that the client is a hard-working professional who has shown great remorse following the incident. They also reference the fact that she was struggling to deal with the bereavement of a close family member at the time of the offence. Rather than seeking help through counselling (as had been suggested to her), she coped through drinking alcohol. Both references stated that since the offence, the client had received help and support. As a result, she was in a much better frame of mind. These references were a great help in explaining the circumstances surrounding the offence.
Alongside the character references, the client also drafted a statement giving an explanation of the circumstances that lead to the offence being committed. As part of this statement she also included the reasons why she was reliant on getting her licence back for a number of personal and work related reasons and the steps she had taken to improve her behaviour since the offence was committed. I also included a copy of confirmation from the counselling service that the client had used that she had attended a number of bereavement counselling sessions.
Despite all of the supporting evidence that had been submitted in support of the client’s case, there was no guarantees that the outcome would be a successful one. The client still needed to give evidence on the day of the hearing, answering questions relating to her attitude to drinking now, the need for a licence and how not having a licence was affecting her business. On the day of the hearing, the client attended court and answered the questions put to her and the various references and statements were handed over to the court for consideration.
We were of the opinion that the client’s licence should be reinstated early due to the fact that due to a change in circumstances she was now reliant on being able to drive in order to work and see her family. She had also proven that she had taken steps to alter her behaviour since the incident and her character references supported the fact that she was going through a very difficult period at the time of the offence but that she had received professional support in terms of dealing with this.
The court agreed with the argument we put forward on the client’s behalf and they agreed to remove the disqualification – a great result for the client!
If you would like to know more about getting your licence back early, please call one of our specialist solicitors on 01514228020. All our initial advice is completely free of charge.