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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. P.S.A. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to direct Crown counsel to gaps in the police investigation resulting in Crown deciding to not approve any charge in this matter. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.J. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charge: Driving While Prohibited. Issue: Whether the crown…

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

Charge: Assault; Uttering Threats (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client achieved under our direction, whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to stay the charges.  All restrictive conditions removed. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to point to a lack of evidence with respect to the charge resulting in Crown counsel entering a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. N.D. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to direct Crown counsel to various flaws in the prosecution's case. On the eve of a 4 day trial, Crown agreed to resolve this matter by way of a nine month Peace Bond. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown counsel to proceed on this charge, which carries a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser offence of driving without a valid driver's licence. After hearing Mr. johnson's submissions, the court imposed a $500 fine. No driving prohibition.

R. vs. B.C. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to stay the criminal charge. Our client entered into a Peace Bond for a period of 9 months. No criminal record.

R. vs. Z.H. - Port Coquitlam Youth Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether, given the history between our client and the complainant, it was reasonable for our client apply  the level of force he used.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to not approve any criminal charge but, rather, to resolve the matter through Restorative Justice. No criminal record.

Y.Y. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles - Review of Driving Prohibition

Charge: Notice of Intent to Prohibit.
Issue: Whether RoadSafety BC had appropriate reasons to prohibit our client from driving for 4 months.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Superintendent's adjudicator that the 4 month driving prohibition was not warranted. The driving prohibition was reduced to 2 months.

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

Charges: Assault (x2); Threatening; Breach of Undertaking (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether it was appropriate for the Court to convict him.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown to proceed on only a single count of assault. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.  

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

Charges: Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm; Driving Without Due Care and Attention.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown to charge our client under the Criminal Code or the Motor Vehicle Act in regard to an accident where our client's vehicle struck a cyclist from behind, causing serious injury.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown which resulted in Crown proceeding under the Motor Vehicle Act. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court sentenced our client to a $1000 fine and limited his ability to drive for 12 months. No criminal conviction. No loss of insurance coverage. No jail.

R. vs. C.G. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: s. 810 Peace Bond Application.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether the complainant continued to have fear of our client.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to withdraw its Peace Bond application. No conditions. No 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.