Section 103(1)(b), Road Traffic Act 1988

The offence is committed in any circumstances where a person drives any motor vehicle during a period of disqualification imposed on him by a court.  

Only a court of law can imposed a period of disqualification.  Disqualification takes effect immeditely from the moment it is imposed by the court.  Following a period of disqualification it is necessary to apply to DVLA for the return of your driving licence.  Subject to certain time limits an application can be made for removal of disqualification before the period of disqualification is due to end. 

It is also an offence to obtain a driving licence if you are disqualified.  If a person does so the licence will not be valid and he will face a separate prosecution for obtaining a driving licence whilst disqualified.  

Penalties

Disqualification is an order of the court.  Since the offence of driving whilst disqualified blatantly disregards the order of the court it is always regarded as a serious offence.  The maximum penalty is a fine of up to £5000 and 12 months imprisonment.  Disqualification is discretionary, but mostly inevitable.  In exceptional circumstances, however, the court has the power to refrain from disqualification and can impose 6 penalty points.  

The Prosecution Case

To secure a conviction the prosecution must introduce sufficient evidence that the person accused of the offence was both: 

  • Driving a motor vehicle; and
  • Disqualified from driving at the time.

In practice the prosecution will lead evidence from two police officers who will, principally, give evidence about the identity of the driver and the driving that took place.   If a person denies that he was disqualified this must be properly intimated to the court early in the proceedings.  Where such a challenge has been made the prosecution sometimes struggle to prove that a person has been previously disqualified, especially if it was imposed in a different jurisdiction.

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Defences and Mitigation

Unless you can prove that you were not in fact driving or were not the subject of a period of disqualification, defences are limited.  However, a valid defence of Necessity or Duress is available.  The defence is only available where the disqualified person is able to establish that he drove because of an immediate danger to himself or another person. 

Problems arise where people are unaware that they are disqualified.  This may happen where a person has:

  • been disqualified in their absence; or
  • been ordered to re-sit their test following a period of disqualification, or 
  • simply made a mistake about the dates of disqualification. 

It is not a defence that a person did not know that they were disqualified or that they made a genuine mistake.  However, such an explanation may serve to reduce the penalty that the court imposes.  

Special Reasons

In addition it may be possible to establish that there are Special Reasons for not disqualifying or even endorsing a licence with penalty points.  Special Reasons can be defined as mitigating circumstances that explain why the offence took place and which justify the court imposing a lighter sentence.  Common examples of Special Reasons include: 

  • Medical emergency
  • Shortness of distance driven
  • Escaping violence or threatening behaviour

How we can help

Driving whist disqualified is a serious offence with far-reaching consequences. Whether you plan to defend the case or plead guilty you should always seek legal advice for an offence of this type. Our experience and expertise in this area will quickly determine the best option for you. As specialist road traffic lawyers we are best placed to give you the right advice. We pride ourselves in offering a service that is friendly, honest and reliable. For free advice that is without pressure or obligation simply contact us:

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