Some lawyers are not very good; we’ve had some recent horror stories recently where people have been represented by lawyers who claim to be experts in road traffic law. Those so-called experts have turned out to be anything but, which is why we’ve been left to pick up the pieces and sort out the mess.
For example, somebody came to us recently, because they’d been arrested for drink driving on private land. The duty solicitor looked up the law on Google in front of the client then advised a guilty plea. What he’d failed to appreciate is that you can’t be guilty of this offence on private land! We had to take the matter all the way to the Crown court to force the magistrates to reopen the case, and ultimately our client was found not guilty.
The duty solicitor looked up the law on Google in front of the client then advised a guilty plea.
In another case, a driver was advised to plead guilty to failing to provide a specimen at the roadside to test for drink driving. He was religious fasting at the time and hadn’t had a drink. A panic attack at the roadside meant he couldn’t breathe, so he was arrested and the custody sergeant released him immediately as she did not agree there was a reasonable suspicion that he had been drinking.
However, he was then charged with failing to supply at the roadside. He was represented by a private barrister at court who charged him £1400. The barrister was instructed by a solicitor who had in turn been instructed by the client. The client was sentenced to a mandatory 12-month ban – but failing to provide at the roadside carries four points and not a mandatory ban! We took the case to the Crown Court on appeal and won.
Our most recent case was won at trial on the basis of an automatism defence to driving without due care and attention. Automatism is an act performed unconsciously; it’s an involuntary movement of a person's body or limbs, uncontrolled by any function of conscious will.
Our client, an HGV driver, sneezed and then clipped a lorry parked in a layby. The original solicitor didn’t explore this issue properly and advised a guilty plea, which led to our client losing his job. We reopened the plea and the magistrates found him not guilty.
These are just three cases from the many we’ve dealt with, which show why it’s not wise to instruct a lawyer who doesn’t genuinely specialise in the area of law concerned – and even then you have to be careful. Not all lawyers are the same and not all lawyers are good at what they do.
FirstCar's legal expert is Emma Patterson, who runs Patterson Law, which specialises in motoring cases. If you've got a legal question, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get Patterson Law to answer it for you. If you need the advice or representation of a great motoring lawyer, you can contact Emma or one of her colleagues, through her website.