Road Traffic Offences in Ireland – Appealing Convictions
Our team of solicitors act in all matters related to Road Traffic Law – Speeding, Dangerous driving, No Tax or Insurance, Using a phone at the wheel, Prohibited Parking.
Road Traffic Offence Law in Ireland
Irish Road Traffice Offence law is governed by a number of different pieces of legislation, including the Road Traffic Act 1961, as amended, and the Road Traffic Act 2016. These laws cover a wide range of offences, from minor infractions such as speeding to serious crimes such as dangerous driving. The penalties in Ireland vary depending on the severity of the offence. For minor offences, such as speeding, the penalty is typically a fixed charge fine and penalty points. For more serious offences, such as dangerous driving, the penalty can be a fine, a prison sentence, or both.
In addition to the penalty points imposed by the courts, drivers convicted of certain road traffic offences may also have their driving licence suspended or disqualified. If you are charged with a road traffic offence it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. If you require any legal advice in relation to a driving offence get in touch with us and we will discuss your best options. Road traffic offences in Ireland include:
- Driving without insurance and / or a driving licence
- Dangerous driving
- Careless driving
- Failing to stop at a red light or stop sign
- Using a mobile phone while driving
- Not wearing a seatbelt
- Parking in a prohibited area
Road Traffic Offences in Ireland – What you need to know
Caught Driving without a Licence
It is considered an offence to drive without a licence and a member of An Garda Siochana is permitted to ask you to produce your licence for inspection. If for some reason you do not have your licence with you, then you will be given 10 days to produce the licence at your local Garda station.
- If it is your first offence, you may be liable to pay a fine. This fine then increases upon conviction for a second offence. If you are convicted of a third offence you could be imprisoned for up to 3 months or a fine or both.
- If your license has been expired for fewer than 12 months before the offence, you could be fined up to €1,000. If, however your license has been expired for more than 12 months at the time of the offence you could be liable to a fine of up to €2,000.
- It is a defence to this offence if you hold an effective learner’s permit. A person undergoing their driving test is exempt from holding a driving licence, but they must hold a valid provisional licence.
In Ireland, a person cannot drive a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place unless they hold a driving licence Section 38 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 (as amended)
Driving While Disqualified by Court Order
If you have been disqualified from driving, either due to receiving too many penalty points or by way of Court Order, you are required to hand over your driving licence to the NDLS within 10-14 days of disqualification. Failure to do so is an offence which can result in a fine of up to €1000 for a first offence and €2000 for a second offence.
Once you have handed your licence over to the National Driving Licence Service they will update your drivers record to confirm that the licence has been received. They will retain your driving licence until such time as the disqualification has expired.
The penalty for driving a vehicle while disqualified from driving is up to €5000 and/or up to 6 months in prison.
Driving unaccompanied with a Learners Permit
It is against the law for a driver, holding a learner’s permit, to drive unaccompanied. You must be accompanied by a driver that holds a full licence and has held this full licence for at least two years.
If you are caught driving while holding a learner’s permit, and you are unaccompanied you will automatically receive two penalty points along with a fine of €160. Since the 22nd October 2022, the fine for driving on a learners permit while unaccompanied doubled from €80 to €160.
If you do not pay the Fixed Charge Notice i.e., €160 within 28 days this fine will increase to €240. If you fail to pay the Fixed Charge Notice you will be summoned to court where you could receive up to 4 penalty points and a court fine.
The car that you are driving, whether you are the owner or not, could be impounded by Gardai. If you are the driver, but not the owner of the vehicle, then the owner of the vehicle could face a fine of up to €1000.
L and N Plates – Learner and Novice Drivers
As a learner driver you are required to display an L plate on the front and back of the vehicle you are driving. Failure to display an L plate will result in two penalty points upon payment of the fine which is €120. Failure to pay the Fixed Charge Notice within the prescribed time limits will result in the fine increasing to €180.
If you are a novice driver, you are required to display an N plate on the front and back of the vehicle you are driving. Failure to display an N plate will result in two penalty points upon payment of the fine which is €120. Failure to pay the Fixed Charge Notice within the prescribed time limits will result in the fine increasing to €180.
Using a Mobile Phone while Driving
It is an offence to use a mobile phone while driving Section 3 Road Traffic Act 2006. It is a defence to this charge to show that at the time of the offence you were using your mobile phone to
- Call An Garda Siochana, an ambulance, fire department or other emergency service, or
- You were involved in or reacting to a genuine emergency.
If you are caught using your mobile phone while driving you will receive 3 penalty points along with a Fixed Charge Notice for €120. If you do not pay the fine within 28 days it will increase to €180. If you do not pay and you receive a summons to appear in court, you will be permitted to accept the penalty points and pay a fine of €240 for up to 7 days before your court appearance.
On conviction you could receive 5 penalty points and a court fine up to €2000.
New Regulations came into effect on the 1st May 2014 to cover up a potential loophole in the 2006 legislation. This new Regulation makes it an offence to send or to read a text message from a mobile phone while driving S.I. 178 of 2014, Road Traffic Act 2006 (Restriction on Use of Mobile Phones) Regulations 2014.
Driving without Insurance – The Penalties
In Ireland, holding a valid policy of insurance is a legal requirement. It is illegal to drive a car without insurance Section 56 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 (as amended) It is not a legal requirement to have fully comprehensive insurance, but you must have 3rd party at a minimum.
The penalties for driving without insurance.
- Mandatory court appearance.
- 5 penalty points.
- A court fine of up to €5000.
- And/or imprisonment for up to 6 months.
- Driving disqualification.
If you are driving an uninsured vehicle that does not belong to you, the legal owner of the vehicle may be guilty of an offence if they have allowed you to drive the vehicle without insurance. Imprisonment is really only a risk if you have a previous conviction of driving with no insurance. If it is your first offence the risk of imprisonment is minimal.
Driving with no insurance – a judge is meant to disqualify you from driving for two years unless exceptional circumstances can be provided to the court explaining why you were driving with no insurance.
Disqualification on first offence?
Disqualification on your first offence is at the discretion of the presiding judge. Your solicitor will give reasons to the court as to why you should not be disqualified from driving. In essence, your solicitor will be asking the judge for a favour and, depending on the evidence given, the judge can choose to grant or deny this favour. It is by no means guaranteed that a judge is going to let you walk out of court without a disqualification. The judge may decide not to waive the disqualification completely and instead impose a lesser period of disqualification.
If, on your first offence, the judge makes the decision to impose a driving disqualification, it is possible to appeal this decision to the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court is a higher court, and the appeal will be heard by a different judge.
If you are facing conviction for a second offence, committed within a three year period of the first offence, the court will impose a disqualification of at least 4 years.
Driving over the Speed Limit
Since the 22nd of October 2022 speeding fines have doubled from €80 to €160. This fine will be sent to you by way of a Fixed Charge Notice. If you do not pay the fine within a period of 28 days, the fine will go up to €240.
Upon payment of the Fixed Charge Notice you will automatically receive 3 penalty points.
If you do not pay the Fixed Charge Notice you will receive a summons to court. Upon conviction, you will receive a court fine along with 5 penalty points. If you receive a summons to court, you can accept the penalty points and pay the sum of €320, up to 7 days before the court appearance.
Hit and Run – Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Section 106 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 (as amended) deals with the offence of hit & run and what you must do after being involved in an accident Section 106.
- You must stop the vehicle.
- You must keep the vehicle at or near the accident locus for a reasonable period of time. What is a reasonable period of time will be considered in the circumstances of each case.
- The driver of the vehicle, unless killed or incapacitated, must give all information to Gardai immediately upon request. If you fail to provide information when requested to do so you could be arrested.
- You must assist anyone that has been injured in the accident. If you don’t and the injured person dies, you will likely face a criminal prosecution.
If there are no Gardai present at the scene of the accident, then you must report the accident to the nearest Garda station.
If you fail to report the accident in order to try and escape civil or criminal liability, in circumstances where you know that someone has been injured and needs medical attention or someone has been killed, you may be convicted and receive a fine of up to €20,000 and/or imprisonment for up to ten years
In order to be convicted of hit & run, the driver must have knowledge of the accident. Not having knowledge of the occurrence of an accident is a defence to a charge of hit & run. An example of this is outlined in the case of Hampson v Powell (1970). In this case a lorry driver claimed he was not aware of the occurrence of an accident. When his lorry was examined there were no signs of any damage. He admitted to being in the area at the time of the alleged accident but was adamant he had no knowledge of the accident. He was convicted of hit & run and this conviction was appealed. On appeal it was held that the lorry driver could not be convicted of hit and run if he had no knowledge of the accident. The conviction was overturned.
Careless or Dangerous Driving
The definitions of careless driving and dangerous driving are set out in the Road Traffic (No. 2) Act 2011 Careless & Dangerous Driving, both are considered to be serious offences and can carry harsh penalties. Under Section 51A of the Road Traffic (No. 2) Act 2011 there is a lesser charge of driving without reasonable consideration. This lesser charge will attract a small, fixed charge fine along with 2 penalty points.
Examples of what falls under the heading of careless or dangerous driving:
- Driving after being declared unfit to do so.
- Tailgating, purposely slamming on the brakes.
- Driving aggressively or too fast in the circumstances.
- Using a mobile phone while driving.
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs.
- Driving a dangerously defective vehicle.
Driving Danegerously Defective Vehicles
Under Section 54 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 (as amended) it is an offence to drive a vehicle in a public place where there is a defect affecting the vehicle of which the driver is aware of could have discovered by the exercise of ordinary care and the defect is such that it makes the vehicle a danger to the public, the driver will be guilty of an offence Section 54.
The penalty for driving a dangerously defective vehicle is a fine of up to €5000 and/or three months imprisonment.
What is Careless Driving?
CARELESS DRIVING is where a person is found to be driving without due care and attention. This means driving in a way that falls below the standard to be expected of a competent and careful driver.
A recent decision of the Court of Appeal, held that a mandatory disqualification from holding a driving licence due to careless driving, only applies if the accused had two previous convictions for careless driving in the three year period prior to the offence Mandatory Disqualification.
Under the 2011 Act, if you are driving carelessly and you cause death or serious bodily harm to another person you will be liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years and a court fine not exceeding €10,000.
If death or serious bodily harm is not caused you will be liable on conviction to pay a fine not exceeding €5000 and you will receive 5 penalty points. You may be arrested, without warrant, for careless driving which causes death or bodily harm to another person.
What is Dangerous Driving?
DANGEROUS DRIVING is where a person is found to be driving a vehicle in a public place in a manner which is or is likely to be a danger to the public.
If you are found to be driving dangerously, causing death or serious bodily harm to another person, you will be liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or to a fine not exceeding €20,000 or both.
If you do not cause death or serious bodily harm, you will be liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding €5000 or both. For a first offence in the District Court, you will be disqualified from driving for 2 years. A first offence on indictment will result in an automatic disqualification of 4 years.
What are the Defences to a charge of Careless or Dangerous Driving?
There are a few defences to a charge of careless or dangerous driving, the most common of which are:
- Driving under duress
- A sudden mechanical defect
- Automatism (this is a defence whereby a person cannot be held responsible for their actions if they were not conscious or had no control over their body at the time the offence was committed).
If you are charged with dangerous driving, it may be possible for your legal team to negotiate with the prosecuting Garda to try and have the charge reduced to one of careless driving. If you go into court charged with dangerous driving, on conviction, there is a mandatory driving disqualification for a minimum period of 2 years. If you go into court on a charge of careless driving, there is a chance that you will walk out of court with your licence intact as disqualification is not mandatory.
There is no right or entitlement to have a charge of dangerous driving reduced to one of careless driving and whether this will be agreed to will depend on the circumstances of each individual case.
Driving while Intoxicted – Alchohol
Consuming any amount of alcohol will impair your driving and increase the risk of a collision.
The legal limits for a fully licenced driver in category B:
- 50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100mls of blood.
- 67 milligrammes of alcohol per 100mls of urine.
- 22 microgrammes of alcohol per 100mls of breath.
The legal limits for professional driver & learner or novice drivers:
- 20 milligrammes of alcohol per 100mls of blood.
- 27 milligrammes of alcohol per 100mls of urine.
- 9 microgrammes of alcohol per 100mls of breath.
A significant number of arrests for driving under the influence are made early morning/afternoon. This is because many people are unaware of how long they should wait after drinking alcohol before they are permitted to drive.
There is a calculator available on the drink aware website which can help you to calculate how long you should wait before getting behind the wheel Drinks Calculator.
The Penalities for Drink Driving – Court Conviction
Blood Alcohol Concentration Current Penalty 20+ to 80 mg 6 month driving ban 80+ to 100 mg One-year driving ban 100+ to 150 mg Two-year driving ban 150+ mg Three-year driving ban Failure or refusal to provide a sample to Gardai Four-year driving ban
A judge has no discretion when it comes to imposing a driving ban on a drink driving charge. A judge MUST impose a driving ban in all cases where a person either pleads or is found guilty.
The above-mentioned penalties are the minimum penalties that a person charged with drunk driving can expect if found guilty. There could be a court fine of up to €5000 and/or imprisonment up to 6 months.
Driving while under the influence of Drugs
Since 1961 driving under the influence of drugs (this includes prescription drugs) has been an offence. In 2017 certain provision of the Road Traffic Act 2016 were brought into effect which specify that a person is prohibited from driving while under the influence of cannabis, cocaine or heroin Misuse of Drugs Regulation 2017. Under this Regulation, if you are found to be driving under the influence of one of these drugs, over the specified limits, you will be prosecuted, even without proof of impairment.
Prior to the introduction of this Regulation, it was necessary for the prosecution to prove that the person driving, or attempting to drive a vehicle in a public place was intoxicated, and as a result of being intoxicated was unable to properly control their vehicle. This is still the bar for all prosecutions arising out of drug driving, other than those relating to cocaine, cannabis and heroin.
Since the introduction of the Road Traffic Act 2016, Gardai are permitted to conduct preliminary drugs testing at Mandatory Intoxication Testing Checkpoints. This means it is possible for Gardai to carry out roadside testing to check for both alcohol and drugs. These drug tests will check for cannabis, cocaine, opiates and benzodiazepines. Driver are required to provide oral fluid for testing, failure to provide oral fluid is, in itself an offence. The results of these tests can then be used as evidence in the prosecution of a drug driving charge.
If the sample of oral fluid provided shows the presence of drugs, the driver will be arrested and brought to a Garda station where a doctor will take a blood sample. As with the oral fluid, failure to provide a blood sample is an offence and will result in a driving ban of four year upon conviction.
Once the doctor has taken the blood sample, it will be separated into two containers. The driver will be provided with one of the containers so that they can have their own testing carried out on the blood sample. The second sample will be sent to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety for testing.
The Medical Bureau of Road Safety will test for certain molecules. If these molecules are detected over a certain limit and the blood sample was taken within three hours of driving, the driver will be guilty of an offence. See limits in the table below:
DRUG LEVEL (IN BLOOD) Cannabis (?-9Tetrahydrocannabinol) 1ng/ml Cannabis (11-nor-9-carboxy-?9-tetrahydrocannabinol) 5ng/ml Cocaine 10ng/ml Cocaine (Benzoylecgonine) 50ng/ml Heroin (6-Acetylmorphine) 5ng/ml
What are the Penalties for Drug Driving Charges?
If you are convicted of a drug driving charge you will receive an automatic driving ban of at least one year (if you are found to be over the legal threshold allowed for cocaine, cannabis or heroin).
If it is found that you are impaired to such an extent that it is not possible for you to have proper control of the vehicle you were driving, you will receive a minimum of a four-year driving ban.
On top of a driving disqualification, you will face:
- a court fine of up to €5000, and/or
- up to 6 months in prison
- along with a criminal record
Can I appeal a Conviction?
This simple answer is YES – If you have been convicted of a driving offence you can appeal this conviction and look to have your driving licence reinstated. The appeal will be brought to a higher court, so, if you were convicted in the District Court, you would bring an appeal to the Circuit Court. In order to appeal the conviction, the Appeal must be lodged within 14 days of the conviction.
Applying for Early Restoration of Driving Licence:
If you have been convicted of a driving offence which resulted in a driving disqualification, if is possible, once certain criteria are met, to apply for early restoration of your driving licence. You can apply for early restoration if:
- You have surrendered your licence to the NDLS.
- Paid all fines associated with your conviction.
- Your insurer has been informed of the disqualification.
If you meet the above criteria and if half the term of the disqualification has been served. If early restoration is granted by the court, you will not get your licence back until two thirds of the disqualification have been served or until the expiration of two years, whichever is greater.
- You cannot apply for early restoration of your licence if the disqualification imposed was of two years or less.
- You cannot apply for early restoration if this is not your first disqualification in the past ten years UNLESS the previous disqualification was for two years or less.
If you are looking to apply for early restoration you should start by getting in contact with NDLS seeking a letter that will outline the following information:
- Date of disqualification.
- How long the disqualification is for.
- Details of the court that imposed the disqualification.
- Details of the Garda station that investigated the offence.
- Details of the offence of which you were convicted.
- Details of any other disqualifications.
Can I Appeal a Fixed Charge Notice?
If you believe that you have grounds to appeal a fixed charge notice then you can complete a Cancellation Request Form. This form should be completed as soon as possible and forwarded to the Fixed Charge Processing Office along with any supporting documentation you want to submit.
The time periods outlined in the fixed charge notice for payment will continue to run while the cancellation request is being reviewed. The categories of cancellation requests can be found on the Garda.ie Website. You will note from these categories that a cancellation request can only be made in certain circumstances.
If you want to challenge the allegations set out in the fixed charge notice i.e. an allegation of speeding, it is not possible to do so without attending court. It has been argued in recent times that the fact it is not possible to appeal an allegation made in a fixed charge notice without recourse to the courts is unconstitutional.
Deciding to proceed to hearing in order to challenge a fixed charged notice puts the accused driver at further risk. If payment, upon receipt of the notice, is made within 28 days, depending on the allegation, the fine may be €120. If paid within 56 days the fine would increase and if paid within 7 days of the hearing date, the fine would double, €240. The driver would also automatically receive, again depending on the allegation, 3 penalty points, upon payment of the fine.
If the driver goes to hearing in the District Court they are putting themselves at risk of a larger fine and 5 penalty points if they are unsuccessful in their challenge.
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