What is the Charge for Dangerous Driving?

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In Canada, dangerous driving is a criminal offence with serious penalties that can completely upend an individual’s life. In addition to the possibility of jail, hefty fines, and the loss of driving privileges, a conviction of dangerous driving can lead to a permanent criminal record. If you have been charged with dangerous driving, it is in your best interest to seek legal counsel from an experienced defence lawyer immediately.

Dangerous Driving Explained

Most people understand the dangers inherent in speeding, distracted driving, or driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But what exactly is dangerous driving? In Canada, dangerous driving is a crime that occurs when:

  • a driver uses “wanton and reckless disregard for the lives and safety of others,”
  • while in a public setting with a likelihood of people,
  • even if no people are actually present.

To understand what is meant by the term dangerous driving, we have to first understand what actions may be considered wanton and reckless when performed by a driver. If the driver’s conduct created a public danger and went against the actions of a reasonably prudent driver, he/she may be charged with dangerous driving. This can occur even if the incident did not result in any physical injuries or property damage.

For example, let’s say that Alan had a bad day at work and became overwhelmed with emotion on his drive home. In an angry rage, he turned into a store parking lot and pushed the gas pedal to the floor, flying across the parking lot at top speed. Terrified bystanders dropped their bags and ran to get out of the way. Just before smashing into a row of parked cars, Alan slammed on the breaks, stopping the car.

Even though no physical injury or property damage occurred, Alan is likely to be charged with dangerous driving. Such reckless behavior in a public setting could have easily caused serious bodily injury or death to one or more people, making Alan’s actions criminal in nature, even if he didn’t intend to cause harm to anyone.

Was there Intent?

Although dangerous driving is a serious criminal charge, the prosecution must prove intent to commit the act of dangerous driving in order to get a conviction. In the scenario above, Alan did not intend to hurt anyone, but he did have intent to speed through the parking lot.

To further illustrate what is meant by intent, let’s consider another scenario. The day after Alan’s incident, Stephanie had a heart attack while driving through the same parking lot. As she clenched her chest and folded over in pain, her foot accidentally pressed the gas pedal to the floor, resulting in speeds as high as Alan’s. Again, people dropped their bags and ran to get out of the way of the speeding car. Even though Stephanie could have caused serious bodily injury or death, any resulting harm would have been out of her control. Simply put, Stephanie did not have intent.

Considerations of the Court

In addition to proving intent, the court must consider the following circumstances before convicting someone of dangerous driving.

  • The nature of the setting (whether it was private or public and its use);
  • The amount of traffic or number of pedestrians that would typically be present in that particular setting;
  • Whether or not the driver’s actions constituted a danger to the public;
  • If there were any passengers in the vehicle with the driver;
  • Whether or not the driver had intent to commit the act of dangerous driving.

Penalties for Dangerous Driving

If you have been charged with dangerous driving, the penalties will vary based on the severity of your offence and whether or not you have a prior criminal record. However, typical penalties include:

  • Up to two years less one day in jail for summary convictions;
  • Up to 10 years in prison if indicted;
  • Up to life in prison if the crime results in death;
  • Hefty fines;
  • Criminal probation;
  • Suspension of your driver’s licence for a minimum of one year;
  • Criminal record;
  • Increase in vehicle insurance for five years or more.

Dangerous driving is significantly more serious than other traffic-related charges found under the Traffic Safety Act; police will take your photograph and fingerprint you, and a conviction can result in a lifelong criminal record. Do not make the mistake of attempting to fight these charges on your own. Even if no injuries or property damage occurred as a result of your actions, the prosecution can still file charges if it can prove that the public was in danger. Any person facing charges for dangerous driving is advised to consult with an experienced criminal defence lawyer, such as the team from Oykhman Criminal Defence Toronto, immediately.

August 6, 2020 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
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