There has been much ado in the press about police forces undertaking random eyesight checks on motorists and revoking licences at the roadside. So, what are their powers?
Can the police stop me?
Under section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 a police officer in uniform has the power to require a driver of a vehicle on a road to stop. It is an offence to fail to comply with such a request.
Does the officer have to be in uniform?
To use this power the officer has to be in uniform. (There is a widely-held belief that if an officer is not wearing a helmet they are not in uniform is not correct). There is a common law power, however, for an officer not in uniform to request a vehicle to stop although there would be no penalty for failing to comply.
What is the law about vision and driving?
You must be able to read a registration plate from 20 metres (approximately five car lengths). It is an offence to drive with uncorrected defective eyesight.
Can the police ask me to do a roadside eye test?
You could be asked to undertake the test voluntarily. Otherwise, there must be a suspicion that you may be guilty of driving when you cannot comply with the vision test requirement. If the officer does suspect, you can be required to submit to a test.
Section 96 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 provides this power. The test can be carried out between 8am and 9pm, only in daylight.
What if I refuse to do the test?
If the officer has a reasonable suspicion that you have been driving while your eyesight is such that you could not pass the test and you refuse to do so, you are committing an offence.
What could happen?
Failing to stop for a police officer, under section 163, can be punished by a fine.
Driving with uncorrected defective eyesight or refusing to submit to a test of vision carries a fine, discretionary disqualification and an obligatory endorsement of three penalty points.
What about my licence, can it be revoked?
If you fail a vision test at the roadside, or fail to comply, the police can immediately report this fact to the DVLA.
There is a fast track system whereby a decision to revoke your licence can quickly be made, such a decision taking place within hours. Once your licence is revoked, it will be not be returned until you can demonstrate that your eyesight meets the required standard.
Your licence being revoked will not prevent a prosecution for the offences outlined above.
Why is this in the news?
The power for fast-track revocation has existed since 2013. The power is now being widely reported as three police forces have announced their intention to undertake such checks at the roadside, this may be extended nationwide.
Based on a study by the Association of Optometrists it is estimated that some 1 million people in the UK are driving illegally. RSA Insurance estimates that eyesight problems cause nearly 3000 casualties per year on the UK roads.
The police forces involved in the initiative have said that they will be gathering data as to the extent of any issues. Potentially, this could lead to a further mandatory vision test at some stage after the practical driving test.
What can we do to help?
We are experts in road traffic law and can advise you if you are facing investigation or prosecution. To discuss any aspect of your case, please call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email, email@example.com
Victory against unlawful stop and search
Duncan Roberts recently represented a client charged with possession of a bladed article.
The client had been present at the scene of an incident he had witnessed and was assisting police. Almost an hour after the police met him they decided to search him. They recovered a knife in the pocket of the jacket he was wearing.
Duncan argued that the officer who had been speaking to our client had no reasonable grounds for suspicion, and as such could not legally search our client. The officer claimed that he was relying on his superior officer’s suspicion. Duncan argued that as that officer had not been named and no statement provided by them, those suspicions amounted to hearsay and therefore could not be repeated before the court.
This meant that the Officer who conducted the search had no lawful reasons for searching our client.
There were also a number of other aspects of the search which were not conducted in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE).
The result of this argument was that if the search was unlawful, the fact that the knife was found could not be relied upon and there was no case to answer.
4 Main procedures in a stop and search
- The police officer must identify himself appropriately;
- must show his warrant card;
- must identify the item sought;
- must provide a written record of the search or inform a suspect that a record can be made available for them.
If one or more of these procedures are failed, the search itself could be unlawful, and therefore weaken the case against you.
If you have been found in possession of a weapon, drugs or anything else illegal and are unsure whether the search was lawfully conducted contact us. We can advise on the procedures the police should undertake and whether they have conducted a stop and search appropriately.
How can we help?
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch with. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.