Legal Information Centre

26 November 2008 by Mary Heaney

Motoring solicitor

With cameras everywhere, Britain's motorists are having a hard time. We talk to motoring solicitors on what to do if you are caught.

A motoring offence normally just means a speeding ticket which you want to deal with and forget about as quickly as possible. Sometimes, however, you will need a motoring solicitor to save you from losing your livelihood or even from going to prison.

To help give you an idea of what to do when using a motoring solicitor and what to expect from the service has spoken to a selection of lawyer.

When to use a solicitor

Speeding offences are the work that motoring solicitors most commonly deal with, but more specifically when they are facing a ban says Gwyn Lewis (left) of motoring solicitors Burton Copeland. You could be disqualified if you get 12 points on your license – or 6 as a probationary driver – and if you are caught speeding excessively.

“Driving is a lot like breathing: people don’t worry about it until they are told they can’t do it anymore,” says Lewis. “The role of a motoring solicitor is to make the process as painless as possible and take away the worry. Sometimes it is just a matter of hearing a reassuring voice on the end of the phone.”

Other matters a motoring solicitor will deal with include drink driving, failing to provide a specimen, careless driving and dangerous driving.

However, Simon Corbett-Jarvis (right), a motoring solicitor at Southampton-based firm Eric Robinson, says it is necessary to question whether it is cost effective to use a motoring solicitor in some circumstances.

For minor speeding offences it is often not worth it for a guilty plea and a first offence – you can represent yourself in court and even enter your plea by post. A motoring solicitor is more important for when you need to protect your license. Essentially you need to think about how much it will cost to use a solicitor, says Corbett-Jarvis. It is therefore vital you ask your motoring solicitor what they can do and whether it is worth the costs before making any decisions.

What to ask your solicitor

Motoring solicitor Caroline Dunne of Buckinghamshire-based Chebsey & Co emphasises the importance of consulting a motoring solicitor “who specialises and understands the intricacies of the field” rather than simply a “general criminal lawyer.”

All the panel agreed on the importance of the quality of experience in a motoring solicitor. Lewis recommends looking to calibre of the motoring solicitor’s testimonials to make a judgement.

How you can prepare for meeting

“Arm your  solicitor with as much information as possible,” says motoring solicitor Corbett-Jarvis. In the case of speeding offences make a note of when it was, what the conditions were and how you did it – whether it was the result of a moment’s inattention or you had been consistently speeding.

Caroline Dunne agrees that such details can be useful for a motoring solicitor. Defence can be quite technical so it important to keep any paperwork and correspondence that relate to the matter for your motoring solicitor.

If you are pulled over for drink driving Dunne also advises that you always provide a breath specimen. If you do not you will be automatically disqualified and there is nothing a motoring solicitor can do. If your breath test is borderline and you are offered the opportunity to provide a blood sample Dunne also recommends that you do this.

How much your solicitor will cost

Your solicitor is obliged to provide an estimate of costs at the outset so do not be afraid to ask them. The final bill from your motoring solicitor should be entirely transparent, says Gwyn Lewis, and based upon an hourly rate. Your motoring solicitor could resolve the matter as quickly as a phone call or a single letter says Lewis or it could go to court when it becomes a case of “how long is a piece of string?”

“Dangerous driving is an either way offence and will usually go to the Crown Court meaning it will take your motoring solicitor even longer – possible up to a year,” says Corbett-Jarvis. “The lower end stuff, however, will usually finish on the first occasion in court for a guilty plea, or from start to finish it can take your motoring solicitor as little as six months for a contested hearing.”

The hourly rate can vary greatly depending on your motoring solicitor. However, it is frequently likely to come down to experience – “you pay for grey hair” as Lewis puts it. This also means that the motoring solicitor with the lowest hourly rate is not necessarily going to be the cheapest since someone with less experience may take longer.

For lower end cases legal aid is unavailable for paying for your motoring solicitor says Carline Dunne. It may be an option if there is the threat of prison, such as in the case of dangerous driving or a second or third incident of drink driving.

You may also be able to pay for your legal advcie  through an insurance policy or trade union membership, she adds.

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