You’re about to face prosecution for speeding and you’re worried about losing your licence – maybe you were a long way over the limit or any new points will take you to more than 12 – then you may be able to plead exceptional hardship in court.
Normally, if you face a ban under the totting up scheme (you have accumulated 12 or more points in the last three years), or if your speed was more than 50% over the stated limit, you will be banned. Pleading exceptional hardship is the only way to argue against losing your licence.
What is exceptional hardship?
There’s no firm legal definition of exceptional hardship, but you must be able to demonstrate that any hardship you will suffer will be well beyond hardship that’s normally suffered by others who have lost their licence. You must identify and demonstrate the extent and severity of the hardship, then allow the court to decide if it is exceptional.
Of course, losing your driving licence will involve some hardship – that’s the point of the punishment and so inconvenience, loss of flexibility when travelling and so on is to be expected. It could be argued that you should have foreseen these difficulties before you broke the speed limit and so you should face these consequences. It’s only when the knock-on effects of the punishment far outstrip the offence that you can start to think about exceptional hardship.
I’ll lose my job if I lose my licence – does this count as exceptional hardship?
Not automatically, no, as each case is decided on its own merits. This is why the first thing you should do after you’re stopped or arrested is to visit the website of a motoring law company. Some courts will take the view that if you knew your job depended on your being able to drive, then you should have taken more care. However, if your job loss may mean you can’t pay your mortgage and you have dependent children or other relatives, or your company may go into liquidation as a result, then you may have a solid argument.
Can I send a letter to the court or do I have to attend?
You must attend, as you’ll be called upon to present your case and to be questioned by the prosecution.
Do I have to have a lawyer or can I represent myself?
You can represent yourself in court for any offence, there’s no legal reason for you to have a lawyer. However, if you’re to stand a decent chance of success, you’ll need to meet some complicated legal criteria and unless you’re a lawyer yourself, you might not know enough about the law to know if you’ve met these tests. Even if you know you’re guilty of speeding, you should still have representation because an experienced team of lawyers will understand the tiny legal aspects that laypeople overlook and this can ensure a fairer punishment. You’ll only get this one chance to save your licence, so make sure the person representing you knows what they’re doing!
I’ve already used exceptional hardship to keep my licence; can I use it again?
You can argue exceptional hardship again, but you can’t use the same reasons as you used before if your latest case is less than three years after the previous one.