Saturday, 7 January 2012

M-R of Motoring law

M is for Mobile phone offences

It is an offence to use a mobile phone whilst driving. Many people mistakenly believe that they must be physically engaged in a conversation, with the phone to their ear before they will be charged with an offence. In some circumstances you can even be charged if you are merely holding the phone in your hand, such as if you were reading a text message. The general rule is "if in doubt, don’t get it out!"

The law does not just extend to mobile phones but also to certain sat nav devices, ipads and laptops. Basically any device where there is an element of interactive communication (internet, satellite or telephone communication.) If you have to touch buttons to operate the device, this is likely to be considered committing the offence. Many people get caught with the mobile phone offence, even when they were operating their phones whilst driving with earphones. Earphones will be insufficient as a lawful hands free device as you still have to touch buttons to take and make calls etc.

There are not many defences to the mobile phone offence, other than when you were genuinely not using your phone in which case, phone records are an essential aspect of the evidence we will gather in support of your defence.

N is for No Insurance

A harsh offence carrying a penalty of between 6-8 penalty points can often be committed as a result of disorganisation, rather than a deliberate attempt to avoid paying for insurance. Failing to renew insurance or changing your bank and forgetting to inform the bank who is taking direct debits will not wash with the courts as a defence.

As from 2011 it is also an offence to allow a vehicle to be parked on a road without insurance, so even if the car is not in use it is expected to be insured.

O is for Police Obstruction

If the police signal to you to pull over and you do not stop for them, this is unlikely to be considered to be police obstruction but it is possible that you will face charge for failing to stop when required by a constable. If driving a mechanically propelled vehicle (a car, lorry etc) you face a fine equivalent to 100% of your weekly take home pay up to a maximum £5,000. The maximum fine for cycles is 100% of weekly take home pay up to £1,000.

If the police have to chase you to stop, however, this could be seen in a very dim light but the courts and may even result in prosecution for more serious offences such as dangerous driving.

P is for PACE, The Police And Criminal Evidence Act 1984

The police have a wide range of powers that they use as part of their day to day work to prevent crime and protect the public. The police’s powers are set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (which is commonly referred to as PACE). PACE was implemented in order to balance the powers of the police with the rights and freedoms of the general public. The current PACE codes of practice set out police powers, such as a person’s rights and entitlements whilst in police custody and conducting a stop and search. For more information of the safeguards surrounding detention, arrest, interviews and stop and search etc.

A significant breach of these codes can result in crucial evidence in a case being ruled as inadmissible or even a prosecution being considered so flawed that the court dismisses the case.

Q stands for Queries/Questions

If you have any questions about a motoring offence or you require advice and assistance, do not hesitate to contact Geoffrey Miller Solicitors for free specialist advice. Our freephone telephone number is 08000 85 27 84 and our phones are manned every day and night (including bank holidays and weekends) by members of the Geoffrey Miller team (not a call centre).

R stands for Roadside Breath Test

The police have the power to stop anyone at any time – they don’t need to give you a reason – and failing to stop is a criminal offence as explained above.

When pulled over by the police, you may be asked to produce documents including:

driving licence
insurance certificate
vehicle registration document

If you don’t have these with you, you’ll be given seven days to produce them at a police station.

The police are able to request a roadside breath test from an individual if they reasonably suspect that:

you are currently committing, or recently committed, a moving traffic offence;

you have driven or attempted to drive or been in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place with alcohol in your body; or

you were driving, attempting to drive, or in charge of a vehicle involved in an accident.that that a person who is driving;

The police only need to have a reasonable suspicion that you are drink driving and the suspicion can be formed once you have been pulled over by a police constable i.e. to conduct a police check.

If you refuse to provide a roadside breath reading this will result in you being arrested and taken to a police station to provide an evidential breath test on an approved breath testing machine. A refusal can also result in being convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to 4 penalty points, a discretionary disqualification and a fine not exceeding £1000.

Unlike in the USA, you are not entitled to refuse providing a roadside test whilst awaiting legal advice. Roadside handheld devices are often faulty and fail to register breath sample attempts so do not despair if you are ever carted off to the police station for failing to register a breath sample at the roadside.

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