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What Happens If I Plead Guilty At Magistrates Court UK

If you have been summoned to appear before a court for a motoring offence, you may be wondering what happens if you plead guilty at Magistrates Court UK. 

If you plead guilty in a Magistrates Court, your case will not go to trial and you will usually be sentenced immediately. This means that you will not have to go through a trial, as you have already admitted guilt for the offence.

The only exception to this is if the charges against you are particularly serious – in this case, it may be referred to the Crown Court.

If you plead guilty in a Magistrates’ Court, your sentence may be reduced by up to one third. However, the only way to know whether pleading guilty or not guilty is right for you is by speaking to an experienced motoring offence solicitor.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about pleading guilty in a Magistrates’ Court in the UK, including what you can expect from the sentencing process and how to ensure that you get the best possible outcome for your case.

Pleading Guilty In A Magistrates’ Court – The Process

If you have committed a minor traffic offence that can’t be resolved by accepting a fixed penalty notice, you will receive a court summons in the form of a Single Justice Procedure Notice. This is the case for any summary-only offence. Traffic offences are generally ‘summary-only’ offences meaning they can be heard and sentenced in a Magistrate Court.

You will then need to decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty to the alleged offence. The decision on which plea to enter should be made as a result of the discussions held and advice given by your solicitor before the Court date.

You can either plead guilty by post, or attend court in person on the day of your hearing. If you plead guilty by post, you will need to send your completed Single Justice Procedure Notice back to the court, along with a letter outlining your plea and any mitigating circumstances that you wish to be taken into account.

If you choose to plead guilty in person, you will need to attend court on the day of your hearing. The clerk will read out the charge or charges against you and you will be asked if you plead guilty or not guilty. The Magistrate will then ask you whether you have anything to say in mitigation before deciding on your sentence.

Pleading guilty means that you are accepting that you have committed the criminal offence that you are charged with. When you have entered your guilty plea, it is then up to the Magistrate to convict you of the offence and issue appropriate sentencing, unless they choose to refer it to the Crown Court which would only be done in the most serious cases.

What Happens At A Magistrates Court?

Virtually all criminal court cases start and are completed in a Magistrate Court. In a Magistrates Court, a panel of two to three Magistrates or a District Judge will review minor cases such as petty theft, criminal damage, public disorder and motoring offences.

Cases heard by a Magistrate are broken down into three categories:

  • Summary offences such as driving offences are usually fully managed in a Magistrate Court. This covers fairly minor offences including, but not limited to; speeding, driving without due care and attention, failing to stop or report an accident, driving a motor vehicle without valid third party insurance, using a mobile phone, and failing to comply with a red traffic signal and drink driving.
  • Either way, offences can either be finalised in a Magistrate Court or a Crown Court if their facts make them more serious. Either-way cases will likely go to Crown Court if the Magistrate deems the offence too serious for the Magistrates Court or if the defendant insists on their right to trial in the Crown Court. Either-way motoring offences include; dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving.
  • Indictable-only cases such as murder, rape, or very serious motoring offences such as causing death by dangerous driving and motor manslaughter must be heard before the Crown Court’s judge and jury and will be immediately sent from the Magistrates to the Crown Court after deciding whether to grant bail or reporting restrictions on the defendant.

Do You Need A Solicitor If You Plead Guilty?

It is a common misconception that you don’t need a solicitor if you are pleading guilty and admitting to the alleged offence.

A solicitor can help to argue any mitigating factors on your behalf in an attempt to reduce the severity of any sentence that may be imposed, and they can also ensure that you are aware of all the facts in your prosecution case so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not to plead guilty.

For example, if you have been accused of a drink driving offence but you believe that you were not over the legal limit, a solicitor could help to review the evidence and potentially get the charges dropped, or argue that your charge should be reduced to a lesser offence.

A guilty plea should only be entered if you are confident that you are in fact guilty of the offence and there is no other defence that can be used. If you are unsure of your guilt or if there are any other potential defences available, you should seek legal advice from a solicitor before entering a guilty plea.

You have the right to free legal advice and representation from a solicitor at any stage in proceedings, including the police station. If you are summoned to appear in court, it is advisable that you seek specialist motoring defence solicitors as they will be able to best advise you on your case.

Caddick Davies is a team of motor offence solicitors who can provide representation, defence and advice when you are charged with any kind of traffic offence. If you are summoned or charged to appear before a court, you will need the skills and expertise of an experienced solicitor.

A solicitor specialising in the area of law that you are charged with committing an offence under will provide a strong defence counsel that can be relied on in Court to give you the best chance of a positive outcome. Our team at Caddick Davies have successfully defended many motorists in Courts around the UK and can offer a no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.


Contact Caddick Davies Solicitors today

Message the team or call us on 0333 443 2366 for friendly advice


Read on to understand more about pleading guilty at a Magistrate Court in the UK.

Magistrate Court lettering on exterior building wall

Does Pleading Guilty Reduce Your Sentence UK?

If you’re thinking about pleading guilty in a Magistrates’ Court, you might be wondering whether it is likely to reduce your sentence.

Sentencing guidelines provide a range of appropriate sentences that the Magistrate can issue depending on the seriousness and specifics of each offence presented to them. There are sentencing guidelines available for all crimes, including speeding, dangerous driving, failure to stop at the scene of an accident, and all other driving offences.

These guidelines provide a framework of factors that the court should take into account when issuing sentencing to offenders. By using the framework to provide a fair and consistent approach to sentencing, sentences are proportionally appropriate to the individual and crime in question regardless of who the Magistrate is on the day.

One of the factors that a Magistrate will consider is the original plea that is entered by the defendant. If you plead guilty, you will be awarded a reduction in your sentence, up to a maximum of one-third of the total sentence that could be issued. To qualify for this reduction you must plead guilty from the start of proceedings and not change your plea halfway through the Court hearing. The Sentencing Council’s guideline, Reduction in Sentence for a Guilty Plea, sets out how the level of reduction is determined.


Magistrates’ Court Vs Crown Court – What’s The Difference?

The two types of criminal courts in England and Wales are the Magistrates’ Court and the Crown Court.

The Magistrates’ Court is where most criminal cases start. The court deals with less serious offences such as theft, criminal damage, assault, and motoring offences. More serious cases are sent to the Crown Court.

The Crown Court is where the most serious criminal cases are heard. The court deals with offences such as murder, rape, and serious fraud. Cases are also sent to the Crown Court if the defendant has entered a not guilty plea in the Magistrates’ Court and the case needs to be decided by a jury.

Can A Magistrate Give A Custodial Sentence?

Yes, a Magistrate can give a custodial sentence. The maximum prison sentence that a Magistrate can give is 6 months in prison or a fine of £5,000, or both. If the offence is more serious, the case will be sent to the Crown Court and the Judge will decide on the sentence.

What Happens If You Are Found Guilty In Magistrates Courts?

If you are found guilty in Magistrates Court of a summary offence, the sentence will be decided by the Magistrate. The sentence will depend on the severity of the offence and whether you have any previous convictions.

For less serious offences, the sentence is likely to be a fine, community service, penalty points on your licence, a driving ban, a supervision order or a suspended sentence. For more serious offences, the sentence is likely to be a prison sentence, a community sentence, or a combination of both.

Can You Appeal Against A Magistrates Court Decision?

If you are not happy with the decision of the Magistrates’ Court, you can appeal to the Crown Court. The Crown Court will look at the case again and decide whether to uphold the decision of the Magistrates’ Court or not.

If you are thinking about appealing your sentence, we’d always recommend seeking the advice of a specialist motoring offence solicitor. They will be able to tell you if there are grounds for an appeal and what the chances are of success.

Will My Driving Licence Be Revoked?

If you are convicted of a motoring offence, your driving licence may be revoked. The decision to revoke your licence will be made by the Magistrates’ Court. If your licence is revoked, you will have to reapply for a new one.

The main reasons for a driving licence potentially being revoked are:

– You have been convicted of a drink driving offence

– You have been convicted of a drug driving offence

– You have been convicted of a motoring offence and your licence has been endorsed with 12 or more points

– You have been convicted of dangerous driving

– You have been convicted of causing death by dangerous driving

If you think your licence may be revoked, we recommend seeking legal advice from a specialist motoring offence solicitor. They will be able to advise you on the best course of action and help you to keep your licence.


If you have been summoned or charged to appear before a court you may be wondering ‘what happens if I plead guilty at a Magistrates Court UK’. We hope this article has given you an overview of the Magistrate Court process that will be followed and how your sentence can be impacted by entering a guilty plea from the outset.

To recap,

  • If you plead guilty at the outset in a Magistrates Court, your case will not go to trial and you will usually be sentenced immediately
  • If your offence is particularly serious, it is known as an ‘either-way offence’ which could be referred to the Crown Court.
  • When pleading guilty, the sentence handed to you can be reduced by up to one-third of the maximum sentence available to the Magistrate.

Our leading team of motoring offence solicitors at Caddick Davies have a reputation for success when it comes to defending motorists charged with driving offences. We work with clients all over the UK and are rated in the top 20 law firms on TrustPilot- get in touch today!

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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