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Understanding Exceptional Hardship: A Guide to Avoiding Driving Disqualifications

Exceptional hardship


If you are facing a potential driving ban due to accumulating 12 or more penalty points within three years under Section 35 of The Road Traffic Act 1988, there may be a way to avoid disqualification through an exceptional hardship plea. An application for “exceptional hardship” allows you to argue that a driving ban would cause you or your family exceptional hardship beyond the normal inconveniences.

If successfully argued, this application can prevent a “totting up” disqualification which is a minimum of 6 months, and allow you to keep your licence despite having 12+ points. In this situation, seeking expert legal representation is crucial to effectively present your exceptional hardship case to the court and increase your chances of avoiding disqualification.

Expert Representation for Exceptional Hardship

If you are facing a potential driving ban due to accumulating 12 or more penalty points within three years, you may have a valid application for exceptional hardship. A driving disqualification can have severe consequences, impacting your ability to work, care for loved ones, and maintain your daily life. In such a critical situation, it’s crucial to seek expert legal representation.

At Caddick Davies, we understand the profound impact a driving ban can have. If you are at risk of a totting up disqualification, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. Our experienced solicitors will guide you through the process and explore all available grounds for establishing exceptional hardship, potentially avoiding or reducing the severity of the penalties you face.

You can contact our office for a free consultation on 0151 944 4967.

Read on for further insight into exceptional hardship applications against driving disqualifications. Including the totting up procedures, grounds for exceptional hardship, sentencing guidelines, and the importance of seeking legal advice from qualified experts.

What is Exceptional Hardship in Driving Offences?

If you get 12 or more penalty points on your driving licence within 3 years, you normally face a minimum 6-month driving ban. This is often called a “totting up” disqualification.

The court looks at any penalty points that were valid when you committed the offence, even if those points have expired by the time of your court case; but any penalty points still visible on your licence for an offence committed more than three years prior to the commission of the current offence, will not be taken into consideration, pursuant to Section 29 of The Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988

The length of the ban depends on your history:

  • If you’ve never been disqualified before, it’s a 6-month ban
  • If you’ve been disqualified once before, it’s a 1-year ban
  • If you’ve been disqualified more than once before, it’s a 2-year ban

The court counts any previous driving bans over 56 days that were imposed within the last 3 years.

You can make an application for “exceptional hardship” to try to avoid the disqualification, even with 12+ points. Exceptional hardship means the driving ban would cause you or your family exceptional difficulty beyond normal inconvenience.

If successful, you keep your licence despite having 12+ points but you can only advance the same exceptional hardship grounds once every 3 years.

What Factors Will The Court Consider for Exceptional Hardship Claims?

At the point of sentencing you for your most recent offence, the Court will consider whether or not there are sufficient grounds to reduce or avoid a totting-up disqualification.

The Court will only take into consideration factors which amount to hardship being caused and must be satisfied that these factors amount to more than just an inconvenience. The hardship the person would be subject to needs to be exceptional in nature.

A driving disqualification will inevitably cause some nature of hardship for the person disqualified and their immediate family, therefore the exceptional nature of the hardship faced must be demonstrated to the court sufficiently.

The court will not take into consideration the following, pursuant to Section 35(4) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

(a) Any circumstances that are alleged to make the offence (or any of the offences whose penalty points are to be taken into account) not serious,

(b) Hardship, other an exceptional hardship

(c) Any circumstances which, within the three years immediately preceding the conviction, have been taken into account to reduce or avoid a totting up disqualification.

How to Build a Strong Exceptional Hardship Argument

A driving disqualification can substantially impact your life and ability to support yourself. The strongest exceptional hardship applications demonstrate multiple ways a ban would affect you and those around you. The court considers the hardship on the driver, but also on innocent third parties like family, friends and colleagues.

Employment Impacts – Loss of Job Alone May Not Be Enough

Losing your job is often seen as an inevitable result of a driving ban; however, if your job loss would cause significant hardship for your employer, this can strengthen your argument. For example:

  • If your company paid for special training and would face hardship training someone new
  • If you have specialised skills and it would be very difficult to find a replacement
  • If you are required to drive regularly for your job (e.g. taxi, truck driver)
  • If the company is small and would face financial difficulty without you
  • If a coworker relies on you for transportation to keep their job
  • If you provide essential public services like nursing or emergency medical care

Alternative Employment Difficulties

It’s also important to show if you would struggle to find alternative work without a licence, especially if you have extensive experience/training in your current field.

Work Schedule Impacts

If you work unconventional hours with limited public transit options, prove this with evidence like employment contracts and transit schedules.

Impacts on Your Business

If you own or manage a company, show how a ban could impact your clients, employees and their families with supporting evidence.

A driving disqualification can have a substantial impact on a person’s life and their ability to support themselves. The strongest “exceptional hardship” applications are those which have a number of different grounds to rely upon, as it demonstrates to the Court the many ways in which a disqualification would affect you and those around you.

Whilst the court will take into consideration the impact a disqualification has on the driver, they will also take into consideration how a disqualification would affect innocent 3rd parties, such as the offender’s family, friends and colleagues.

Financial Hardship Considerations

While some financial impact is inevitable with a driving ban, the court may consider if the disqualification would cause you or others severe financial hardship, forming part of an exceptional hardship argument. Be prepared to provide a full picture of your financial situation and potential consequences.

Personal Financial Obligations

  • If you have any personal loans or credit cards which you would be unable to pay and fall into arrears for.
  • If you reside alone, a disqualification would result in loss of employment/income which would render you unable to pay for essential bills such as rent/utility.
  • If you reside in a mortgaged property and would be at risk of losing your home if you were unable to make a mortgage payment.
  • If you reside in a rented property and would be at risk of being homeless if you were unable to make rent payments to your landlord.

Family Financial Support

  • If you are the sole or main earner of your household, you would be unable to financially support your family if you were disqualified.
  • Inability to assist others you support financially (rent, tuition, international money transfers, etc.)

Review of Savings

The court will also consider any savings you have and whether it’s enough to sustain you during the disqualification period.

Providing Financial Evidence

You can evidence your financial situation in many ways such as bank statements, loan/mortgage agreements and rental agreements/utility bills. It is important to ensure you evidence sufficiently any financial support you offer to other people. For example, if you are assisting someone with university tuition payments, you would need evidence of the cost of these payments, you paying the money out and obtaining a supporting statement from the person you assist.

Caregiving and Medical Conditions: Exceptional Hardship Considerations 

If you rely on your licence to provide caregiving to someone and would be unable to do so if disqualified, the court will also take this into consideration. A number of duties can fall under caregiving such as but not limited to:

  • If you are a registered part or full time carer for someone
  • If you assist a family member or friend with transportation to medical appointments
  • If you visit someone to assist them with tasks such as cooking cleaning or carrying out essential daily responsibilities and would be unable to continue to do so if you were disqualified from driving
  • If you assist someone with transportation to school or work because they are unable to take public transport due to a medical reason

In order to evidence the assistance you provide sufficiently, it would be beneficial to obtain a supporting statement from the person you assist and also medical records to demonstrate any conditions they suffer from.

If you suffer from a medical condition yourself and require the use of your vehicle to access hospital or medical appointments, this may help strengthen your exceptional hardship application. This should also be referenced if you believe the use of your vehicle assists you with a medical condition you have. For example, if you struggle walking long distances so rely upon use of your vehicle to carry out essential tasks.

Preparing for Court: Documents and Evidence to Support Your Exceptional Hardship Claim

In order to ensure your “exceptional hardship” application is as strong as possible, it is crucial to obtain supporting documents to demonstrate a disqualification would or is likely to cause exceptional hardship. All the information provided must be factual and you must not attempt to mislead the court in any way.

Supporting documents can include but are not limited to:

  • Supporting statements from anyone who be impacted by your driving disqualification, such as dependants, family and friends
  •  Supporting statement from your employer
  • Supporting statements from employees/colleagues
  • Contract of employment
  • Medical records
  • Letter from GP
  • Bank statements
  • Bills
  • Mortgage or rental agreement
  • Google Maps demonstrates a lack of public transport or that you reside in a rural area

In many cases, it can assist in bringing the author of supporting statements to court with you. For example, if a large portion of your exceptional hardship application rests on your ability to provide caregiving for your partner, it would strengthen your argument if they are able to give verbal submissions in person at court.

Do I need to attend court if I have a solicitor or barrister instructed?

Yes, whilst your solicitor or barrister will advance your legal argument, you will still need to attend court in case the bench/judge wishes to ask you any questions.

Do I need a solicitor to assist with an Exceptional Hardship Application? Argument?

We would advise seeking legal advice if you are considering making an exceptional hardship argument, as a legal professional that specialises in this area of law will be able to advise you if your argument has reasonable grounds of success. Find out more: How can a solicitor help to reduce your motoring offence sentence.

Legal Assistance for Exceptional Hardship Cases

At Caddick Davies Solicitors, we have a team of specialist motor defence lawyers who are experts in preparing and presenting “Exceptional Hardship” applications in court. We understand the complexities of these cases and have a proven track record of successfully assisting clients in avoiding driving disqualifications.

From the most straightforward to the most intricate cases, we are dedicated to providing personalised support and guidance. We begin every enquiry with an informal discussion to gain a thorough understanding of your unique circumstances and to address any questions you may have in complete confidence.

If you believe that there are mitigating circumstances that may qualify for exceptional hardship and that should be considered in your case, please don’t hesitate to contact our office for a free consultation at 0151 944 4967.

Motoring Lawyer at Caddick Davies Solicitors
Caddick Davies is recognised as one of England and Wales’ leading motoring law firms, offering specialist Speeding Solicitors, Drink Driving Solicitors & Dangerous Driving Solicitors.We provide advice and representation on all motoring offences including speeding, the avoidance of disqualification on penalty points or “totting up” (exceptional hardship), driving without due care and attention (careless driving), dangerous driving, drink driving, as well as a range of services related to medical revocation of a driving licence.
Neil Davies

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