Have you entered the wrong plea to a motoring offence?

Have you had to fill out a Single Justice Procedure Notice (SJPN) form, ticking whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty to a motoring matter?

Most motoring proceedings in court now begin with a SJPN. This means you plead guilty or not guilty by post rather than telling a court in person. Filling a form in at home will feel far less daunting than having to enter a formal plea in court and may make you feel less concerned about getting professional advice.

What happens if you plead not guilty but realise that you really should have entered a guilty plea?

In this situation you can contact the court, or instruct a solicitor to contact the court on your behalf, and organise for a guilty plea to be entered.

What happens if you plead guilty but realise that you really should have entered a not guilty plea?

At your earliest opportunity you should seek expert legal advice. You will need to act quickly to find out what your options are. The specific circumstances of your case will make a real difference to the options available to you.

Example

If you have been accused of failing to provide driver details and entered a guilty plea because you couldn’t say who was driving, you have filled the mitigation section in explaining you couldn’t remember whether it was you or your spouse that was driving and despite best efforts checking could not work this out, it would seem that you have entered an equivocal plea. You have entered a guilty plea but have filled in the mitigation statement raising a defence. If the court accepts your guilty plea and sentences you then you may have an opportunity to challenge the outcome. If the magistrates court is offered a guilty plea with an explanation that amounts to a defence the court should check with the defendant to make sure that the correct plea is being entered. If the court does not check with the defendant it may be possible to argue that the court has made a mistake and have the decision to accept the guilty plea re-opened for consideration of a not guilty plea being entered. There is also the possibility of appealing to the Crown Court.

There are risks involved in completing the SJPN form without taking specialist legal advice. The law is complicated and as the example above illustrates, you may complete the SJPN incorrectly without realising the implication.

The law and practice referred to in this article has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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