Formal Definition of Dangerous Driving
Dangerous driving is a criminal offence that the Criminal Code of Canada describes as operating “a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including 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.”
What the Offence of Dangerous Driving Means in Practice
As with every criminal offence, in order for you to be convicted, the Crown (the prosecutor) has to prove each element of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. In the case of dangerous driving, the Crown has to prove the following:
- That your driving was actually dangerous given the circumstances. An important consideration with respect to this part of dangerous driving is that because the offence says “having regard to all the circumstances,” context is very important in the decision as to whether driving is dangerous. For example, if a driver is going 150 km/hr on a crowded residential street, it is more likely that this driving will be found dangerous than if he is driving at the same speed on a deserted highway. This means that in preparing your criminal defence to a charge of dangerous driving, an experienced paralegal would look to explain the ways in which context indicates that the driving as not dangerous.
- That driving was a significant or marked departure from the standard of a reasonable and prudent person. In essence, the driver’s behaviour must be fairly egregious to amount to dangerous driving. For example, momentary inattention or a brief moment of negligence while driving does not amount to dangerous driving. An experienced paralegal would look to explain that your behaviour was not very different from what would be considered normal under the circumstances.
- That any reasonable person in your particular place would have been aware that he or she was driving dangerously. An experienced paralegal would look for circumstances that would indicate that a person in your circumstances wouldn’t be aware that their driving is dangerous.
- Finally, it is important to note that even if a serious accident took place, it doesn’t automatically mean that either driver, even the driver at fault, was driving dangerously. No matter what the accident was, the Crown prosecutor would need to establish each of the three points above before you can be convicted of dangerous driving.
Consequences of a conviction for dangerous driving.
There are three major consequences to being convicted of dangerous driving.
- Imprisonment for a term of up to 6 months, a fine of up to $5,000.00, or both.
- Automatic prohibition to operate a motor vehicle for at least 12 months. The judge has no discretion to allow you to keep your license, no matter what.
- A criminal record, which can affect your ability to travel or obtain certain employment. A criminal record lasts forever unless you receive a pardon. Currently, you must wait for at least five years before you are eligible to apply for a pardon.
Moreover, it is important to note that, depending on the circumstances of the case, dangerous driving can be punished more severely. First, the Crown may choose to proceed “by indictment,” and ask for more serious consequences if the prosecutors feel the situation warrants this. Second, if the consequences of dangerous driving caused death or significant physical harm to someone, the Criminal Code itself outlines different offences and different applicable levels of punishment.
The difference between dangerous driving and careless driving
The last topic to cover with respect to a charge of dangerous driving is the difference between dangerous driving and careless driving. These are two separate charges, and the difference between them is not always clear, because they have some similarities. Despite any similarities, however, there are major differences:
- First, the charges are substantially different. In order to be convicted of dangerous driving, the prosecutor must prove that there was actually a danger to the public. In order to be convicted of careless driving, the prosecutor need only prove that you were driving without due care or attention. There must be negligence on your part, but not necessarily danger to the public.
- Dangerous driving is a criminal offence included in the Criminal Code of Canada. Careless driving is a provincial offence prohibited by an Ontario provincial statute, the Highway Traffic Act. This means that a person convicted of dangerous driving is going to have a criminal record, and a person convicted of careless driving will not.
- A person convicted of dangerous driving automatically loses his or her license for at least one year. When it comes to careless drivers, the judge can decide whether to order your license to be suspended or not. In most situations, you do not lose your driver’s license for careless driving.
How a paralegal can help you with a dangerous driving charge
If a charge of dangerous driving does not include any aggravating factors, such as physical injury or death of another person, the Crown prosecutor usually requests lower punishment (no more than six months in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000) and applies simpler procedures, choosing what’s called a process by summary conviction.
If the prosecutor proceeds this way, by summary conviction, then the accused can be represented by a paralegal. Experienced paralegals can deliver the same result at lower cost than lawyers. At Spectrum Paralegal, we charge flat rates.
For us, the minimum goal is usually to show that your driving was not dangerous, but was careless at most. This can allow you to avoid a criminal record and other consequences associated with a charge of dangerous driving. Of course, depending on the situation, it may also be a good option to plead not guilty and move forward with a trial.
Contact us today for a free assessment of your case.