What to expect at the criminal court when charged with a road traffic offence.

What to expect at the criminal court when charged with a road traffic offence.

If someone is charged with a criminal offence, they must go to a court to answer that charge.

There are three types of criminal court in the UK:

  1. Magistrate’s Courts
  2. The Crown Court
  3. Youth Court

For adults, all road traffic offences, however serious, will start in the magistrates’ courts, where the magistrates will determine whether the case should be heard in a magistrates’ court or the Crown Court. How magistrates decide which court will hear a case depends on which type of offence it is and how serious.

Summary offences are minor/low-level road traffic/motoring offences and as they are less serious cases that can only be dealt with in the Magistrates court. These offences include speeding, driving without due care and attention, failing to stop and report an accident, etc. So, any summary only will stay in the Magistrates Court.

Either way offences, can be heard in magistrates’ court or the Crown Court and will be allocated depending on the seriousness of the offence or whether the offender elects trial by jury, an example is dangerous driving.

Indictable only offences can be heard only in the Crown Court. These are the most serious cases and include offences such as causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, causing death by dangerous driving or causing death by driving whilst disqualified.  

There are over 150 magistrates’ courts across England and Wales. Cases are usually heard by either three lay magistrates or a District Judge (magistrates’ court) supported by a legal adviser. There is no jury in a magistrates’ court.

Magistrates have sentencing powers that allow them to impose a range of sentences, included unlimited fines, bans, community orders and up to 12 months’ custody, depending on the offence.

A Crown Court Judge will deal with all matters except trials which are dealt with by way of a jury made up of twelve jurors who will be advised on matters of law by the judge. The judge decides on matters of law during a trial, and, if the defendant is found guilty, decide on the sentence.

Attending court can be very daunting, particularly because of not knowing what to expect. Here is a short video from HM Courts and Tribunals Service showing the people you will see in the courtroom at the Magistrates’ Court, to help you have a better idea of who’s who.

Coming to a Magistrates' Court

Do you need legal advice or representation regarding a road traffic offence? We can help you. Get in touch with us.


 📞07418608916 (Whatsapp – txt messages only).

 📧 lucinda@ldlegalservices.co.uk