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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. v. S.C. – Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was credible evidence that would meet the charge approval standard.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information to the investigating officer that led the investigator to conclude that our client was not chargeable with a criminal offence. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Forcible Confinement (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our through, whether it was in the public interest for our client to be sentenced to a criminal record.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown to proceed only on the assault charge and, after hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R.M. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles

Charge: 90 Day Immediate Roadside prohibition.
Issue: Whether the police report established, on balance, that our client had refused to provide a breath sample during a roadside impaired driving investigation.
Result: The adjudicator agreed with Mr. Mines' submissions that our client's evidence was more reliable than the evidence set out in the Police Report to the Superintendent. The 90 day driving prohibition was overturned and our client was ruled eligible to resume driving.

R. vs. E.W. – Fort Nelson Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a criminal conviction.
Result: Upon reviewing the allegations, Mr. Mines made representations to Crown counsel resulting in Crown agreeing that there was no reasonable prospect of convicting our client. No charges were approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.K. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Peace Officer; Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to  persuade Crown counsel to allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program and to enter a stay of proceedings on both charges upon our client completing the program. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.S. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from weapons charge).
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the prosecution of our client who had failed to complete a course of court ordered counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through an equivalent course of counselling. Upon completion, Crown counsel stayed the proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.P. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Causing Danger to Life.
Issue: Given the medical evidence Mr. Gauthier provided to Crown counsel, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.A. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Breaking & Entering; Unlawful Confinement; Assault.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the prosecution to continue against our client, a U.S. citizen who was in Canada on a visitor's visa.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on all charges upon our client agreeing to a Deportation Order. No criminal record.

R. vs. P.N. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Dangerous Driving Causing Death. Issue: Whether Crown could prove that our client had the necessary intent to prove that she was guilty of the criminal charge. Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed under the Motor Vehicle Act rather than the Criminal Code. After hearing Mr. Mines'  submissions, the Court sentenced our client to 60 days to be served on weekends. The Crown had originally sought a sentence in the range of 2 years.

R. vs. L.A. – New Westminster Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from domestic assault charge).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to prosecute our client for failing to report and complete counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to guide our client back onto an alternative course of rehabilitation and persuaded Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. M.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Uttering Threats; Extortion.
Issue: Given the age of the charges and the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether a jail sentence was appropriate.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to seek a non custodial sentence. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence and placed him on probation for 16 months. No jail.

R. vs. K.A. – Western Communities Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issues: Given the information we provided to Crown counsel regarding the complainant's past unlawful behaviour toward our client, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: As a result of the information we provided, Crown counsel withdrew the charge. No further bail restrictions. No criminal record.

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.