Understanding fixed penalty notices


If you appear in a magistrate’s or Crown Court you could receive a fixed penalty that you must pay. A fixed penalty, as its name suggests, is a fine of a fixed amount that you can pay at the court that handed you the fine, or online via the Directgov website.

What are fixed penalty notices?

A fixed penalty notice is often referred to as a conditional offer made by a local authority to an offender. Most commonly one would receive a fixed penalty notice as a result of a motoring infraction.

The offer stipulates that if the deemed offender pays a specified amount of money the authority will not pursue the matter further, although the offender might also be agreeing to penalty point endorsements on their licence. The offence is usually documented by a picture of a vehicle speeding, illegally parked or committing another moving violation.

Fixed penalty notices can be handed to you for a wide range of offences that can include:

  • Fly posting and tipping
  • Littering
  • Dog fouling
  • Anti-social behaviour such as causing excessive noise
  • Being drunk and disorderly

However, the main area where fixed penalty notices are used is with motoring offences. You will receive a fixed penalty notice if:

  • You are caught speeding by a camera
  • You did not use a box junction correctly
  • Did not observe proper driving procedure when using traffic lights

These fixed penalty notices are issued automatically by post. Fixed penalty notices are usually issued within 14 days of the motoring offence being committed.

Choosing to accept or contest a notice

Upon receiving the fixed penalty notice, the deemed offender can choose to accept the offer and pay the amount, or to reject the offer. However, it is important to note that ignoring the notice is often deemed acceptance, rather than rejection. If the amount is paid in full within the time period then the matter is resolved. If the offer is rejected the matter is heard in court.

The vast majority of these conditional offers are accepted. This is because a fixed penalty notice usually offers the driver two valuable things:

  • The minimum penalty available under the law
  • The knowledge that the matter is settled and an appearance in court will not be necessary

The authorities benefit from the system because it allows them to reduce red tape and ensure that their time is spent on more serious offences.

You may successfully dispute a fixed penalty notice if you have an appropriate defence. These cases are few and far between but if you feel that you have a valid reason for disputing the offence, a motoring solicitor may be able to help you present your case to the court.

If your case does go to court it is vital that you have a solicitor to represent you. As many fixed penalty notice cases deal with complex and often subtle interpretations of the law, a solicitor is invaluable in helping you present a well-argued case. Any fixed penalty notice court hearing can often also mean detailed technical evidence is need. A solicitor can help you frame this information to give your case the maximum chance of success.

For more information on driving licence penalties, see our page on driving licence endorsements.

Have you been issued with a fixed penalty notice that you feel is severely unfair, and you wish to contest it? Contact Law can put you in touch with a specialist criminal motoring solicitor who can assess the financial viability of your case and likelihood of success. Please call us on 0800 046 1464 or complete the web-form above.

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