The Speeding Ticket 14-Day Rule

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The Speeding Ticket 14-Day Rule

If you are caught breaking the speed limit while out on the road, you will be issued a fixed penalty notice and will potentially need to pay a speeding fine. This is a basic reality for UK drivers - but there are a number of circumstances in which the validity of the notice could potentially be challenged.

One of these is the 14-day rule, a time limit within which the authorities are required to notify you of their intention to prosecute you for a speeding offence. If they fail to adhere to this time limit, and you are able to prove they did not follow the correct procedure, then this could result in you avoiding the fixed penalty notice.

It is important to note that the speeding ticket 14-day rule only applies in a select handful of situations. As such, if you are hoping to invoke this regulation as a means of contesting a speeding fine, you will need to understand what it really means, and how - or if - it might apply to your specific case.

What is the 14-Day Rule?

The 14-day rule is a specific provision in UK traffic law regarding speeding fines, and is outlined in Section 1 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1998. This rule stipulates that a notice of intended prosecution (NIP) must be received by the registered keeper of the vehicle within 14 days following the alleged speeding offence. You will also need to be issued with a Section 172 notice within 28 days, so that you can inform the police who was driving the car.

If the NIP is issued outside of that time period, with no mitigating circumstances for why it is late, then it can be declared invalid. This means the authorities will have no grounds to send you a fixed penalty notice, and you can avoid paying a speeding fine. It should be noted that the law states the NIP must be 'served' on the registered keeper within 14 days. This means that just posting the NIP within this timeframe is not sufficient; the notice must actually arrive at the address of the registered keeper within the 14-day period for it to be valid.

There are a number of circumstances in which a notice could be declared invalid, including if:

  • The notice of intended prosecution was not sent in a timely manner by the police, due to administrative delays or errors
  • The notice of intended prosecution was mistakenly sent to a previous address or the previous registered keeper, due to the police failing to properly update their records
  • The notice of intended prosecution was sent out just before an extended bank holiday (such as the Christmas and New Year period), and therefore the police could not have reasonably expected the notice to arrive within the 14-day period

The key to all of these circumstances is being able to demonstrate that the authorities failed to uphold their responsibilities, and cannot reasonably have expected that the notice would arrive within 14 days, based on the date it was posted.

Why might a speeding ticket arrive late?

If you receive a notice of intended prosecution that arrives outside the 14-day window, you might therefore assume this means the notice is not valid, and that you have an automatic right to challenge it. However, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, the notice is likely to be upheld in most circumstances where the police can make the case that they have followed the necessary procedures, and could have expected the notice to be delivered on time under normal circumstances.

Here, we will assess some of the common reasons why an NIP might arrive late, and explain whether or not these would affect the validity of the notice.

Incorrect address

One of the most common reasons for a delayed NIP is an incorrect address. If you've moved house recently or your vehicle is registered to a previous address, the NIP will be sent there first. This can cause significant delays, especially if the current occupants are slow to forward your mail.

This will only affect the validity of an NIP if you can demonstrate that you updated your details with the relevant authorities in a timely manner, and that the NIP was sent to the wrong address due to administrative delays or errors on their end. If you failed to update your details on time, and the letter was sent to the address that was on record at the time, the police can successfully argue that the notice was served correctly.

As such, if you have received an NIP and want to know if the 14-day rule applies to you, the first thing you should do is check your logbook to make sure your details are correct.

Change in vehicle ownership

If you've recently purchased a second-hand vehicle, there is a chance the NIP could be sent to the previous owner first. The same applies if you have sold your vehicle; the NIP may arrive at your address, even though you're no longer the registered keeper.

Once again, whether this affects the validity of the NIP will depend on whether or not the details were amended correctly and at the right time, or if the notice was sent to the wrong receiver due to an administrative error.

Leased or hired vehicles

For leased or hired vehicles, the NIP is typically sent to the leasing or hire company first. They will then nominate you as the driver, and a new NIP will be issued in your name, which can take additional time to arrive.

As long as the notice was correctly served within 14 days by the original recipient, any further delays beyond this for the NIP to reach the actual driver will not be considered as part of the 14-day time limit.

Nomination of a different driver

If you are not the registered keeper of the vehicle, the NIP may initially be sent to the registered keeper, who will then have to nominate you as the driver responsible for the offence. This process can add extra days or even weeks to the time it takes for you to receive the NIP.

Again, as long as the NIP was sent to the registered vehicle keeper within the time limit, you will not be able to contest the speeding fine on this basis.

Postal strikes and lost mail

You may assume that if the delay in receiving the NIP was due to circumstances entirely beyond your control, this would exempt you from the speeding fine and penalty points, but this is not necessarily the case.

If there is a postal strike or your letter was lost in the mail, this does not mean you will be exempt. The law focuses on whether the police acted correctly and in a timely manner in issuing the NIP. If they posted it within the time frame that would ordinarily allow it to arrive within 14 days, then you will still be liable for the fine and penalty points.

Acts of God

Even in extraordinary circumstances, such as natural disasters affecting postal services, the focus remains on whether the police fulfilled their obligations and followed the usual processes in issuing the NIP. If they did, you will generally still be liable for the speeding fine.

Reasonable expectation: the key factor

The law considers what would have been a 'reasonable' time for the NIP to arrive. If it is deemed that the NIP could reasonably have been expected to arrive within the 14-day period based on the date it was posted, then it may still be valid, even if it arrives late.

As an illustration, there is a general legal presumption that an NIP is deemed to have been served two business days after it was posted. This means that if an NIP was posted on a Thursday, it would normally be considered served by the following Monday, assuming no bank holidays interfere.

Understanding these nuances is crucial if you are considering challenging a speeding ticket based on the 14-day rule. While the rule offers a potential avenue for avoiding a fine or penalty of points on your licence, it is certainly not a guaranteed escape route. It comes with its own set of complexities and limitations that you may need to consider before trying to launch a challenge on this basis.

When does the 14-day rule apply?

Bear in mind that the 14-day rule only applies in circumstances where the driver is only notified of their speeding offence after the event itself:

  • If you have been caught speeding by a fixed speed camera, such as HADECS (Highways Agency Digital Enforcement Camera System) or Gatsos (a speed camera that uses radar technology), the 14-day rule is applicable. These cameras automatically record the speeding offence and generate an NIP that is sent to the registered keeper of the vehicle.
  • If you have been caught driving above the speed limit using a manned camera, such as a laser device, then the 14-day window will apply. In these instances, the police will not stop you at the time of the alleged offence, and an NIP will be required to be sent within the 14-day limit.
  • If a driver is stopped by the police at the time of the offence, a verbal warning or NIP should be given. In this case, the 14-day rule does not apply, because the notice is immediate.

If you are considering challenging an NIP based on the 14-day rule, we strongly advise you to seek legal advice as soon as possible. The nuances of the law can be complex, and the various caveats and limitations will affect whether or not you have valid grounds to try and contest a speeding fine on this basis.

In some cases, drivers are offered the chance to take a speed awareness course and avoid a fine and penalty points on their driving licence. If you choose to contest a speeding ticket without adequate grounds, this could result in you missing out on this offer, so this is a choice that needs to be carefully considered.

By speaking to a speeding fine solicitor at the earliest opportunity, you can make a more informed decision about whether to challenge a speeding ticket based on the 14-day rule. While it offers a potential avenue for avoiding a fine, it is far from a guaranteed escape, and should be approached with a full understanding of the law.

Talk to us

If you have an issue you'd like to discuss with our motoring offence solicitors, please don't hesitate to call JMW on 0345 872 6666. Alternatively, fill in our online contact form and someone will be in touch as soon as possible.

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