I want to talk to you a little bit today about dangerous driving under s. 249(1) of the Criminal Code. Our firm represents a lot of people who are charged with dangerous driving. It’s a dual procedure offence so the Crown can elect by indictment when it’s a much more serious case or perhaps you have a lengthy criminal record for dangerous driving or if it’s a more minor case, they can elect summarily.
It does have severe consequences even on a minor dangerous driving charge where there’s no injuries and the driving is at the lesser end of the scale so it’s not terrible driving, but it’s still dangerous. You’re going to for sure be facing a significant fine plus a 30% victim fine charge. At a minimum, you are going to face a 1 year driving prohibition or more. By the way, the Ministry of Transportation is going to also take your licence for one year as well. The 1 year driving prohibition that the judge sentences you to will run at the same time as the Ministry’s 1 year driving suspension. We call that “concurrently” under the criminal system, but the driving prohibition order could be lengthier than 1 year.
Now the dangerous driving itself is defined as a marked departure from the reasonable standard of care which a prudent person would take in that situation. So let me give you an example, driving through a 40 or 50 kilometres speed limit at 100 kilometres an hour is dangerous driving per say. So very excessive speeding can be dangerous driving in other words. Obviously weaving in and out of traffic in a dangerous manner over a course or period of time is dangerous driving per se, i.e. speeding and weaving in and out of traffic extensively, but it has to kind of take place over a bit of a time period. It can’t be merely a momentary lack of attention. For example, careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act is defined as a momentary lack of attention or not being duly attentive to the roadway. For example, briefly reaching for your cell phone and getting into an accident. That’s not dangerous driving. That’s not a marked departure from a reasonable standard of care over a certain period of driving time. It’s momentary. There are far different consequences obviously from careless to dangerous driving. Dangerous driving is a serious criminal offence versus careless driving merely being a serious traffic ticket worth 6 points on your Ministry of Transportation driving record.
We are often able to negotiate a dangerous driving charge down to a careless driving charge which is a great result for the client. In many cases, we don’t feel the driving is dangerous, but merely a momentary lapse of attention. It might be close to the limit or in a grey area. For example, you know a person could perhaps be charged with dangerous driving if they are speeding 150 or 160 kilometres per hour. Depending on the facts of the case, this arguably may be dangerous driving on the 401. Certainly, inordinately high speeds probably of over 200 kilometres per hour on a 400 series highway is probably dangerous driving per se. There is a certain level of speed that is going to be considered dangerous driving or weaving in and out of traffic extensively on the 401 and getting in a motor vehicle accident. Could you face a jail term for a garden variety dangerous driving where there are no injuries and no one killed? Yes, there are certain aggravated situations where you could face a jail term even if there was no accident or no one was hurt. An accident on the 401 where there’s quite bad driving might attract that. Speeding excessively, I am talking far beyond the stunt level of driving on a 400 series highway might attract a short jail term depending on the fact. Stunt driving and racing by the way is at 150 kms/hr. or more, but somebody going 220 kms. /hr on the 401 with their kids in their back seat, for example, they are looking at a short jail term. Every situation is different. The judge is going to look at the nature of the driving, your background, your driving record and prior criminal record and we are going to try and negotiate the best possible result for you. Hopefully, that’s a careless driving plea or maybe that’s winning your case. If your driving is kind of in that “grey” area between dangerous driving and careless driving and it often is, where the Crown can’t prove that marked departure for various reasons, we can often negotiate a careless driving plea. So in a nutshell, that’s how we approach a dangerous driving charges and some of the consequences you could be facing if you pled guilty.