Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) have been around for more than 50 years and are used for a wide range of anti-social behaviour offences, public disorder offences and environmental offences such as littering as well as for many motoring offences.
An FPN is a conditional offer – you can accept guilt, pay the fine, take the points and the matter will be closed, or you can reject the offer in which case you’ll be summonsed to appear in court.
Fixed penalty notices could be issued for a wide range of traffic and motoring offences. For drivers FPNs are widely used to enforce 'moving traffic offences', they can cover anything like:
- vehicle defects,
- traffic light offences
- tachograph offences
- restricted turns, no entry and box junctions
- driving without insurance
- or failing to wear a seatbelt.
They’re also used for parking offences on red routes and zig zags and to enforce parking restrictions where parking enforcement hasn’t been decriminalised – in many areas parking is now mostly dealt with as a civil matter by local authority Civil Enforcement Officers who issue Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs).
In this guide, we’ll explore the conditional offer of fixed penalty in more detail, looking at what it is exactly, when you could receive one and what happens if you do.
A Fixed Penalty Notice, or a conditional offer of fixed penalty is an administrative alternative to prosecution before the magistrates’ court which includes a fine and in most cases penalty points too.
You will be issued a notice on the spot or through the post from the police.
If you accept guilt, pay the fine or collect the points, you will avoid a court summons, but if you challenge it you will have to appear in court.
Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were introduced during the 1950s and were designed to deal with minor parking offences. The 1988 Road Traffic Act introduced fixed penalty notices for a wider range of minor traffic offences.
Today, the role of the Fixed Penalty Notice has been expanded even further and might be used to deal with anything from anti-social behaviour to littering, and fly-tipping to dog control offences.
What's the difference between a Fixed Penalty Notice, Penalty Charge Notice and Parking Charge Notice?
Fixed Penalty Notices differ from Penalty Charge Notices and Parking Charge Notices.
A Penalty Charge Notice is a council-issued fine that is predominantly issued for parking offences (parking on double yellows etc...) as well as breaking some traffic rules like going against a ‘no right turn’ sign or driving in a bus lane.
You can also receive a Penalty Charge Notice for not paying the London Congestion Charge, low emission zone or Dartford Crossing Charge.
A Parking Charge Notice is a parking 'ticket' issued by a private company in private car parks, such as a supermarket or restaurant.
While they are often referred to as fines, they are little more than an invoice requesting payment and can often be disputed.
A notice will be £50, £100, £200 or £300, depending on the severity, and will be used for a range of offences, including speeding, careless driving and using a mobile phone while driving.
Not all offences carry penalty points, but the minimum awarded will be two points, with a maximum of 11. In some cases an immediate disqualification might be recommended.
Offence codes and penalty points remain on a driving licence for four or 11 years, depending on the offence.
There are two types of fixed penalty notices: endorsable and non-endorsable.
An endorsable ticket means points on your licence – normally three points – while a non-endorsable ticket is a fine only.
In 2013, the government made changes to the Fixed Penalty Notice system – careless drivers who commit offences such as tailgating or poor lane discipline are likely to face on-the-spot fines. The fines also increased.
Here is a list of all of the offences that could result in a Fixed Penalty Notice (you'll notice drink-driving isn't on the list as this is deemed a more serious offence):
£50 non-endorsable FPN
£50 non-endorsable fixed penalty notice offences include:
- Neglect of traffic regulations (e.g. failing to conform to traffic signs – give way, roundabout vehicle priority, box junction road markings)
- Negligent use of motor vehicle (e.g. not in proper control, driver not having full view ahead, opening car door as to cause injury)
- Vehicle registration and excise licence offences (e.g. registration mark not easily readable)
- Motorway offences (e.g. stopping vehicle on hard shoulder without a valid reason)
- Vehicle or part in dangerous or defective condition (e.g. window not clear and unobstructed, no windscreen wipers)
- Neglect of pedestrian rights (e.g. not driving on the road)
- Lighting offences (e.g. lamps not showing steady lights, misuse of head/fog lights)
- Noise offences (e.g. causing unnecessary noise, sounding horn at night)
- Load offences (e.g. exceeding weight restriction)
- Cycle and motorcycle offences (e.g. cycling on footpath, motorcyclists not wearing protective headgear)
£100 endorsable FPN
£100 endorsable fixed penalty notice offences include:
- Speeding offences
- Careless driving (e.g. middle lane hogging and tailgating and reckless overtaking)
- Motorway offences (e.g. reversing on a motorway, driving on hard shoulder/central reservation, using lanes marked with red ‘X’ signs)
- Neglect of traffic directions (e.g. not stopping at a red traffic light)
- Neglect of pedestrian rights (e.g. stopping within limits of zebra/pelican/puffin crossing)
- Load offences (e.g. danger of injury due to number of passengers or manner in which they are carried)
- Motorcycle offences (e.g. carrying more than one passenger)
- Unrestrained animals (e.g. distraction from unsecured dogs in the back seat)
£100 non-endorsable FPN
£100 non-endorsable fixed penalty notice offences include:
- Failure to wear a seat belt whilst driving
- Vehicle test offence (using a vehicle without a valid MOT certificate)
£200 endorsable FPN
£200 endorsable fixed penalty notice offences include:
- Duty to identify driver
- Using a handheld mobile phone whilst driving
£300 endorsable FPN
£300 endorsable fixed penalty offences include:
- Driving without third party insurance
Local authority enforcement officers might also issue fixed penalty notices for other motoring offences, including parking, selling/repairing vehicles at the roadside and abandoned vehicles.
And they could soon be authorised to take on more responsibility as MPs are looking to grant more powers to councils to enforce traffic laws, easing the burden on overstretched police forces.
It's worth noting that new car seat laws now mean you could get fined £500 for not having the correct-fitting car seat.
Action to Take – Payment or Appeal to Court
Operators and drivers should consider carefully what to do regarding a Fixed Penalty Notice. It is all too easy just to pay the small fine and not challenge it, even when you are innocent of the alleged offence.
However, both operators and drivers need to consider the regulatory action which could result from just paying the fixed penalty. In other words, for an operator it could lead to a Public Inquiry and for a driver it could lead to Driver Disciplinary Hearing. Both could result in disciplinary action being taken on the respective licences of the company or driver, which could include either suspension or loss of the licence.
Anyone receiving a fixed penalty notice has up to 28 days to decide whether to appeal it or pay it. If you appeal the notice, then a court summons will be issued in due course and you are able to then put forward your defence at Court.
There is no formal appeal process for fixed penalty notices – if you’re not prepared to admit guilt for the alleged offence, the matter will be decided in court.
However, this will be a costly and time-consuming process, so you should think carefully before appealing.
The fines imposed by a court will be greater than the original fixed penalty notice.
If you decide to challenge a fixed penalty notice, you’re advised to seek assistance from a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
It is typical for speeders to try and appeal offences - but the fines can then become much more severe.
To appeal the matter to Court, individuals need to complete the relevant section of the fixed penalty notice and return it to VOSA/Police without any payment. This must be done within 28 days of the notice being issued.
Costs of Going to Court and Insurance
However, even if you are successfully in defending yourself in court you may not be entitled to recover all of the money you have spent on legal fees. Companies re not entitled to recover any costs and individuals are only entitled to recover their fees at legal aid rates, approximately one third of what they are likely to have paid. It is now more important than ever to have legal expenses cover in place.
How to pay a fixed penalty notice depends on what type it is and who issued it. You have 28 days in which to pay the fine and payment can be made via the Directgov website. You will need the notice number, date of offence and offence code, along with your email address and telephone number.
Alternatively you can pay by cheque or credit/debit card – the details of where to pay will be printed on the back of the ticket. Cash is no longer an acceptable form of payment.
If you accept the fine but then fail to pay, the fine is registered with the court and increased by 50%. The court will then enforce the fine and have the option of issuing a warrant for your arrest if you fail to respond.
There are rules on how different authorities can use revenue from fixed penalty notices. Revenue from speed camera enforcement or fixed penalty notices go to the Consolidated Fund – in effect the government’s general bank account.
People also ask:
If you pay the fine on time, that’s the end of the matter and all liability for the offence is discharged. It will not form part of a criminal record.
If the offence results in penalty points, they will remain on your driving record for four or 11 years depending on the severity of the misdemeanour.
It would only appear if you refused to pay the fine or challenged it and were found guilty by the court as this would be classed as a conviction.
An FPN for speeding is usually £100 and, on top of that, you’ll receive three points on your licence. This will increase your insurance premium, so opting for a speed awareness course usually works out to be less costly.
Failure to pay will result in further action, and the court could issue a warrant for your arrest.
You must return the completed Section 172 notice within 28 days, telling the police who was driving the car. You’ll then usually be sent a fixed penalty notice. You can either plead guilty and accept the fine or not guilty and go to court.
Once the NIP has been returned and the driver identified, the police must decide what action to take, usually by issuing a fixed penalty notice or driver training request.
You could be exonerated if you can demonstrate that:
- No offence was committed, or the FPN was wrongly issued
- The offence was committed by someone else
- There were technical errors in the police procedure.
The number is made up of the force code + notice type + source + ticket number + payment code.