Driving is a privilege, but any violations will result in serious consequences and penalties. Dangerous driving is a traffic violation and a criminal offence because it can lead to injury and death. When a person is driving recklessly or at a speed that will cause harm to others, he/she can be charged under traffic law.
Being charged with a driving offence is stressful. The situation can even worsen due to the following situations:
– failure to comply with the request of the apprehending officer, such as to stop the vehicle
– driving whilst intoxicated with drugs or alcohol
– putting vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists, at risk of danger and injury
– the person is a repeat offender.
The government is taking dangerous driving offences seriously by putting on tougher penalties, particularly for reckless driving, even if it’s a first offence.
What is the definition of dangerous driving?
According to the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) section 52A, to “drive” means controlling the steering, movement and propulsion of a vehicle. A person who has control over the moving and stopping of the vehicle, even if the person does not have the ability to steer, is enough to be labelled as a driver. A driver can be charged with an offence by driving on the road dangerously, furiously and recklessly.
Dangerous driving refers to driving in a way that poses a real danger to the public. A person will be charged with dangerous driving when he/she is driving furiously at a certain speed that can cause harm to public safety.
Furious driving refers to driving at a speed or manner that puts the public or road user at risk of danger with their lives. You can be charged with furious driving even when there is no one on the road at the time.
Reckless driving involves creating a real risk of physical injury to anyone on the road. It simply means you do not care about the safety of others while on the road.
What type of driving can result in a dangerous driving charge?
The main elements of dangerous driving are putting people at risk for accident or injury and unsafe driving practices while on the road. These people are pedestrians, motorists, cyclists and passengers. A person can be charged with dangerous driving when he/she:
– Gets distracted for a few seconds that causes the car to inflict physical injury on road users or run off the lane and cause serious traffic problems.
– Drives on a roundabout too fast, exposing motorist to accident
– Collides with another vehicle or a pole due to falling asleep
– Drives the exceeding speed limit
– Causes the death of anyone due to failure to practice proper driving skills while on the road.
Dangerous driving that leads to death
When a person driving the vehicle at a dangerous speed or manner is involved in an accident and causes the death of another person under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the offence can carry a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Aggravated driving that leads to death
Aggravated driving refers to situations that provoke dangerous driving, which leads to death. These are blood alcohol levels exceeding the limit, driving at 45 km over the speed limit, getting involved in a police pursuit and being intoxicated with drugs. The penalty for aggravated driving is higher because it carries up to 14 years of imprisonment when proven guilty.
Dangerous driving leading to grievous bodily harm
This offence is similar to the prior dangerous driving offence. The individual driving at the moment of the accident causes serious bodily harm to the victim, including an unborn baby. Permanent disfigurement and disability also fall under this category. The maximum penalty for this offence is 7 years of imprisonment.
Aggravated dangerous driving
This is similar to dangerous driving that causes grievous bodily harm except that there is the element of aggravating circumstances. This offence carries a heavier penalty which is 11 years maximum.
Will I get a criminal conviction due to dangerous driving?
Depending on the severity of the situation, you can get a criminal conviction from dangerous driving charges. Driving while intoxicated, negligent driving that leads to injury and driving while the license is disqualified are violations that can warrant a criminal record.
Will I receive a full time sentence?
Yes, you can receive a full time sentence if the prosecutor can prove that you are guilty of the crime.
What does the prosecutor need to prove?
Dangerous driving charges will depend on the outcome of the accident, and they will be categorized under the following:
– Dangerous driving occasioning death
– Dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm
To prove dangerous driving that causes serious bodily harm or death, the prosecutor needs to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the car was driven by the accused at the moment of impact. They also need to prove that the driver was either intoxicated with alcohol or drugs, driving dangerously or recklessly and at a speed that exceeds the limit. Moreover, the prosecutor will need to prove pieces of evidence, such as blood alcohol concentration of over 0.150, driving at a speed more than 45 km per hour, being involved in a police pursuit and impaired ability to drive.
If the prosecution can prove aggravation committed in any case, a higher penalty can be imposed by the court.
Is there a defence to a dangerous driving charge?
If you are charged with dangerous driving, the following are some defences that can be used by your lawyer:
– Loss of control of the vehicle due to sudden illness, such as seizure, hallucinations or heart attack;
– The need to drive dangerously due to the need to escape from abusive and threatening situations;
– Mechanical problem that leads to reckless or dangerous driving;
– Taking part in a motoring event; and
– Proving that the driving was not dangerous in the first place.
Will I lose my license due to dangerous driving?
The privilege to drive can be suspended or terminated depending on the seriousness of your driving offences. On May 20, 2019, strict penalties were implemented to reduce the cases of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. When you exceed your demerit points, your license will be suspended.
However, police can immediately confiscate your license when you committed the following offences:
– A driving offence that cause serious bodily harm or death
– Driving over the speed limit (45 km/h over the limit)
– Driving while intoxicated
– Using learner’s license without being supervised by the proper individual
– Street racing
– Aggravated burnout offence.
The police have the authority to confiscate your license on the spot or within the 48-hour period after you were charged with the offence. Once it is in effect, you’ll be suspended until your case is decided by the court.
If convicted, your suspension period will be counted when the court imposes your suspension period. For drinking offences, your license will be suspended for three months. For speeding that exceeds the 45 km/h over the prescribed limit, the suspension will be for six months.
You have the right to appeal for the license suspension in court as long as it is done within 28 days after the suspension notice. You can do it online or by simply going to the local court of NSW.
When the court orders your disqualification from driving, your license will immediately be cancelled. When this happens, you are not allowed to drive any vehicle until the disqualification has transpired.
If you are driving any vehicle during the suspension period, you will face a heavier sentence, including jail time. Once the suspension period is completed, you can apply for a new licence in the Transport for NSW.
What can I do to reduce my penalty and disqualification period?
If you have been sentenced and disqualify, you can appeal for disqualification from the local court. You can apply if you haven’t been charged with any offence during the suspension period or not convicted of these offences:
– Manslaughter or murder caused by the use of a vehicle
– Grievous bodily harm, injury, or death from a motor vehicle and falls under the Crime Act
– Involved in police pursuit or predatory driving
– Negligence that caused death or serious injury
– Failure to stop and assist after the impact of the accident.
The court will also look at a few different things when considering your request for the removal of disqualification:
– Public safety
– Your overall driving records
– The offences you committed
– Ability to use different means of transport
– Health and financial status
– Your family, work, education and others.
Should I get a lawyer to represent me for the dangerous driving charge?
When face with a dangerous driving charge, it is important that you get legal advice and assistance to prevent your license from being disqualified. Without proper knowledge and expertise in the field of traffic law, your case will have a poor defence. Legal advisors are well-versed in how the system works. They can give you advice and present you with the best possible outcome for your case.
If you are involved in any traffic violations, Mardini Defence Lawyers can help you. Our team is experienced in handling various traffic cases. We can guide you and help you make informed choices. Contact us today!