What is the Exceptional Hardship argument?

Under the totting up system as imposed by UK law, if a driver exceeds a set amount of points within three years, this is considered a serious motoring offence. As with any offence, there are ways to plea and argue your crime, and one argument for a totting up ban is exceptional hardship. In this blog post, we answer the question ‘what is the exceptional hardship argument?’ and run you through any queries you may have around drink driving and exceptional hardship.

What is exceptional hardship?

Simply put, exceptional hardship refers to exceptional inconvenience or suffering beyond what is deemed appropriate caused by a totting up ban. It’s a legal argument that you can submit to the court to avoid or reduce a driving disqualification.

Accruing penalty points is seen as relatively common as there are various circumstances whereby you can be issued points, such as speeding or even checking your smartwatchHowever, too many penalty points could result in a totting up ban. To argue a ban imposed by totting up, exceptional hardship may be used as a defence claim. If the totting up ban would cause suffering beyond what is considered appropriate or reasonable, you may use the exceptional hardship argument.

As the law stands, if a driver were to accrue 12 or more points on their license, they are to be disqualified from driving for a minimum of six months. If you were to argue exceptional hardship, this ban would be significantly reduced or even forgone.

To propose an exceptional hardship argument, you must provide sound evidence that your circumstances mitigate the offence caused. This reasoning must be ‘exceptional’ and must cause external suffering to dependents. Additionally, advancing with an exceptional hardship plea may require obtaining statements from witnesses on your behalf, gathering external evidence, and examining your finances. Furthermore, the accused will have to testify in court against their claim, alongside anybody to whom the totting up ban may cause suffering.

Totting up explained

Totting up refers to a temporary ban placed on your license should you ‘tot up’ more than 12 penalty points on your driving license. It’s referred to as ‘totting up’ due to the steady accruement of points, all slowly adding up to a large number. The Court will revise all evidence presented before them, including any exceptional hardship pleas, and decide whether you should receive a six-month ban on your license.

After serving a totting up ban, you will receive your driving license back with no points. However, if you accrue 12 or more points again within a year, you may face a longer disqualification the second time around.

Can I argue exceptional hardship?

In current UK law, there are no parameters that dictate what can and cannot be seen as exceptional circumstances. As a result, the representative lawyer can argue whatever case they see fit to persuade the court that the totting up ban would cause suffering beyond what is considered an inconvenience. The court will evaluate the evidence as to whether the argument appropriately fits the offences.

There are many different reasons as to why you may argue exceptional hardship. Here are some examples.

Examples of totting up exceptional hardship arguments:

  • Not having access to your car means that you will struggle to care for vulnerable or elderly family members or friends.
  • You are a carer and rely on using your car to access the hospital.
  • A driving ban would cause you, your employees or your dependents to lose their jobs.
  • You are an active community member or charity worker, and not driving would prevent you from providing essential community services.
  • Not driving would pose damage to your health.

Drink driving and exceptional hardship

While there are no set rules as to what claims you can make in favour of overruling a totting up ban, there are limitations that prevent you from arguing exceptional hardship. You cannot argue exceptional hardship for drink driving bans. The only route to avoiding a totting up ban for a drink driving case would be to argue ‘special reasons’. The Court will evaluate your case for special reasons, alongside the volume of alcohol found in your body at the scene of the offence. In most cases, the higher the alcohol level, the longer the ban will be. If found attempting to drive or driving above the 35mg breath limit, you may receive up to six months in prison and a driving ban. Alongside a driving disqualification, the Court may impose a custodial sentence, a monetary fine, or community service.

What happens after an exceptional hardship argument?

After you have made your case for your exceptional hardship argument, the court will decide on an appropriate measure to fit your case. The outcome can be any one of three options:

  • The court doesn’t acknowledge the plea as appropriate or sufficient enough for an exceptional hardship claim, and so imposes a disqualification for the minimum totting up ban period, usually lasting six months.
  • The court acknowledges the exceptional hardship argument but still decides to proceed with a totting up ban. This is usually less than the minimum period of six months.
  • The court acknowledges and accepts the exceptional hardship plea and decides not to impose disqualification on the accused.

Can you appeal a totting up exceptional hardship decision?

If you are not satisfied with the result of your exceptional hardship plea, you have the option to appeal the decision. Each case is considered on its individual merits, however you may decide to present your plea in front of a new, different court. Should you choose to take this route, you may appeal to the Crown Court and argue your case with a more senior Judge.

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