It is important not to confuse special reasons with defences or with the mitigation known as exceptional hardship. Special Reasons can apply to any offence but must meet the following criteria:
- The reason must be mitigating or extenuating circumstance;
- It must not amount to a defence;
- It must be directly connected to the commission of the offence, and
- The reason must be one that the court ought properly take into account when imposing punishment.
If special reasons are accepted, an offender may avoid a ban where disqualification is a mandatory penalty.
The most common examples of special reasons in alcohol related offences are listed below:
If an emergency arises which made it imperative for the offender to drive, this may be looked upon sympathetically by a court. However, they are also likely to consider
- the extent to which the offender was over the limit;
- whether they would have posed a threat to anyone else by taking to the wheel;
- what exactly the emergency was and whether it was a true emergency;
- what alternatives to driving there would have been at the time (eg. If an ambulance could have been called to take a friend to hospital an offender who drove may not receive the sympathy of the court.)
b) Shortness of Distance driven
This special reason can not be used in a failure to provide matter but if the defence submission that the distance driven was short is accepted by the Bench, the offender may escape a ban.
Whilst not statutory guidelines, case law has set out criteria for the Magistrates to follow when this special reason is argued:
- How far was the vehicle driven;
- In what manner was the vehicle driven;
- What was the state of the vehicle;
- Was it the intention of the driver to drive any further;
- What were the road, traffic and weather conditions;
- Was there a possibility of contact with other road users; and
- What was the reason for driving
c) Spiked/Laced drinks
This is a very common special reason and as a consequence there are many cases that deal with issues to be considered by Magistrates when met with a submission that an offender was the victim of someone spiking or lacing their drinks.
First and foremost, it is unlikely that whoever laced or spiked the offenderís drinks, will face prosecution.
The Magistrates will only accept an offenderís special reasons for saving your licence if the following critera are met:
- The offender must not have known at the time that they had consumed more alcohol than they intended;
- They must not have known or ought to have known that when they were driving they were over the prescribed limit, and
- The amount of laced drink must be the sole cause of the excess over the prescribed limit.
If you wish to present special reasons to the court, this should be done following a guilty plea being entered or after conviction at trial. The costs involved in presenting a special reasons argument will vary but start at £3000 plus VAT. Unfortunately, even if you succeed with your special reasons argument, you would not be entitled to a defendantís costs order as would be the case with an acquittal.
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