All offences related to driving can be serious, but there are some offences which are further regarded as criminal due to the threat of injury or death to members of the public. These serious traffic offences can therefore carry serious convictions, including hefty fines, licence disqualification and imprisonment. Serious traffic offences are dealt with in the District Court and can be extremely complex to defend, and difficult to pin on a specific legislation. This post outlines a few of these offences and some of the possible penalties they carry.
Negligent, Furious and Reckless Driving
Negligent, furious and reckless driving refer to a motorist driving with a lesser degree of care than is reasonably expected of an ordinary driver in the given circumstances. This can be by driving in a manner or a speed that endangers the public. If a driver falls below the standard of care expected of a reasonable driver and is shown to be driving objectively dangerously, they can be charged with negligent, furious or reckless driving, even if they have not been speeding or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In order for a motorist to be prosecuted, there must be proof that they were aware of the potential danger and continued to act despite this knowledge.
This makes sentencing difficult as police must be able to prove this state of mind. For negligent driving offences where nobody was injured or killed, the penalty can be a fine of up to $1,100, as well as the court having discretion to suspend the driver’s license for any period. For cases of furious or reckless driving, motorists can be faced with a possible $2,200 fine and/or 9 months imprisonment for a first offence.
Negligent Driving occasioning grievous bodily harm or death
If a driver falls below the standard of care reasonably expected of them as a competent driver and subsequently causes grievous bodily harm or death, the penalties understandably increase dramatically. In NSW causing grievous bodily harm is defined as causing permanent or serious disfigurement, resulting in a possible $2,200 fine and/or up to 9 months in prison. Negligent driving resulting in death can hold a maximum penalty of up to $3,300 and/or 18 months imprisonment.
Dangerous driving differs from careless and reckless driving as it involves a motorist driving in a manner dangerous to the public, at a speed dangerous to the public or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A dangerous driving charge can be extremely subjective and should be assessed based on all circumstances at the time. For example if the driving was only dangerous due to the road or vehicle, if the driver was only driving as a result of an emergency or the individual was wrongly identified as the driver. Ultimately, a dangerous driving charge requires driver fault to be proven, therefore if you are able to prove that the dangerous driving was not caused by the influence of alcohol or drugs, speeding or driving in a dangerous manner then you have a chance of fighting the charge.
Driving dangerously resulting in grievous bodily harm can carry with it 7 years imprisonment, or up to 10 years for dangerous driving resulting in death. Both of these maximum sentences can be increased to 11 years for causing grievous bodily harm and 14 years for death if it is found to be aggravated dangerous driving. A driver is classified as aggravated if their blood alcohol concentration is more than 0.15%, they were travelling more than 45km/h, were a part of a police pursuit or were substantially impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Menacing driving refers to a motorist either menacing, intending to menace or knowing that their actions have the possibility to be menacing but not ceasing action. Menacing someone or something refers to creating a threat of personal injury or of property damage. A motorist can be charged with menacing driving if they were driving a vehicle on the road and there was a clear intent to menace. A first charge of menacing driving can result in up 18 months imprisonment, increasing to 2 years for subsequent offences.
Due to the complexity of traffic and criminal law, it is highly advised that you contact a lawyer when faced with any serious driving charges. Please contact the experienced traffic lawyers at Owen Hodge Lawyers on 1800 770 780.
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