Driving a motor vehicle is a serious responsibility that requires focus, attention, and careful consideration for the safety of others. When drivers engage in dangerous driving behaviours that result in death or bodily harm, they can face criminal charges under the Criminal Code of Canada. This offence is known as dangerous driving causing death, and it carries severe penalties that can have lasting consequences.
Here we will explore the definition of dangerous driving causing death in Canada, the penalties associated with the offence, possible defences, the legal process, and the importance of hiring a driving offence lawyer.
Definition of Dangerous Driving Causing Death
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, dangerous driving causing death is a serious indictable offence. To be convicted of such an offence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver operated a motor vehicle in a manner that was dangerous to the public, causing bodily harm or death. The law recognizes that some driving behaviour, like speeding or running a red light, is inherently dangerous and can lead to serious consequences.
There are different types of behaviour that can result in dangerous driving causing death, such as reckless driving, careless driving, or distracted driving. Reckless driving is a form of criminal negligence that includes behaviours like driving at excessive speeds, weaving in and out of traffic, or failing to stop for pedestrians or other vehicles. Careless driving encompasses actions like running a red light, or failing to signal when changing lanes. Distracted driving includes texting, using a phone, or engaging in other activities that take a driver’s focus off the road.
Examples of dangerous operation causing death include:
- A driver who is texting while driving and causes an accident that leads to a pedestrian’s death
- A driver who is speeding and loses control of their vehicle, causing a collision that results in multiple fatalities
- A driver who is aware that they are tired enough to fall asleep but drives anyway and falls asleep at the wheel and caused an accident
Penalties for Dangerous Driving Causing Death
The penalties associated with dangerous driving causing death can be severe, and they depend on all the circumstances of the offence.
The Criminal Code of Canada stipulates that there are no minimum penalties for dangerous driving in terms of jail or a fine, but a conviction for dangerous driving will result in a minimum of a one year driving prohibition for a first offence, two years for a second offence and three year for a third offence. The maximum punishment for dangerous driving that doesn’t cause death or bodily harm is two years jail or a $5000 fine if the Crown proceeds summarily and five years jail if the Crown proceeds by indictment.
For cases that involve bodily harm, the Criminal Code dictates:
(3) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) and thereby causes bodily harm to any other person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
For an indictable offence involving a death, the code states:
(4) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) and thereby causes the death of any other person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
Factors that influence the severity of the penalty include the driver’s behaviour, the level of harm caused, and whether the driver had a previous criminal record. The court may also consider aggravating factors, such as whether the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or whether they were engaging in particularly dangerous behaviour at the time of the offence.
Dangerous driving causing dealth will also result in a mandatory driving prohibition of a minimum of one year.
Defending Against Dangerous Driving Causing Death Charges
If you are facing charges of dangerous driving causing death, it’s crucial to seek legal help from an experienced driving offence lawyer. A skilled lawyer can review the evidence, build a defence, and represent you in court.
Possible defences for dangerous driving causing death charges include arguing that the prosecution has not proven all of the necessary elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. Other defences may include arguing that the accused’s actions were not a substantial cause of the victim’s death, or that the accused’s driving was not dangerous in all of the circumstances.
A criminal defence lawyer can help you determine which defences may be appropriate in your case and can work with you to develop a strong defence strategy. They can also help you navigate the legal process and protect your rights throughout the proceedings.
Legal Process for Dangerous Driving Causing Death Charges
The legal process for dangerous driving causing death charges in Canada typically includes several stages: arrest and release, preliminary hearing, trial, and sentencing.
After an arrest, the offender will typically be released on bail pending their court appearance. During the preliminary hearing, the prosecution must present evidence to show that there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial. If the judge determines that there is enough evidence, the case will proceed to trial.
At trial, the Crown will present evidence and arguments to support their case. The defence might call evidence from witnesses or the accused to raise a reasonable doubt. The judge will ultimately determine whether the offender is guilty or not guilty of the criminal offence. If the offender is found guilty, the case will proceed to the sentencing stage, where the judge will determine the appropriate penalty.
Throughout the legal process, it is important to have a driving offence lawyer who can help you navigate the complexities of the system and protect your rights.