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Reaching 12 penalty points on your driving licence usually means an automatic ban under the “totting up” procedure. Drivers who amass a dozen points or more will face a court appearance at which they might suspect the loss of their driving licence will occur, but this is not always the case.

Find out what happens if you receive a summons for reaching 12 penalty points or more on your licence and discover if there is anything that can be done to prevent you receiving a ban. 

What usually happens when you reach 12 penalty points?

If you reach 12 points or more on your licence, then you are very likely to receive a driving ban under the “totting up” system. The usual ban in these circumstances is an automatic 6-month disqualification, but there is the possibility that a solicitor or barrister might be able to secure you a better result.


What is a totting up ban? 

Totting up is a penalty point-based system used by the courts to deal with drivers who commit road traffic offences. Using the system, the courts can impose set points on a driver depending on the nature and severity of their offence. The minimum number of points for minor driving offences is usually 2 points, while other types of driving offence can carry penalty points typically between 3 and 6 points. These points can be tracked so that a motorist who clocks up 12 points or more for a series of offences within a 3-year period can be banned. 

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Do you have to go to court after reaching 12 points?

A driver who commits an offence that is going to result in them reaching or surpassing 12 months will receive a summons in the post telling them that they are required to attend court for consideration of a ban being imposed. The summons will include details of the charge and invite the driver to enter a plea of ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ to the offence.

Regardless of the plea, the driver will still be required to attend, even if it is just to attend court for sentencing. A not guilty plea will result in a trial before the Magistrate’s Court at which all the evidence will be heard.


What will happen when attending Court?

A hearing will usually be presided over by Magistrates or a District Judge sitting in the Magistrate’s Court. Although it is possible to represent yourself, you are better advised to instruct a solicitor or barrister to advise and represent you in court.

The Court will hear your case and if found guilty (or already pleaded guilty) will then consider the appropriate sentence for your offence. If the penalty points takes you to 12 points or more then under the totting up system you will be in line to receive a 6-month ban, if this is your first disqualification within a 3 year period.


What if you’ve been banned previously? How long will a driving ban last then?

The ban for getting 12 or more penalty points within 3 years is more severe if it is not the first time. Penalties for offenders under totting up are as follows:

  • 6 months, for a first disqualification within 3 years
  • 12 months, for a second disqualification within 3 years
  • 2 years, for a third disqualification within 3 years


Does 12 points always mean an automatic ban?

The Court will look to impose the automatic ‘totting up’ ban on drivers who reach 12 penalty points or more, but there is some hope for drivers who are hoping to still be able to drive. Usually 12 points means a ban, but magistrates can choose not to impose it if ‘exceptional hardship’ can be proven. 

To try and prove ‘exceptional hardship’, a court hearing would have to take place at which the onus would be on the defence to present evidence to prove that the driver, or others, would suffer if such a ban was imposed. The court would hear evidence of the impact a 6-month ban might have on work, home life and direct family members.

After an application is made, magistrates will retire to consider their verdict. If the application is successful, then the driver won’t be banned (or could be banned for a much shorter period) but will still be driving on 12 points or more until their points expire. If the ‘exceptional hardship’ application fails then you will be banned, but will never be penalised more harshly for making the application.


What are the chances of succeeding with an ‘exceptional hardship’ application?

An application to avoid a ban in these circumstances is not easy to make, after all you are pleading guilty to the offence, but then asking not to be punished severely. An application will have to demonstrate that there is no feasible alternative to keeping the driving licence.

Note, exceptional hardship can only be applied to offences which carry penalty points and not to offences that lead to a mandatory disqualification such as dangerous driving or drink driving.


For what reason might an ‘exceptional hardship’ application succeed?

There are no guarantees that an ‘exceptional hardship’ application will be accepted by magistrates. Arguing that the revoking of a driving licence would lead to a loss of employment is not enough in itself to prove ‘exceptional hardship’ as many drivers would commonly fall back on this argument.

In order for a court to find ‘exceptional hardship’ they would need to hear about the consequences of losing a job, such as how much it would impact on the ability to pay mortgage or rent and therefore their ability to have stable accommodation. Magistrates are often more concerned about the impact any driving ban might have on others in a family, rather than the perpetrator of the driving offence.

Equally, they might consider the impact that a driving ban might have on fellow employees, especially if it means a driving ban impacts on the employment of others. Generally, any hardship caused to others increases the chances of an ‘exceptional hardship’ application being accepted.


Can you give any examples of ‘exceptional hardship’ that might succeed? 

Examples of cases that might succeed could include some of the following:

  • A HGV driver who might lose their job (and possibility of other employment) if unable to drive.
  • A carer who has to drive in order to transport a disabled family member around and there is no-one else who could drive them. 
  • A health worker such as a doctor/nurse who requires their vehicle in order to carry out their job.
  • A driver whose health means they rely on their vehicle for mobility and cannot reasonably use public transport. 
  • A business owner whose ability to drive places the business and other employees jobs at risk.
  • A voluntary worker who requires a vehicle in order to carry out vital community activities.
  • An emergency service employee, such as a police officer or fireman, who is required to drive for their job.

There are many other circumstances that might have success, but none are absolutely guaranteed, and it can often depend on the magistrates who are sitting in court.


What sort of evidence would need to be provided in an exceptional hardship hearing?

Magistrates are hardened to many of the attempts of drivers to use ‘exceptional hardship’ in order to avoid a driving ban. It is therefore very important that any application is carefully prepared and backed with relevant evidence.

For example, if arguing that the loss of a driving licence will lead to loss of a job, it would be useful to have something in written form from an employer showing that this would be the case. If arguing that a driver needs to retain their licence in order to assist someone who is unwell or in some way impaired, then some documentation highlighting the condition and degree of help required would be useful to the court and enhance the application’s chances of success.


What happens if you win an ‘exceptional hardship’ argument?

If a driver is successful with an ‘exceptional hardship’ application, then they will usually avoid a ban. This will end up in the strange position of having 12 or more points on a driving licence, but still being able to drive. It is very likely that if any more points are imposed on this driver in the near future, disqualification will result.


Is it possible to appeal a ban after an exceptional hardship application has failed?

If magistrates have refused an ‘exceptional hardship’ application in an attempt to avoid a ban, it is possible to lodge an appeal to the Crown Court in the hpe that they will overturn the decision of the magistrates. A ‘Notice of Appeal’ needs to be submitted at the Magistrates Court, and the matter will be referred to the Crown Court who will advise on the date when an appeal will be heard. During the period of waiting for the appeal to be heard, it is possible to have the driving ban lifted by magistrates.


What if a driver proves ‘exceptional hardship’ but then commits another offence?

A driver who avoids a ban through exceptional hardship needs to be careful not to accrue any further penalty points, as once an ‘exceptional argument’ has been used and accepted, the ‘same’ argument cannot be used again within 3 years of the date of that court hearing. It would be possible to advance an argument of exceptional hardship within that three-year period if the ‘hardship’ was different in nature from what had been advanced to the court before.


Will a totting up ban still apply if some of the penalty points expire before court attendance?

Unfortunately for drivers hoping to avoid a ban, the court always takes into account the number of penalty points on a licence at the time of the driving offence. Having points that were due to expire before you attend court therefore usually has no bearing on a potential ban. 

In cases where an exceptional hardship submission is being put forward in an attempt to avoid a totting up ban, the court can at their discretion take into account the fact that points were soon due to lapse, but there are no guarantees with this approach.

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Does the totting up procedure apply to new drivers?

The 12 penalty points totting up procedure does not apply to new drivers. The rules are much harsher for new drivers, who are required to do their driving test again if they get 6 points. New driver status applies for a period of two years after passing the driving test.

Any new driver receiving 6 points of more will have their licence revoked and go back to being a provisional licence holder. This means they are not disqualified from driving but have to do their test (both theory and practical) again. They are entitled to take their test at any point that a test slot is available, and once they pass, are able to be back on the road.


Are all penalty points removed when a totting up ban ends?

Under the totting up system, when a ban comes to an end, a driver’s is able to apply for their licence to be returned, and the slate is wiped clean and all points removed. An instant ban, not related to a totting up process, has no effect on penalty points.

Will a licence be automatically returned after a totting up ban has ended?

Where a driving ban has been imposed by the court under the totting up procedure, the driver would have been expected to surrender their licence to the court or return it to the DVLA. If the driver has succeeded in having the length of ban reduced to 56 days or less, the licence will be returned upon completion of the ban.

For most drivers, serving the 6 month ban under the totting up system, they must apply to have their licence reinstated and returned to them. A fee must be paid to the DVLA, but a clean driving licence will be returned to the driver and they will be free to resume driving as long as the length of the ban has been fully served.

One note of caution is if you do not pay the fee to have your licence reinstated then you could still be prosecuted for “driving otherwise than in accordance with your licence” even though your ban may have expired. This is why it is important to apply for your licence to be returned after a totting up ban.


Do you need a solicitor if facing a totting up ban?

While it is possible to represent yourself in the Magistrate’s Court, it is not recommended, especially if you are seeking to escape a ban. To secure the best possible outcome, you really should engage the services of a specialised motor defence lawyer. The majority of people who try to argue ‘exceptional hardship’ and represent themselves do not succeed.

The key to succeeding in an ‘exceptional hardship’ application is having a well reasoned and well planned argument. A solicitor will help get together all the supporting documentation to give you the best the best chance of success. They will try to portray you in the best possible light before the court, making it more difficult for the prosecution to undermine your case.

Clearly, if you receive a summons advising you of a potential ban under the totting up system, you should not just assume it’s a done deal and that a ban is inevitable. There are ways in which a motoring solicitor or barrister can help you and potentially help you avoid a ban even if you have amassed the dirty dozen of motoring penalty points. 

If you are facing a ban under the totting up procedure, then consult Caddick Davies motor defence solicitors. We can potentially help you avoid a ban, or receive a reduced ban. A court summons for reaching 12 points does not always mean the loss of your driving licence, so get in touch today and see how we can help you.

How We Can Help

At Caddick Davies Solicitors, we specialise in the representation of motorists who have “totted up” 12 penalty points and face being disqualified from driving.

We have successfully represented hundreds of motorists and avoided their disqualification on the grounds of “exceptional hardship”.

We pride ourselves on the results we achieve and so if you find yourself facing up a penalty points (“totting up”) disqualification, please contact us for advice and a no obligation consultation on how we can help.

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