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I'm writing a story and I wanted some accuracy on this matter, specifically for the consequences on the person to whom this would happen. Imagine a situation a public person (this will be important later) did, for the sake of fun, speeding with a car on public ways and the warning and fines couldn't be sent to the person who did it, due to lack of identification on car or having fake plates, something as absurd as this. Then, many years later (originally I thought of having the speeding event happening in 2014 and the person coming clean and confessing it in 2019 or 2020, giving this sort of time window), the author of the speeding and driving with an unmarked car comes to the public and confess what they did, not only to the media (it's a public person, a sort of celebrity) but also to the law enforcement agencies which this could apply.

What would realistically happen to this person, legally speaking?

PS: I did not include a country which this sort of event would happen as I'm still deciding where in the story this could happen, so I don't know whether there's an element of the penalty expiring or not.

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  • Do they only admit speeding, or also the fake plates? Jun 14, 2022 at 18:40

5 Answers 5

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What would realistically happen to this person, legally speaking?

Nothing

The most common speeding offence is at section 89(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984

A person who drives a motor vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding a limit imposed by or under any enactment to which this section applies shall be guilty of an offence.

And, section 1(1)(c) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 requires a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) be served to the car’s registered keeper within 14 days of the offence, but as the car had false plates there is no way to identify who this was. If that 14 day deadline is not met, then the driver cannot be prosecuted regardless of any confession.

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What would realistically happen to this person, legally speaking?

Nothing

In Maryland traffics offenses are Misdemeanors and section 5-106 of the Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings provides that:

a prosecution for a misdemeanor shall be instituted within 1 year after the offense was committed.

Moreover section 5-107 provides that:

Except as provided in § 5-106 of this subtitle, § 1-303 of the Environment Article , and § 8-1815 of the Natural Resources Article , a prosecution or suit for a fine, penalty, or forfeiture shall be instituted within one year after the offense was committed.

Now if it could be proved that the person who committed the offense had been outside the US for the entire time, the statute of limitations might be tolled (paused). But the question seems to indicate that the person was present in the same area where the speeding took place for the period before the confession. and as a practical matter, a prosecutor would be unlikely to go to that extreme for a speeding ticket, which would be only a fine of less than $500 as of 2020.

Other states

I don't think that any state in the has a statute of limitations on speeding as long as seven years, or has no such statute. This Findlaw page shows only a few as high as 6 years for misdemeanors generally, and none higher.

Non-legal consequences

Now the consequences to the person's public reputation are a different matter, but those are not legal consequences

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  • While the offense itself would be time barred, evidence that you lied about it in some important circumstances could have consequence.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 14, 2021 at 22:58
  • FWIW, most traffic offenses, like speeding, are less serious than misdemeanors and have shorter statutes of limitations than misdemeanors.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 14, 2022 at 22:42
  • There is a summary of traffic offense statutes of limitations for many and maybe all U.S. states at the link but it is full of clickbait. legalbeagle.com/12325649-disposed-mean-criminal-case.html
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 15, 2022 at 21:57
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Singapore has no statute of limitations on criminal prosecution, and apparently a long lag in prosecution is not rare. Speeding is a crime (§63), and for a first offense there could be as much as a fine of $5,000 and 12 months imprisonment. Whether or not a conviction is possible depends on the evidence available. The Criminal Procedure Code provides the relevant rules. The prosecution might rely on the defendant's confession, which under §258 could be admissible (it was not apparently made under duress nor was it made to an inferior rank police officer). We'd need more of the story to see whether there is reasonable doubt as to the validity of the confession, but on the face of it the person could be in for prison time and a fine.

If the person was driving with false plates, that would be another $5,000 and 1 year in prison.

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The speeding itself, many years ago, wouldn't be a big problem in most countries.

However, in the UK there was a case where a government minister was caught speeding, and he convinced his then wife to take the blame of it. Years later she was his divorced ex-wife and out for revenge, so she confessed that the pair had been lying about the speeding. They both went to jail for "perverting the course of justice".

So confessing to the speeding is not a problem in the UK. Confessing that you lied about the speeding could be a big problem.

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Nothing

First, a confession that is not made under oath or affirmation is just words; without coo corroborating evidence it has little to no probative value. Want to know who really shot JFK? That’s right, it was me.

Even a statement to police can be recanted in the courtroom. Police would need corroborating evidence before they would even initiate an investigation let alone lay charges. “Why is this person in my courtroom?” “He said he did X, Your Honor.” “And now he says he didn’t, case dismissed.”

The legal principle that a confession alone cannot lead to a conviction is corpus delicti. The US Supreme Court made this clear in a number of rulings. From Wong Sun v United States, No 36, 1962 (Section IV)

It is a settled principle of the administration of criminal justice in the federal courts that a conviction must rest upon firmer ground than the uncorroborated admission or confession of the accused.[14] We observed in Smith v. United States, 348 U.S. 147, 153, that the requirement of corroboration is rooted in "a long history of judicial experience with confessions and in the realization that sound law enforcement requires police investigations which extend beyond the words of the accused."

The principle is part of the Common Law in all jurisdictions.

Secondly, crimes such as speeding have a statute of limitations - a time within which the state must discover it and initiate prosecution. For example, in , a summary offense like speeding has a limitation period of 6 months.

Now, if the admitted crime was murder or sexual assault ...

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    In what jurisdiction do confessions have no probative value? In what jurisdiction will a court dismiss a case because the defendant recants his confession? Has this ever actually happened?
    – bdb484
    Jun 12, 2021 at 13:19
  • @bdb484 that’s not what I said - I said a confession alone cannot lead to a conviction.
    – Dale M
    Jun 12, 2021 at 23:52
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    I believe that in the US a confession alone can be sufficient to sustain a conviction. I am less sure, but I think that may be the case in the UK also. I don't know about elsewhere. Jun 13, 2021 at 3:52
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    @DaleM OK, but the question remains the same. Has any court ever agreed with that proposition of law?
    – bdb484
    Jun 13, 2021 at 18:19
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    @DaleM care to provide cites for any of those? Because I believe that you are incorrect. Jun 13, 2021 at 23:44

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