Have you been charged with dangerous driving and need a criminal lawyer?
The offence of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle (commonly referred as dangerous driving), occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public.
What constitutes Dangerous to the Public?
Section 249 of the Criminal Code of Canada, states that the circumstances that are taken into account when determining whether a person has operated a motor vehicle in a way that is dangerous to the public include but are not limited to;
“the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated and the amount of traffic that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place”
A passenger in the vehicle is considered part of the public.
Also, it is not necessary that a member of the public actually be present where the dangerous driving is alleged to have taken place. A public place is generally any place to which the public ordinarily has access. It includes, but is not limited to, public highways and roads, parking lots around privately owned shopping malls, a driveway that members of the public have access to or a school ground accessed by teachers and students. Even if there was nobody in sight, the Crown/prosecuting attorney may successfully argue that a person might have reasonably been expected to be present.
Mental Element of Dangerous Driving
But a Crown Attorney must prove that you had the intention to operate the vehicle in a manner, which when viewed objectively, was a departure from how the Court would expect a reasonable driver should in the circumstances.
For example where a driver falls asleep while operating a vehicle, that driver cannot have formed the intention to depart from the standard of care expected, unless the driver knew or ought to have known that there was a real risk of falling asleep.
If you are speeding through a school zone, the court will decide whether the lives or safety of the public was or could have been placed in danger as a result of your driving. The court will also consider whether, objectively viewed, the accused exercised the same care in terms of operating their vehicle that a reasonable person would exercise in those same circumstances.
In situations where an external circumstance (such as a sudden bout of sickness, or a bee flying into your car) affected your driving, the court will consider whether a reasonable person suffering from that same issue would have acted in a similar way.
What if there was no actual damage done?
It is the manner in which the vehicle was operated that is considered – not the consequences that resulted from the operation of the vehicle.
Penalty Under the Criminal Code of Canada
See the criminal law penalty chart. Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle is a hybrid offence and upon conviction under the Criminal Code carries a maximum penalty of a fine not exceeding $5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months for a summary offence, and a maximum penalty under the Criminal Code of 5 years imprisonment for an indictable offence.
If the offence caused bodily to any other person, a person then becomes liable to a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
Where the death of another person is caused as a result of dangerous driving, a person is liable to a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
In addition to the penalties listed, there are additional penalties the court may impose pursuant to section 259 of the Criminal Code, including a driving prohibition of up to 3 years.
Penalty Under the Highway Traffic Act
Pursuant to the Highway Traffic Act, a conviction for dangerous driving also carries a mandatory 1 year licence suspension for a first conviction, a 3 year licence suspension for a subsequent conviction within a 10 year period of the previous conviction, and upon a third conviction with 10 years of the subsequent conviction, your licence will be suspended indefinitely. If your licence is suspended indefinitely, you cannot apply to have your licence reinstated until 10 years have passed since your previous conviction, and you have not had any other driving offences in that 10 year period.
Driver’s licence suspensions are governed by the Ontario Ministry of Transportations. Once your licence is suspended you may not operate a motor vehicle until your license is reinstated. This remains true even if the period of the suspension has lapsed. In order to reinstate your license you must attend the Ministry, register and pay the required fee.
Additional conditions may be imposed on the reinstatement of your licence such as drug counselling, driver training or physical examinations. These conditions must be fulfilled before your licence is returned.
Driving while your licence is suspended or failing to reinstate your license before you resume driving could result in a maximum term of imprisonment of 2 years.