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Will I go to prison for a serious driving offence?

Figures published recently show an increase in immediate prison sentences being given to drivers committing the most serious driving offences involving death and serious injury:

Figures published by the Ministry of Justice for driving offences in the year 2022-23, showed that in cases of causing death by dangerous driving, an immediate custodial sentence, for an average of 72 months, was imposed in 93 % of cases. 

For the offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, the percentage of people receiving immediate sentences of imprisonment in the year to June 2023 was 45%.

Whilst sentencing outcomes have become slightly more lenient for summary offences, meaning those triable only in the magistrates’ court, in the last 10 years, sentences for cases heard at the Crown Court, for example dangerous driving and any offences of causing death or serious injury, have increased significantly over the last 10 years.  Whereas the most likely method of disposal for serious cases ten years ago was a community order,  or a suspended sentence of imprisonment, the tide has undoubtedly changed in favour of imposing immediate prison sentences for those committing serious motoring offences.

Source: Ministry of Justice, Criminal Justice System statistics quarterly: June 2023, ‘Outcomes by Offence Data Tool’

In England & Wales, serious motoring offences are generally categorised as those that pose a significant risk to public safety and may result in severe consequences. Some of these offences can lead to imprisonment. Here are examples of serious motoring offences in the UK:

Dangerous Driving:

Definition: Driving in a way that falls far below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver, and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.
Penalty: Imprisonment is a likely outcome, along with a substantial fine and a driving ban.

Drink Driving:

Definition: Driving while under the influence of alcohol, exceeding the legal blood alcohol concentration limit.
Penalty: Imprisonment, fine, mandatory disqualification from driving, and possible rehabilitation requirements.

Drug Driving:

Definition: Driving under the influence of drugs, including illegal substances and certain prescription medications that impair the ability to drive.
Penalty: Imprisonment, fine, mandatory disqualification from driving, and possible rehabilitation requirements.

Causing Death by Dangerous Driving:

Definition: Causing the death of another person as a result of driving dangerously.
Penalty: Lengthy imprisonment, a substantial fine, and a mandatory disqualification from driving.

Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving:

Definition: Causing serious injury to another person as a result of driving dangerously.
Penalty: Imprisonment, a substantial fine, and a mandatory disqualification from driving.

Driving While Disqualified:

Definition: Driving whilst disqualified from holding a driving licence.
Penalty: Imprisonment, a fine, and an extension of the disqualification period.

Failing to Stop After an Accident:

Definition: Leaving the scene of an accident without stopping and providing necessary information.
Penalty: Fine, points on the driving license, and imprisonment in severe cases.

It’s important to note that the severity of penalties can vary based on the specific circumstances of the offence and any previous convictions. Additionally, changes in legislation may occur, so it’s advisable to consult the latest legal sources or speak to a specialist solicitor for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

Understanding the Consequences of Serious Driving Offences


In the realm of traffic regulations, the consequences of committing a serious driving offence are a cause for concern for many individuals. As experts in the field, we aim to shed light on the potential legal ramifications one might face when charged with such offenses. This comprehensive guide will navigate you through the intricacies of serious driving offences and address the pressing question: “Will I go to prison for a serious driving offence?”

Defining Serious Driving Offences

Serious driving offences encompass a spectrum of violations that extend beyond the common traffic infractions. These may include reckless driving, driving under the influence (DUI), and vehicular manslaughter, among others. Each offence carries its own set of consequences, and understanding the severity is crucial for individuals seeking legal guidance.

Legal Ramifications

1. Penalties and Fines

Upon conviction of a serious driving offence, individuals may face substantial penalties and fines. The monetary repercussions are often proportional to the gravity of the violation. Courts consider factors such as previous driving record, the extent of damage caused, and any injuries sustained during the incident.

2. Driving Licence Suspension or Revocation

A common consequence of serious driving offences is the suspension or revocation of the driver’s license. This adds a layer of complexity to one’s daily life, impacting professional commitments and personal responsibilities.

3. Probationary Periods

In certain cases, the court may impose probationary periods as part of the sentencing. During this time, individuals must adhere to strict conditions set by the court, such as regular check-ins, mandatory counselling, or attending defensive driving courses.

Possibility of Imprisonment

1. Factors Influencing Imprisonment

Whether one goes to prison for a serious driving offence depends on various factors. These factors include the specific nature of the violation, any prior criminal record, and whether the incident resulted in injuries or fatalities. Courts consider these elements to determine the appropriate level of punishment.

2. Alternative Sentencing Options

In some cases, especially for first-time offenders or those charged with less severe serious driving offences, the court may explore alternative sentencing options. These may include community service, electronic monitoring, or enrollment in rehabilitation programs.

Seeking Legal Representation

1. The Importance of Legal Representation

Given the potential life-altering consequences of serious driving offences, seeking legal counsel is paramount. An experienced criminal defence lawyer specialising in serious motoring offences (drink driving, drug driving, dangerous driving, causing serious injury or death by driving) can provide invaluable guidance, navigate the legal process, and work towards minimising the impact on the individual’s life.

2. Building a Strong Defence

A skilled lawyer will assess the circumstances surrounding the offence, scrutinise evidence, and build a robust defence strategy. This may involve challenging the legality of the traffic stop, questioning the accuracy of breathalyser tests, or presenting mitigating factors that could influence the court’s decision.

In conclusion, the question of whether you will go to prison for a serious driving offence is dependent on several factors. While imprisonment is a possibility, it is not an inevitable outcome. Understanding the nuances of the legal system, seeking competent legal representation, and actively participating in one’s defence can significantly influence the final verdict.

Gillian Forrest


Gillian Forrest was admitted to the roll of solicitors in 2007 after completing her legal training with Her Majesty’s Court Service, advising magistrates on sentencing, before securing a position and qualifying as a solicitor with Nick Freeman aka Mr. Loophole, learning her craft as a criminal defence practitioner, specialising in motor defence law. She has over 18 years experience investigating criminal cases, with 16 years’ post-qualified experience as a solicitor.

Motoring Defence Solicitors London

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