Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion around whether a motoring offence can appear on your criminal record. If you are convicted of an offence in a magistrates’ court or Crown Court you will have a criminal conviction, which applies to all motoring offences and is applicable regardless of whether you plead guilty or the court finds you guilty.
Typically just criminal offences that carry a prison sentence go on a criminal record, although there are some exceptions. Sections 27 and 118 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the National Police Records (Recordable Offences) Regulations 2000 cover this, and the offence can appear on your record whether you have gone to prison or not.
The following are motoring offences that are imprisonable and will go on a criminal record:
- Dangerous driving
- Drink driving
- Drug driving
- Failing to provide a blood, urine or breath specimen
- Failing to stop and report an accident
The above offences can result in a prison sentence, however in some cases people are given a fine instead but the conviction will still appear on their criminal record.
Accepting a caution as an alternative to being prosecuted can also be included on a criminal record, and if a person is prosecuted for another crime the caution can be used as evidence of bad character. Some non-imprisonable offences can go on a criminal record, including failing to provide a preliminary breath test and tampering with a vehicle.
The following are motoring offences that do not carry a prison sentence and will not go on a criminal record:
- Careless driving
- Failing to provide driver details
- Failing to observe a traffic sign
- Construction and use offences such as using a mobile phone
Spent and unspent convictions
Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 if a person is convicted of an offence and the sentence is less than 30 months then depending on the severity of the offence the conviction will be deemed as spent after a certain amount of time. For example if you are convicted for five years for a disqualification for drink driving then the conviction will be spent after those five years.
If you are under 18 at the time you committed the offence, the rehabilitation period is half the time of the rehabilitation period for adult offenders. If two or more convictions apply then they will be spent after the length of the longest conviction.
For convictions over 30 months, regardless of how much time was spent in prison, the conviction will always be unspent and must always be disclosed when the person is asked about their criminal record.
The DVLA keeps records of all driving licence endorsements. Where penalty points or a disqualification is imposed or you are convicted for dangerous driving offences, the endorsements appear on your licence for four years from the date of the offence or conviction. However the minimum rehabilitation period for these convictions is five years and only becomes spent after this time. Drink driving, drug driving and failing to provide a specimen remain on your licence for 11 years; this conviction can become spent earlier depending on other aspects of the sentence.