What is a criminal record?
A conviction in a magistrates’ court or a Crown Court for a motoring offence, whether as a result of a guilty plea or a finding of guilt by the court following a hearing, means that you have a criminal conviction.
This is the case whether it is something as trivial as not wearing a seatbelt or something more serious such as speeding, careless driving, failing to provide driver details, failing to observe a traffic sign, and construction and use offences such as using a mobile phone.
But having a criminal conviction is not the same thing as having a criminal record.
A criminal record is a conviction for what is known as a ‘recordable offence’ and a recordable offence generally means something that could result in the imposition of a prison sentence if found guilty.
Motoring offences that qualify include dangerous driving, drink driving, drug driving, failing to provide a blood, urine or breath specimen, and failing to stop and report an accident.
Importantly, a conviction for one of these offences will go on your criminal record, even if you did not receive a prison sentence; it’s the fact that you could potentially have received a prison sentence for your offence that classifies it as imprisonable, and so qualifies it as a conviction to go on your criminal record.
But don’t forget that some non-imprisonable offences, such as failing to provide a preliminary breath test and tampering with a vehicle, can also go on your criminal record.
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Can lesser motoring offences lead to a criminal conviction?
Agreeing to pay a speeding ticket or fixed penalty for something like careless driving will not lead to a criminal conviction because the matter has been dealt with outside of the courts.
However, they will still be recorded on the Police National Computer and so must be disclosed just like a criminal conviction until they are spent.
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Disclosing a criminal conviction
Some people and bodies such as prospective employers, are entitled to ask if you have an unspent criminal conviction. This is the case whether it is a criminal conviction or something on your criminal record.
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How do I know if my conviction is unspent?
Motoring solicitors Keep Me On The Road has a useful guide, but in short the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 states that if a person is convicted of an offence and the prison sentence is less than 30 months then the conviction will be ‘spent’ after a certain amount of time.
For convictions that resulted in a prison sentence of more than over 30 months (even if the time served was less than that), the conviction will never be spent and must always be disclosed, no matter how long ago it was.
Some jobs, including those working with children, vulnerable adults, healthcare professions and law enforcement among others, are ‘excluded positions’ and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 does not apply, so convictions must be declared even if they are spent. This is the case when applying for a firearms or taxi licence, too.
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Some criminal convictions will also lead to penalty points on your driving licence. The expiry time for these penalty points varies; please see our article on the subject for more details: How long do penalty points stay on your driving licence?
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