Our expert criminal defence lawyers are happy to give advice to any defendant or to offer representation at any hearing. Appearing in court, especially for the first time, can be daunting and not everyone feels confident about addressing the magistrates themselves.
Some groups of defendants, however, should always give serious consideration to seeking representation.
A Special Reason is a mitigating factor that relates to the offence, not to you. The possibilities are endless but examples might include moving a car out of the way of an ambulance, taking a very sick person to hospital or becoming over the limit because your drink has been spiked.
Even if you feel able to raise a special reason, you must be able to show that no other course of action was open to you.
It is not a special reason that you will lose your job if disqualified or that your family will suffer. The special reason must be connected with the offence itself.
Special Reasons hearings are difficult and usually require reference to be made to cases previously decided by the higher courts. Legal Aid will often be available and you should seek legal advice.
If You Are At Risk Of Imprisonment
If you have a very high reading (over 100mg in breath or 250mg in blood), if you have one or more previous convictions for driving with excess alcohol or if other aggravating factors apply such as driving at high speed, causing an accident or driving with children in the car then the magistrates could give serious consideration to sending you to prison.
If you fall into this category, a solicitor will be skilled at addressing the magistrates on your behalf with a view to persuading them that you should be allowed to serve your sentence in the community. This could considerably reduce your chances of receiving a custodial sentence.
If you are at risk of a prison sentence, legal aid may be available to you, subject to your means.
If You Dispute That You Were The Driver Or Dispute That You Were Over The Legal Alcohol Limit
Whilst credit in the form of a more lenient sentence and lower bill of prosecution costs is available to those who plead guilty at an early stage, no defendant should ever plead guilty to a crime that (s)he has not committed.
Sometimes the police are given false information about who was the driver or make mistaken errors of judgement.
If you are charged with an offence that you have not committed, you should consider seeking legal representation in order that you can receive assistance with the preparation of your defence, correspondence with the prosecution, cross examination of prosecution witnesses - who will often be police officers - and submissions to the court.
Legal aid is often available to assist with the cost of a trial.
If You Wish To Argue That You Have A Special Reason To Avoid Disqualification
As explained above, Special Reasons are difficult to establish and you may feel more confident arguing your case with the help of an experienced advocate. You may need to call witnesses, cross examine prosecution witnesses and respond to correspondence from the prosecution.
If You Have No Special Reason But Wish To Try To Keep Your Disqualification Close To The Legal Minimum Disqualification
The magistrates do have discretion over the length of disqualification to impose and, if your licence is important to you, you may wish to instruct a solicitor to argue that your disqualification should be kept to the lower end of the scale.
Remember, however, that the magistrates will take your breath/alcohol or blood/alcohol level together with any aggravating features into consideration as well as any mitigation that your solicitor may be able to advance.
If You Have A Language Problem, Hearing Problem Or Other Special Need
Appearing in court can be especially difficult for those with special needs and legal aid is often granted so that a solicitor can help you to overcome your particular problem.