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Getting stopped by the police

Getting stopped by the police

In the UK, the police can stop any vehicle for any reason.  It is an offence to fail to stop. You must therefore stop if asked to do so.


After you have been pulled over by the police, they can ask to see your drivers licence, insurance certificate and MOT certificate. Computer data bases can immediately identify uninsured vehicles and vehicles without a valid MOT certificate. If you haven’t got insurance or a certificate this could well explain why you have been stopped in the first place!
Being stopped by the police is likely to be a stressful event. Please try to be calm and polite. If you are aggressive or rude then it is more likely the police will take further action rather than let you go with a warning.


On a roadside stop the police have the power to issue a fixed penalty notice for some minor offences such as not wearing a seat belt, inconsiderate driving or driving whilst on a mobile phone. If you believe the notice was issued unjustly then you can apply to the court to set aside the notice. Arguing with the issuing officer is not the way to get this sorted!
If the police smell alcohol on your breath they may ask you to take a breath test. You can also be asked to take a breath test if you have committed a road traffic offence or had an accident. Refusal to take the test without “reasonable excuse” will result in arrest. What is a reasonable excuse is not specifically defined, but could include a medical condition that stops you giving a sample. The breath test will give an instant result. If this is negative then all well and good. However a positive test will result in immediate arrest and you will be taken to a police station to give another sample. If this second test is positive you will be charged.


If the police believe you to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs they might also ask you to do a “field test” to check whether you are fit to drive. This test might be a request to walk in a straight line.    If the police believe you are unfit to drive through the use of drugs (and this can be both illegal drugs or prescription/over the counter drugs), then you will be arrested and asked to provide a blood sample at a police station. Care should always be taken to check any medicine you are using to ensure that it does not impair your ability to drive. If in doubt you should ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are allowed to drive when using the medication. Driving whilst unfit to do so through the influence of drugs carries a minimum 1 year ban and a maximum fine of £5,000.00. It also means a criminal record which could limit your employment choices and restrict travel to foreign countries where there are strict visa requirements.   


If you have been stopped because there is a fault with your car, you might be served with a vehicle defect rectification notice, which is a formal notice requiring you to repair the fault. You must then repair your car and provide proof to the police within 14 days that this has been done.

The police also have the power to seize your car. They can do so if you are driving without a licence or insurance. It might also happen if your car has been abandoned or parked in a dangerous or illegal place. Further, they may also seize your vehicle if they believe it is being used in a way to cause alarm, distress or harassment eg driving carelessly. To get your vehicle back you will have to pay a release fee of £200.00 plus £20 per day storage.

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