Under the criminal code of Canada, dangerous driving is a criminal offence, for which you will carry a criminal record for at least 10 years if you are convicted.
The Highway Traffic Act of Ontario (September 2018) addresses the penalties associated with such a crime.
Dangerous driving charges are usually filed after a motor vehicle accident. At such a stressful time, the criminal charge can be overwhelming for some people.
There are serious immediate and longer-term consequences of a conviction.
This means it’s crucial to seek professional legal advice as early as possible from lawyers who are experienced in the technical aspects of driving offences.
At this stressful time. your decisions early on can mean the difference between being able to move on from your accident and the charges – or having to deal with the consequences for the rest of your life.
Understanding a dangerous driving charge in Ottawa
After a serious motor vehicle accident where you are considered to be at fault, the police may decide to charge you with:
Careless driving causing bodily harm or death
These are all separate charges that carry serious but differing penalties.
You will be charged with dangerous driving when you are deemed to be operating “a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public.” This applies whether the act was intentional or not. Also, note that a passenger in the vehicle is considered part of the public. The broad definition allows a high degree of interpretation from law enforcement officers.
If charged with dangerous driving, your licence will be immediately suspended and you will face other serious penalties (see below).
That’s why it is imperative to seek the advice of a criminal defence lawyer qualified in defending driving cases.
What’s the difference between dangerous driving and careless driving?
With a dangerous driving charge, the criminal code directs judges to look at such factors as:
The nature of the place where the alleged driving offence occurred
The amount of traffic at the time of the alleged offence
The weather conditions at the time of the alleged offence
Any other relevant conditions at the time of the alleged offence
You will be judged according to how your driving compared with how a “reasonable” person would have driven under the same set of circumstances.
For instance, if you were speeding in an area where many vehicles were driving at the same speed, it should be interpreted differently to speeding in an area to weave in and out of slower traffic.
This may attract a dangerous driving charge in addition to the speeding ticket. Careless driving charges apply if you are considered to be driving without proper “care and attention”. While this is equally broad and open to interpretation, it is a lesser charge than dangerous driving, with less harsh penalties (though still severe).
What are the penalties for dangerous driving in Ottawa?
The penalties for a first dangerous driving conviction (whether your actions caused injury to another person) include:
A one-year licence suspension under the Highway Traffic Act
A fine of up to $5,000 or a prison term up to 6 months
A criminal record
If you are convicted of an offence that caused bodily to any other person, you can receive a prison term of up to 10 years. For death, the maximum prison term is 14 years. Repeat offenders should expect an increased fine, longer licence suspension, and longer jail time Up to five years).
With such severe penalties, if you’re facing dangerous driving charges, you need to start working on a solid defence with your lawyer.
First and foremost, we provide criminal defence counsel for people charged with crimes in Ottawa. We spend a significant amount of time at trial, defending clients in complex driving (and other) cases.
We are used to defending all types of driving charges, including dangerous driving.
In these cases, your defence often depends upon:
The actions of the police during the arrest process
How the police interpreted your actions as “dangerous driving”
The precise circumstances (traffic, road conditions, weather, etc.) when the alleged offence occurred
After analysing the facts and the evidence against you, we will start preparing a robust defence.
It may be possible to find weaknesses in the Crown prosecution case against you.
Because of the discretionary nature of the charge, we may be able to argue that the driving activity should not have been interpreted as “dangerous”. At least, we may be able to argue that the charge should be downgraded to the lesser offence of careless driving.
We will seek opportunities to prepare the best possible case in your defence to get the charges withdrawn, stayed or to defend a not guilty plea at trial.
The goal is always to minimize the consequences for your future.
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