Police have a number of powers aimed at keeping drivers and pedestrians safe on our roads. Here’s an overview of situations where you may be pulled over by the police, plus advice on your rights and responsibilities.
What happens if I get stopped?
The police have the power to stop anyone at any time – they don’t need to give you a reason – and failing to stop is a criminal offence.
When pulled over by the police, you may be asked to produce documents including:
- driving licence
- insurance certificate
- vehicle registration document
If you don’t have these with you, you’ll be given seven days to produce them at a police station. If you feel you’ve been stopped too many times, you can make a complaint. You can find out more about making a complaint on the website for the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
What can the police do?
Issue a notice
If you’re pulled over and have committed a traffic offence, the police may issue you with a:
fixed penalty notice (FPN)
vehicle defect rectification notice
If you’ve committed a minor traffic offence, like not wearing a seatbelt or driving with a broken headlight, the police may issue you with a one-off fine called a fixed penalty notice. Non-endorsable offences - meaning those which don’t result in points on your licence - usually incur a fine of £30. Fines for endorsable offences like speeding are usually £60, although there may be some exceptions. More serious offences such as driving without insurance can incur fines of up to £200.
Police do not have the power to make you pay fines on the spot. If you feel a penalty notice is unjust, you can choose not to pay the fine and argue your case in court. If you do pay the fine, you won’t be prosecuted and no record of your offence will be kept.
Recipients have 28 days to pay the fixed penalty or request a hearing otherwise the fine will increase by 50%. You’ll be reported for prosecution if you fail to pay a fixed penalty for an offence detected by an automatic camera within 28 days.
If your vehicle is defective, for example, one of its indicators is broken, you may be issued with a vehicle defect rectification notice. This means you have to fix the fault and provide proof, such as a receipt from a mechanic saying the fault has been fixed, at a police station.
Police can 'breathalyse' you (ask you for a breath test) if they suspect you’ve been drinking if, for example, your driving seems erratic. You’ll be asked to give two valid samples of breath, and the lower result is the one on which any prosecution will be based.
If you fail the breath test, the police will take you to the police station where you’ll be charged and the evidence (the breath test) will be stored. You must leave your car until you’re sober enough to move it, or another 'legal' driver can move it with your permission. Failure to give a breath test is an offence.
What road offences result in disqualification from driving?
If you get 12 points on your licence within a three year period as a result of endorsable offences, your licence will usually be revoked for at least six months. Drink driving offences will result in mandatory disqualification from driving.
What road offences result in vehicle seizure?
The police have the power to seize a vehicle if it’s being used in an antisocial manner (causing alarm, harassment or distress). This includes inconsiderate driving and unauthorised off-road driving of cars, motorbikes etc. Police can seize vehicles if drivers don’t have an appropriate licence or insurance.
What road offences result in arrest and imprisonment?
The police can arrest you for any offence if they see fit. Serious road offences may result in imprisonment – such as causing death by dangerous driving.