Legal Eagle: When do motorists need a solicitor?

There may be times in our lives where at some point we require legal assistance, but in what situation should you seek a solicitor?

MM have teamed up with Olliers Solicitors, a leading criminal law firm based in Manchester, to find out.

There are a variety of circumstances people may find themselves in that require a solicitor – and there are just as many that do not.

For most general criminal offences we would always strongly recommend acquiring a solicitor particularly if you are taken to a police station and are being interviewed.

Representation at an early stage can literally prove to be the difference between an acquittal and a conviction and it is important you receive expert advice as soon as possible, particularly as the penalties for criminal offences can be severe.

Representation at a police station can always be obtained free of charge so it is always worth requesting free legal advice.

Olliers adopt a proactive approach to pre-charge work as preparation really can make a difference to your case.

With road traffic offences however, there are some cases where a solicitor is simply not necessary and you should save yourself the money.

Solicitors charge an hourly rate in order to act on your behalf and road traffic lawyers who specialise in this area will typically command a rate of £175-£400 per hour (sometimes more depending on seniority).

Whilst we accept that being faced with any criminal conviction can be extremely intimidating and stressful, there are some offences that do not warrant the instruction of a solicitor as the expense of representation would likely outweigh the benefit of it.

So if you are faced with motoring charges, when should you represent yourself and when should you part ways with your case for a solicitor?

When to engage a lawyer

There are four types of motoring offences worth considering:

  1. Fine only
  2. Endorseable offences (those attracting penalty points)  which may sometimes attract a disqualification
  3. Mandatory disqualification offences
  4. Custodial offences 

In the worst cases where you face a custodial penalty, you should obtain specialist legal advice as soon as you possibly can and it would be wise to engage a solicitor early in the proceedings.

Even if you ultimately decide not to defend the allegation, legal advice and representation can often help drastically reduce the penalty to avoid a prison sentence when you plead guilty.

If you are charged with an offence that is endorsable with points or carry a mandatory disqualification then your personal circumstances should be considered before deciding whether you need assistance.

If you are dependent on your vehicle (maybe for work or if you act as a carer for somebody) then we would always recommend having representation.

Whether the charge is a simple speeding allegation or a more serious offence of drink driving specialist representation can often result in a significant difference at sentencing.

If you are a new driver (i.e. having held your licence for less than two years) then it would be wise to have assistance as certain circumstances may mean that your driving licence is revoked by the DVLA meaning you have to retake your test.

When to go it alone

If the offence does not carry penalty points then it would probably be more beneficial to deal with the matter yourself unless the financial penalty is significant.

Similarly, if the offence carries a fixed penalty of three points and a £60 fine, unless you are on nine points it may not be financially beneficial to instruct a solicitor.

Some of these offences (most notably with speeding) may mean that you are eligible to be offered a course as an alternative to prosecution and if a course is ever made available to you we would always recommend accepting this as it literally is the bare minimum you could receive in terms of a ‘penalty’.

Some offences, while not being endorsable with penalty points, can carry hefty fines.

These offences often relate to the condition/use of your vehicle or offences relating to operator licences, driving hours and tachographs.

HGV vehicles need to be strictly maintained and flaws in its condition could result in fines which can quickly add up if there is more than one defect.

Obtaining Advice

Regardless of the charge or circumstances, in the vast majority of cases we would always recommend speaking to a solicitor to receive advice before you make any decisions about how to deal with the matter.

At Olliers, if we think representation is not required then we will tell you so and not charge you for any advice we provide.

That said, specialist advice early on in some proceedings could make a huge difference in the outcome.

Do you have a question for the legal team at Olliers Solicitors? 

Their specialist criminal lawyers – including a specialist motor law department – are ready to answer your questions for FREE. All you have to do is email them in to our newsdesk here: newsdesk (at) mancunianmatters (dot) co (dot) uk

You can find more about Olliers Solicitors here.

Image courtesy of Brian Turner, with thanks

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