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The police can ask you to provide your licence, MOT or insurance certificate at a police station within seven days. If you do not produce the required documents within seven days, you will face a failure to produce document charge. This carries a £1,000 fine. You may also be charged with other offences, such as driving with no insurance, no MOT or no licence.
Road Traffic Act
Can the police ask to see your driving licence?
The police can ask to see your driving licence, MOT, tax and insurance certificate if they see you driving a motor vehicle on a public road. They can also ask to see these documents if they believe you were driving at the time of an accident, or they believe that you committed road traffic offence.
What documents do I legally have to carry in my car?
You do not have to carry your driver’s licence, MOT certificate or insurance certificate in your vehicle. It is recommended that you do, just in case they are required. However, unlike in some countries, you can legally drive around without having these documents within reaching distance.
What happens if the police ask to see my documents?
If you are stopped by the police while driving, they will likely ask you to produce your driver’s licence, insurance certificate and MOT certificate. As mentioned above, it is not a legal requirement to have these in your car at all times. If you do not have them on you, the police will issue you with a notice called a ‘HORT1’. This is also known as a ‘producer’.
If you receive a producer, it means you have to produce the requested documents at a police station within seven days. The documents the police want to see will be listed on the notice. It might just be your licence, your insurance certificate or your most recent MOT. Or, it might be all three, if you were unable to produce any of them at the time.
Will an electric copy do?
If the police ask to see your driving documents, they will likely want to see the physical documents themselves. Photos, emails and electronic documents can be forged or easily tampered with, so police officers may not accept them as proof.
How long do you have to produce driving documents to the police?
You have seven days to produce the requested documents at a police station, starting from the date the notice was issued. If the police want to see your licence, then you must take this to the police station yourself. For insurance and MOT certificates, you are allowed to send someone on your behalf; you do not have to attend in person.
What happens if I fail to produce driving documents?
If you do not produce the necessary documents within the seven days, you will be charged with ‘failing to produce documents’. This carries a maximum £1,000 fine. The police may also assume that you failed to produce the relevant documents because you do not have them. You may then be charged with further offences, such as:
- Driving without valid insurance (if you fail to produce a valid insurance certificate)
- Driving without an MOT (if you fail to produce a valid MOT certificate)
- Driving without a licence (if you fail to produce a valid driver’s licence)
The maximum penalty for driving with no tax or MOT is a £1,000 fine. The penalty for driving without insurance is more serious. If you receive a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) for driving without insurance, you could receive a £300 fine and six penalty points. If you are summonsed to court, you could receive an unlimited fine, six to eight penalty points and a driving ban.
Find out more about what happens if you get caught driving without insurance.
Related: Driving whilst disqualified
Do I have to show the police my driving documents?
The police are entitled to ask for your driving documents if they see you driving, or they believe that you were driving at the time of an accident or road traffic offence. You must produce the documents if you are asked, or produce them within seven days at a police station. You cannot legally refuse.
Why have I been asked to produce documents?
The police can conduct random roadside checks, so there might not be a particular reason. However, it is most likely that you have been involved in an accident or committed a road traffic offence (or the police believe you have). If so, the police will want to check all your documents over.
It is also possible that the police have run your vehicle licence plate through their software and this has flagged an issue. For instance, the police system might show that the vehicle does not have a valid MOT certificate or is not insured. If so, the police will stop you and ask to see the necessary paperwork.
What happens if I don’t produce the documents in seven days, but I do have them?
If you do not produce the documents in seven days, you will be charged with failing to produce, along with driving without insurance/MOT/valid licence (delete as applicable). You will either receive an NIP through the post, asking whether you accept the charges. Or, you will receive a court summons. If you reject the NIP on the basis that you do have the documents, you will then get a court summons through the post.
The burden is on you to prove that you do in fact have the relevant documents, despite the fact that you failed to produce them within seven days. You will still be charged with failing to produce documents, but the other charges against you will be dropped.
Is there a defence to failing to produce documents?
There is a defence to failing to produce documents if you can show that you absolutely could not have produced the documents within the time frame. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) does not have a definitive list of what they might consider to be a complete defence. Each case is assessed on its individual merits.
We recommend speaking to our motor offence solicitors about defending your failure to produce documents charge. We can help you prove to the CPS that you do have the required documents, and that you have a valid reason for failing to produce them within seven days.
I’ve only just realised that I cannot produce the documents
If the police have asked you to produce your driving documents within seven days, you might now realise that you cannot to do so. Perhaps you have only just noticed that your licence has expired, or that you were not insured, or that your MOT is overdue. This happens quite often, usually because the police have run the licence plate through their database.
If this is the case, the police will charge you for the offence of driving without a licence/valid insurance/MOT. If you do not accept the charge, then you are perfectly entitled submit a defence in court. Our solicitors can represent you throughout proceedings.
It is worth noting that ignorance is not a defence, nor is being unable to pay for insurance or an MOT. However, we can get the charge overturned if we can prove that you were on a private road, or that you did in fact have a licence, MOT or insurance. We can gather the evidence and submit it to the CPS, requesting that the charges against you are dropped.
Alternatively, there might be a very compelling reason as to why you were driving without a licence, MOT or insurance. For instance, it could be that someone in a position of authority (such as your employer) assured you that you were insured to drive the vehicle. This is known as a ‘special reasons’ argument. It means that while you accept that you are technically guilty of the offence, there are extenuating circumstances that explain why you did so.
Special reasons for driving without a licence, MOT or insurance include:
- It was a genuine, life-or death medical emergency
- You were fleeing from danger
- You held a genuine and honest belief that you were insured/MOT’d/held a licence, and it was reasonable for you to hold this belief
Get expert legal advice now
If you have been charged with failing to produce driving documents, or you face allegations of driving without insurance, an MOT or a licence, contact us now to discuss your case. Every case is different; the best approach depends entirely on the circumstances in which you find yourself. We can listen to the details of your situation and advise on the right approach.
Your priority will be to save your licence and minimise the consequences as much as you can. Our solicitors can understand this and will help in any way we can. See our motoring defence fees page to find out more about our fixed fees.
Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.