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Tuesday, 2 October 2023

How the police deal with traffic crimes

The police have the right to stop a vehicle for any reason. Find out what your rights are if you are stopped by the police for a road traffic offence and what will happen next.

What to do if you are stopped by the police

If the police ask you to stop, you should always pull over, as not stopping is a criminal offence and you can be arrested. If you are stopped, you can be asked to show your:

  • driving licence
  • insurance certificate
  • MOT certificate

If you don’t have these documents with you, you’ll be handed a form giving you seven days to produce them at a police station. If you fail to produce the requested documents within seven days you will be guilty of an offence.

Taking a breath test

The police can stop you at any time.

Once you have been stopped, the police can require you to take a breath test ('breathalyse' you) if:

  • they think you’ve been drinking
  • you’ve committed a traffic offence
  • you’ve been involved in a road traffic accident

If you refuse a breath test, or fail to supply a sample of breath and don’t have a reasonable excuse, you can be arrested.

The machine used to test your breath gives an immediate result. If the test shows you are not over the limit, you must be released. If you fail the breath test, you're taken to a police station where you have two more breath tests, and you may be charged.

You will not be allowed to drive your car until you are sober enough to move it from the place where your car was left. You can ask another 'legal' driver to collect your car for you.

Drink driving offences

The main drink driving offences are:

  • driving or being in charge of a vehicle when under the influence of drink
  • driving or being in charge of a vehicle while over the prescribed limit
  • failing to provide a sample without reasonable excuse
  • causing death by careless driving when under the influence

Find out the penalties for these offences:

Fixed penalty notices

The police can issue you with a fixed penalty notice for around 200 of the less serious traffic offences. For these offences the police may decide to:

  • take no action
  • issue a warning
  • issue a fixed penalty notice
  • make a conditional offer of a fixed penalty
  • prosecute

Driving and the penalty points system

Each road traffic offence puts three penalty points on your licence. Repeat offenders who reach 12 points within three years become liable for disqualification.

For the very serious traffic offences the penalties if convicted can be high. For example, causing death by dangerous driving carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment and an obligatory driving ban.

What the police can do if there is a fault with your vehicle

If your vehicle has a defect like a faulty brake light, you may be issued with a vehicle defect rectification notice by the police.

Repairs must be certified by an approved examiner at an MOT approved garage. You have 14 days to show the police that your vehicle has been fixed.

Can the police seize your vehicle?

The police can seize a vehicle they believe is being driven carelessly or inconsiderately.

They can also seize a vehicle they believe is being driven by someone who does not have an appropriate driving licence or insurance.

Additional links

Local crime information

Find out what's being done about crime and anti-social behaviour where you live

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