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Dangerous Driving

Driving causing bodily harm or death

The Charge

Section 249 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to operate vehicles in a manner that is dangerous.  To determine if the driving is dangerous, courts will consider all of the circumstances, such as the nature, conditions and use of the roadway being driven on. The Crown must prove that there is a danger to the public, including a potential danger. A passenger in a car is a member of the public. For a dangerous driving conviction, the Crown must prove that the driver intended to drive the vehicle in a manner, when viewed objectively, that amounts to a departure from the standard of care expected from a prudent driver. Courts have held that for dangerous driving, there must be a “marked departure” from normal driving.

Drivers may be charged with dangerous driving in many circumstances which include: excessive speeding; improperly overtaking a vehicle; falling asleep at the wheel; improper lane changes; disobeying traffic signs; failing to properly control the vehicle; street racing; and consuming drugs or alcohol.

Penalties

In addition to any sentence imposed by the court, a criminal conviction for Dangerous Driving will cause the driver to have their insurance policy “breached” by ICBC. This is because an essential condition of an ICBC insurance policy is that coverage is voided if the driver is convicted of a criminal offence while driving. Needless to say, a convicted driver could be liable to ICBC for thousands, or even millions of dollars to repay the insurer for claims caused as a result of dangerous driving.

The punishment for dangerous driving is significant. Where there are no injuries or deaths, courts can sentence a dangerous driver for up to 5 years in jail. For dangerous driving causing bodily harm or death, drivers face imprisonment for up to 14 years. Upon conviction, the Crown will always seek a driving prohibition, often for many years in serious cases.

The Investigation

Dangerous driving cases, especially those involving bodily harm or death, are matters that will involve thorough police investigations. When traffic accidents result in injuries or death, police accident reconstruction experts will attend the scene to record and measure the aftermath of the crash. Police experts will carefully photograph the scene and take statements from people who may have witnessed the accident. Police experts will analyze items such as tire skid marks and vehicle mechanical conditions and forward reports to Crown counsel.

ICBC

Another aspect of the aftermath of any dangerous driving charge that results in an accident is that ICBC obliges all drivers to report any accident that they are involved in and to provide a statement to ICBC so that they can determine liability. There is certainly tension in such a situation – the driver has the right to remain silent under the Criminal Code and the Charter, but at the same time, has a duty to make a statement to ICBC under Provincial laws. We have the expertise and skills to assist our clients through the civil ICBC investigation of the accident without compromising their criminal law rights.

Recent Successes

R. vs. J.T. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Resist /Obstruct Police.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction and whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the charges.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided Crown with additional information regarding the alleged facts of the assault complaint and the excessive force used by police in arresting our client.  Ultimately Mr. Johnson persuaded Crown counsel to stay the proceedings on both charges. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.M. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for our client to receive a conviction on this charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Court to grant our client a conditional discharge. No conviction.

R. vs. T.A. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Commit Indecent Act.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to present information on our client's behalf and was able to persuade Crown counsel that there was no longer any public interest in proceeding with this matter. Stay of proceedings. Warrant cancelled. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.L. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser offence of driving without a valid licence. Rather than a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was sentenced to a $300 fine and a 3 month prohibition.

R. vs. L.W. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Criminal Harassment (reduced to Peace Bond).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for Crown to prosecute our client on the criminal harassment charge;
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to stay the criminal charge upon our client entering into a s. 810 Peace Bond for 12 months. No criminal record.

R. vs. K.M. - Surrey RCMP Investigation

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether there was sufficient evidence to meet the Crown's charge approval standard.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to steer our client through the investigation and was able to provide information to police and Crown which culminated in Crown counsel's decision to not approve any charges. No criminal record.

R. vs. P.H.S. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for Crown to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to allow our client to plead to s. 24(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act. Rather than the mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was sentenced to a $300 fine and a two month driving prohibition.

R. vs. K.K. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual Assault x2; Sexual Interference.
Issue: Given the extensive information that we were able to provide to Crown counsel, whether there remained a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on all counts. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.F. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (reduced to s. 810 Peace Bond).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was appropriate for Crown to proceed.
Result: Mr. Mines was first able to persuade Crown to proceed on a Peace Bond application rather than the criminal assault charge. He was then able to persuade Crown to withdraw its Peace Bond application. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.K.- Abbotsford Provincial Court

Charge: Driving without consideration; driving past police vehicle; speeding.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with all counts, which upon conviction would have led to a driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to negotiate a resolution where our client pleaded guilty to only a three point speeding ticket and police withdrew the remaining counts. Our client was sentenced to a fine. No driving prohibition.

R. vs. E.W. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest for our client to receive a criminal conviction.
Result: After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions on our client's behalf, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. J.D. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving while Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with this charge which carries a one year mandatory minimum driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to permit our client to resolve this matter by pleading guilty to the lesser offence of driving without a valid licence. Our client was sentenced to a fine. No driving prohibition.

The Defence

As in all criminal prosecutions, in a dangerous driving case, the Crown has the burden of proving the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. In essence, this means the accused driver need not provide any explanation to police; rather, it is up to police to put together a body of evidence that proves that the driver drove in a fashion that, in all the circumstances, was a marked departure from the norm. thus, when we represent clients who are still being investigated for dangerous driving, a large focus of our job is to act as an intermediary – a buffer – between police and our client. As accident reconstruction cases can take months to investigate, we are also concerned with preventing any unnecessary arrest of our client in the event that police do recommend charges. Rather, when police do want to lay charges, our goal is to accompany our client to the police detachment or courthouse so that they can be “deemed” arrested without going into custody.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.