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Summary Only Offences – What You Need To Know

Summary Only Offences

The vast majority of motoring offences are summary only offences, meaning that they are typically tried in a Magistrates’ court, without the need for a jury. The exception to this is dangerous driving, or where a fatality has occurred as a result of the offence. These offences are indictable, meaning that they are heard in a Crown court with a jury present.

But what exactly is a summary offence, and what is the maximum sentence that you can receive for this type of offence?

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about summary offences, from the types of offences that fall into this category to the sentence you can expect to receive for a summary offence.

What Are Summary Offences UK?

A summary only offence is a criminal offence that can be dealt with in a Magistrates’ court, without the need for a jury. A person may be charged with a summary only offence if they have committed an offence that is punishable by imprisonment for a term of up to two years or a fine of up to £5,000.

The trial will be overseen by an appointed judge or a panel of three lay magistrates. The judge or magistrates will determine the innocence or guilt of the defendant before deciding on a sentence if required.

In most cases, a person charged with a summary only offence will be given a summons to appear in court. However, in some cases, the police may arrest and detain a person suspected of committing a summary only offence.


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Examples Of Summary Offences

There are many different types of offence that fall into the category of summary offences. This includes both motoring offences and other types of offences. Let’s take a look at some of the different types of summary offence.

  • Minor motoring offences
  • Criminal damage under £5,000
  • Taking a vehicle without consent
  • Common assault
  • Low level shoplifting
  • Drunk and disorderly

Summary Motoring Offences

Summary Motoring Offences

The majority of driving offences are summary offences. This means that the case will be dealt with in a Magistrates’ court, without the need for a jury to be present. The types of motoring offences that fall into the summary only category are those which are the least serious, such as speeding, failing to wear a seatbelt or driving without due care and attention.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common summary only motoring offences, which can be dealt with in a Magistrates’ court.

Careless Driving

There are many different offences that fall under the category of careless driving, but the most common is when a person drives without due care and attention. This could be for example if they suddenly change lanes into another lane with traffic, or pull out onto a main road without checking to see if it’s clear.

Disobeying Traffic Signs And Police Signals

There are several traffic signs that, if disobeyed, will result in a person being charged with an offence. This includes stop signs, no entry signs and one way signs.

It’s also possible to be charged with an offence of failing to stop for a police officer if they have signalled you to pull over because they suspect that you have committed a traffic offence.

Failing To Provide A Specimen Of Breath, Blood Or Urine

If the police suspect that you are under the influence of drink or drugs while driving, they may ask you to provide them with a specimen. If you fail to provide this without a reasonable explanation, then you will be charged with an offence. This will be tried in the Magistrates’ court as a summary only offence.

Speeding Offences

If you are caught driving a vehicle at a speed above the prescribed limit, you may be tried in a Magistrates’ court for your speeding offence.

There are three main speeding offences that can be tried summarily:

  • Driving at an excessive speed.
  • Driving at a speed that is inappropriate given the circumstances of the road and traffic conditions.
  • Driving too fast for the type and condition of the vehicle being driven.

Seatbelt Offences

Although wearing a seatbelt is not compulsory in every car, the driver and any passengers must wear a seatbelt if one is fitted. If you’re caught driving without wearing a seatbelt, you can be charged with an offence which will be tried as a summary only offence.


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Either Way Motoring Offences

There are also some motoring offences that can be tried either way. This means that the case will be heard in a Magistrates’ court or a Crown court, depending on the severity of the offence. The types of offences that fall into this category include drink driving offences and more serious speeding offences.

Here are some of the motoring offences that can be tried either way.

Dangerous Driving

If your standard of driving falls far below the expected standard of a competent and careful driver, you could be charged with dangerous driving. Examples of dangerous driving include:

  • Dangerously overtaking other vehicles
  • Ignoring road signs or traffic lights
  • Being avoidable and dangerously distracted at the wheel
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Unless requested by the defendant, a dangerous driving charge will usually be tried summarily in a Magistrates court, unless there is an aggravating factor. This can include alcohol or drugs, or the offence resulting in the injury or death of another road user.

Forgery And False Information

Sections 173 and 174 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 prohibits motorists from falsifying documents and making false statements to the police. This includes forging or altering a licence, certificate or operator’s disc.

Likewise, section 115 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act prohibits the misuse of parking documents, so handing over a parking ticket to another vehicle could fall into this category.

These offences are either way offences, meaning that they can be heard in either a Magistrates’ court or a Crown court, depending on the severity of the offence.

Indictable Only Motoring Offences

Indictable Only Motoring Offences

Whilst the majority of driving offences are summary only, there are a few more serious offences that are triable only through indictment. These offences can only be dealt with in a Crown court, in the presence of a jury.

Let’s take a look at some of the indictable only motoring offences, which cannot be tried in a Magistrates’ court.

Causing Death By Dangerous Driving

This is the most serious of all driving offences, and if you are charged with it, you can expect to appear in a Crown court. This is because causing death by dangerous driving is an indictable only offence, which must be heard in the presence of a jury.

Causing death by dangerous driving falls under section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. The maximum sentence for this offence is fourteen years imprisonment, although this would usually be between two and fourteen years imprisonment.

Motoring Offences Involving A Charge Of Manslaughter Or Murder

In addition to causing death by dangerous driving, any other motoring offence that has resulted in the death of a person will be categorised as indictment only. This is because offences involving murder or manslaughter are amongst the most serious offences, so must be tried with a jury.

This includes:

  • Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving
  • Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs
  • Causing death while driving disqualified, uninsured or unlicensed

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Is Careless Driving A Summary Only Offence?

Careless driving, also known as driving without due care and attention, involves the standard of driving falling below what is expected of a competent and careful driver. This offence is usually a summary only offence. This means that it can only be heard in a Magistrates’ court, and a jury is not required for the hearing.

Careless driving might include:

  • Overtaking on the inside lane
  • Not giving way when required
  • Using the wrong lane on a roundabout
  • Eating or drinking whilst driving
  • Inappropriate speed
  • Tailgating

However, there are some cases where careless driving could be an indictable offence that must be heard in a Crown court. This is usually the case where the careless driving has resulted in the death of another road user.

Is Dangerous Driving A Summary Offence

Is Dangerous Driving A Summary Offence?

Dangerous driving is classed as an either way offence, meaning that it can be tried as a summary only offence or an indictable offence depending on the circumstances. By default, dangerous driving will be tried as a summary offence. However, if there are any aggravating factors such as alcohol or racing, it may be tried as an indictable offence.

In addition to this, it’s important to note that if the dangerous driving results in a death, it will automatically be tried as an indictment offence. This is because the charge becomes significantly more serious when murder or manslaughter is involved, and the potential penalties are more severe if you are convicted of death by dangerous driving.


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Send us a message or call us on 0333 443 2366 for friendly advice


What Driving Offences Require A Notice Of Intended Prosecution?

If you are the registered keeper of a vehicle that is suspected to have been involved in a motoring offence, you may receive a notice of intended prosecution (sometimes referred to as an NIP).

There are many different types of motoring offences for which a notice of intended prosecution may be served. These include:

  • Dangerous driving
  • Careless driving
  • Speeding offences
  • Failure to follow traffic signs
  • Using a mobile phone whilst driving
  • Running a red light

The notice of intended prosecution will explain the type of offence that you may be prosecuted for, as well as further details of the alleged offence and the vehicle that is suspected of being involved.

Related Questions

How Long After A Driving Offence Can I Be Prosecuted?

In general, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has a six month time limit from the original date of the offence in order to begin proceedings. However, there are some circumstances in which proceedings can be issued later than this.

There are also some offences such as speeding offences for which the registered keeper of the vehicle must be sent a notice of intended prosecution to make them aware that they may be prosecuted within 14 days of the alleged offence taking place. If this warning is not provided, either through the post or verbally if you are stopped by a police officer, the prosecution may not be able to proceed.

Do All Driving Offences Go To Court?

Whether or not your motoring offence will go to court will depend on the type of offence, along with its severity. Whilst many minor offences such as speeding offences can be dealt with through a fixed penalty notice, other more serious offences such as dangerous driving are likely to require a trial in court. Whether the trial will be held at a Magistrates’ court or in a Crown court with a jury present will depend on the nature of the offence, as well as whether it is a summary only offence or an indictable offence.

In Summary

If you are charged with committing a motoring offence and asked to attend court, you might be wondering whether you’ll be attending a Magistrates’ court or a Crown court. This will depend on whether the offence is categorised as a summary only offence or an indictable offence. Summary only offences are held at a Magistrates’ court and do not require a jury to be present, whilst indictable offences can only be heard at a Crown court in the presence of a jury.

If you’ve been charged with a motoring offence, the best course of action is to seek expert legal advice as early as possible. This will give you a chance to review possible defences and decide on the best way forward for your individual circumstances.


Contact Caddick Davies Solicitors today
Send us a message or call us on 0333 443 2366 for friendly advice


 

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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