Should I Plead Guilty By Post or Attend Court?

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Should I Plead Guilty By Post or Attend Court?

Depending on the type of motoring offence you are being charged for, you may have a choice about whether you can plead guilty by post or at court, or; you may not have a choice, and may be required to attend court. This is an essential distinction to make and may have costly repercussions if you make a mistake.

Motoring law is complex and you shouldn't make any decisions without the help of a professional solicitor - even small offences can become more severe if not handled in the correct way.

In the following guide, the expert motoring law solicitors at JMW explain what you should do if you are given the option of pleading guilty by post, when this may be an option and when it is not, and how to go about doing so.

When Do I Have the Choice to Plead Guilty by Post?

You will typically be given the option to plead guilty by post if your offence is less serious. These are often defined by whether you receive a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) through the post or directly from a police officer. Your FPN will detail your offence and your penalties, and through this, you can accept your charges and pay any fines, or dispute them - following which you will be expected to attend a court hearing.

In a case where a minor offence pushes your penalty points over the 12-point limit and you face a totting-up disqualification, you will not be able to plead guilty by post to the FPN and instead, you will need to attend court.

For serious motoring offences, you will be required to submit your plea in court, and this can be by Single Justice Procedure Notice (SJPN), postal requisition or a notice of criminal charge. A serious motoring offence can be defined as showing a clear disregard for the law and putting other people's safety at risk. In such cases, you will most likely be arrested by a police officer and taken to the station. From here, you will be given a court hearing date where you will either be required to plead guilty or dispute your charges.

If you have received an FPN detailing your offence, or if you find yourself in the custody of the police, you should speak to a motoring offence solicitor as soon as possible.

Should I Plead Guilty by Post or in Court?

When you make a guilty plea, you accept full responsibility for the offence. In some cases, the court may reduce your penalties if you make a guilty plea early and acknowledge your mistake. A key part of this is conveying to the judge that you feel remorse for your offence and show a clear intention of taking every step possible to avoid repeating it in future. If you wish to have your charges reduced - which is not a guaranteed result of a guilty plea - you will have to communicate your understanding and acceptance in such a way that reflects this.

With this in mind, you should consider the pros and cons of making such a statement in writing versus in person. A statement in court might be more stressful to you, and you may be concerned about your ability to conduct yourself in a high-pressure environment, but this may convey more sincerity than a written plea, which may leave questions unanswered if not written to the ideal standard and grants the court permission to judge your entire case based on your written statement. However, a written statement may be more convenient for you if you are nervous about a court date.

Each motoring offence case is different - this means it is impossible to confidently state which approach is best for specific examples. Instead, by discussing your situation with a professional solicitor, you can be sure that your unique circumstances will be taken into consideration by an expert and you will have the right advice to make the best decision. In either case - whether you decide to plead by post or attend court - a solicitor will help you through the process, ensuring you conduct yourself properly and are prepared for the procedure.

What is the Process of Pleading Guilty to a Motoring Offence?

The process for pleading guilty to a motoring offence will differ depending on whether you make a plea in court or by post.

Making a Guilty Plea in Court

After discussing the situation with your solicitor - if they recommend that you appear in court to offer your guilty plea, your solicitor will run you through exactly what to expect leading up to the court hearing and what will happen during it.

The court hearing will begin with the legal advisor asking questions to confirm your identity. You will then be read your charges and asked to make a guilty or not guilty plea.

If you plead guilty, your solicitor will speak on your behalf and explain why you committed the offence and what the impacts of the penalties will have on your life. Here, your solicitor may offer up mitigating circumstances that explain your actions, which is something they will discuss with you prior to appearing in court.

For any discussion between your solicitor and the other parties, you should remain quiet and try your best to avoid showing any disagreement with anything said. Unless you are specifically asked a question and your solicitor recommends you answer, you should avoid speaking and allow your solicitor to speak on your behalf.

When all of the information has been presented, your penalties will be decided if the court believes it can make an informed decision. Following this, you will be expected to accept your charges and pay any fines presented to you - which you may be able to do in instalments if you would otherwise struggle to.

Making a Guilty Plea by Post

When you make a guilty plea by post, after discussing the decision with your solicitor, you will need to write a letter explaining that you are accepting your charges, meaning you must express how you understand you are responsible for the offence and any consequences that may have happened because of your actions. As your offence will most likely be a minor one, it is unlikely that the consequences were directly severe and more that there was a chance of them being so. In this case, you must make sure you explain your understanding of what could have happened, why you know this is bad and that you have regret for it.

When you write your letter, you must do so with a tone that is direct and clearly assesses the important points of your offence without any nuance. While you should not attempt to downplay the severity of your offence, you may wish to mention if it is your first-time offence and explain why the charges may have a significant effect on your life or your ability to support other people. This may be your children who rely on you for travel, or a job that you will lose, causing you a significant loss of income that will affect your life.

Your solicitor will guide you through the formalities of positioning your points and ensure that you have included everything necessary.

Once you have posted the letter to the court, the judge will assess its contents and base their decision about your penalties on it. For this reason, it is essential that you work with a legal expert to give yourself the best chances of reducing your penalties.

Talk to Us

If you have received a penalty notice for a motoring offence, seek legal advice from our team as soon as possible. Call JMW Solicitors today on 0345 872 6666 or fill out an online contact form to arrange a time for us to contact you back.

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