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For many, the prospect of losing their driving licence is unthinkable. Here, Emma Clements, a partner in the criminal department of local solicitors Wiseman Lee, outlines what all motorists need to know.

If you commute to work or need to use a vehicle to earn a living, being disqualified from driving can cause huge problems. There is also the inconvenience to family and social life, not to mention higher insurance premiums when the ban is finally lifted. It's time to put the record straight. Here's what you need to know.

Mandatory disqualification
You will automatically lose your licence if you are convicted of a number of offences, including causing death by dangerous or careless driving, dangerous driving, driving while under the influence of excess alcohol or failing to provide a specimen for analysis (if you are the driver). The period of obligatory disqualification may be reduced or avoided if a 'special reason' exists. This must relate to the offence itself; circumstances relating to the driver are not considered.

Discretionary disqualification
The courts can choose to impose a driving ban if you are found guilty of a whole host of other motoring offences, including careless driving, driving whilst disqualified, failing to report an accident or failing to stop after an accident, failing to identify the driver of a vehicle or driving with no insurance.

Penalty points: the 'totting-up' system
You will normally lose your licence if you get 12 or more points within three years. If you are disqualified under the 'totting-up' rules, all penalty points are erased.

If you have incurred 12 points or more in three years, you will normally lose your licence for a minimum of 6 months. However, you may have read about motorists who have avoided a ban or had it reduced after raising exceptional hardship or other mitigating circumstances. This means demonstrating that a driving ban would cause more than the straightforward hardship of no longer being able to drive or even the loss of a job. Examples include proving that an innocent third party would be negatively affected as a result of a ban, such as elderly relatives or employees.

This legal argument is only likely to be successful where there is clear, well-prepared supporting evidence and persuasive advocacy. The court will need to hear compelling evidence if they are to be persuaded not to disqualify in these circumstances.

Getting your licence back
The court will decide the period of disqualification based upon the offence itself and the particular circumstances of each case. If you are disqualified for 56 days or more you must apply to the DVLA for a new licence before you can drive again. The court may also order you to re-take your driving test before your licence is returned.

Wiseman Lee is located at 9–13 Cambridge Park, Wanstead, E11 2PU. For more information, call 020 8215 1000

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