Questions we answer in this guide to speeding offences:
- What are the penalties for drivers who are caught speeding and how do these penalties reflect the seriousness of the offence?
- What’s the difference between being caught by a speed camera or the police?
- What happens when you’ve been summoned to court for speeding? Can you offer any mitigating circumstances or other defence against prosecution?
Speeding is by far the most common driving offence in the UK. While there's some small leeway for drivers exceeding the speed limit by 1 or 2 miles per hour, this isn’t set in stone and drivers exceeding the speed limits face stiff penalties…
What are the penalties for speeding?
Most minor speeding offences will be settled with a fixed penalty notice (FPN) of £100 and 3 penalty points.
You may be offered a speed awareness course as an alternative but only if you were caught speeding by a small margin and you haven’t already been on a speed awareness course in the last 3 years. The cost of a speed awareness course may vary but your license remains untouched if you complete it.
Drivers who reach and/or exceed 12 points on their licence in a 3-year period will face an automatic ban. This is reduced to 6 points for new drivers, i.e. anyone within 2 years of passing their test. Their licence will be revoked and they’ll need to pass a new test before the licence will be reissued. If you don't pay the FPN within 28 days, or you believe it was issued to you in error, you may dispute the offence in court.
NB: the court may decide to increase the fine if your case fails to convince them to let you off.
Loosely speaking, if you're caught exceeding the speed limit by over 20 mph, this will likely be treated as a serious offence. While the minimum penalty is still an endorsable FPN (meaning a £100 fine and 3 penalty points) this is far from a given and the issuer may decide to prosecute the offence through the courts instead.
If convicted, you could face a fine of up to £1,000 – rising to £2,500 for offences on the motorways and 3 or 6 penalty points on your licence.
The court may also impose a driving ban, depending on the seriousness of the offence and other surrounding circumstances.
Dangerous driving is a major offence and we cover it in more detail in our dangerous driving guide.
While speeding on its own isn’t enough to result in a charge of dangerous driving, it's at the discretion of the police whether your driving fell below the acceptable standard of a careful and competent driver. This could mean racing, dangerous overtaking or simply being distracted while driving at speed.
A charge of dangerous driving will be prosecuted in either a magistrates’ or Crown Court and, depending on the seriousness, the penalties include an unlimited fine, a driving ban and up to 2 years in prison – rising to 14 years if convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.
What’s the difference between being caught by a speed camera or the police?
By a speed camera…
If you’re caught speeding by a camera on the road or motorway, you'll be sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) in the post.
You must return the NIP as per the instructions, specifying who was driving the vehicle.
Having provided the police with this information, you'll then receive either an FPN or a letter telling you to go to court.
Whether you agree with the fine or not, you must return the NIP. Failure to do so may be seen as refusing to provide the driver's information, which is punishable by a fine of up to £1,000 and 6 penalty points.
If you believe you've received a speeding fine in error, or you wish to dispute it for any other reason, you can do this by filling out the section on the NIP and returning it to the police within 28 days of receiving it.
By a police officer…
If you’re caught speeding and stopped by the police, they may give you either;
- a verbal warning
- an FPN (or send one at a later date)
- an NIP (verbally, or posted at a later date)
The police may also ask to see your driving documents, i.e. your licence, insurance documents and MOT certificate. If you don't have any of these documents on you at the time, they may ask you to produce them at a police station within 7 days.
Notice of intended prosecution (NIP)
Whether you were stopped on the road or caught by a camera, the police must contact you with a NIP within 14 days of the offence. Any later may make their prosecution against you invalid.
You must consider any grounds for dispute carefully (we have some advice on this below). If your appeal isn't accepted, then the next stage will be to appear in court to fight the conviction.
Once again, failure to convince the court of your case will likely result in a heavier penalty than if you accepted the initial punishment.
Going to court for a speeding offence
It's strongly recommended that you seek legal advice before deciding to contest any charge before the court.
Usually, only a serious offence or those drivers who repeatedly flout the rules will be compelled to appear before a court.
If you're to be prosecuted for a speeding offence, the police will send you a summons to appear before a court. The police have up to 6 months from the date of the offence to lodge the summons with the court. At your court appearance, you'll be able to plead guilty or not guilty. Under no circumstances should you enter a not-guilty plea unless you've taken legal advice beforehand.
A guilty plea may be your best chance at receiving a lighter penalty if you can provide any mitigating circumstances that explain your behavior. If you do plan to plead guilty, your punishment may be reduced if you can provide mitigating circumstances for the court to take into account.
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