Dangerous driving or more properly known as dangerous operation of a motor vehicle is one of the most serious traffic offences a person can be faced with in Queensland. Often the charge results from a traffic accident where the driver at fault has driven in a dangerous manner. Tragically often the tiniest mistake by a driver can lead to a person suffering death or grievous bodily harm and the driver who often has never broken the law before forced to navigate the court system.
The purpose of this article is to give some information to a person faced with a charge of dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm.
Are there different levels of dangerous driving?
In Queensland there are three levels of dangerous driving
· Dangerous driving
· Dangerous driving causing bodily harm
· Dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm or death
Dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm or death is obviously the most serious of the offences. The offence is even more serious if at the time the driver was adversely affected by drugs or alcohol.
What is dangerous driving?
The expression "operates a vehicle dangerously" in general does not require any given state of mind on the part of the driver as that driver may believe he or she is driving carefully yet be guilty of operating a vehicle dangerously. "Dangerously" is given its ordinary meaning of something that presents a real risk of injury or damage. The ordinary meaning of ‘dangerous’ is ‘fraught with or causing danger; involving risk; perilous; hazardous; unsafe’. It describes, when applied to driving, a manner or speed of driving which gives rise to a risk to others, including motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and the driver’s own passengers.
What is grievous bodily harm
“grievous bodily harm” is defined to mean
(a) the loss of a distinct part or organ of the body;
(b) serious disfigurement;
(c) any bodily injury of such a nature that, if left untreated, would endanger or be likely to endanger life or cause or be likely to cause permanent injury to health
It is immaterial whether or not medical treatment is or could have been available to the injured person.
What type of accidents can result in a dangerous driving charge?
A charge for dangerous driving often results from split second errors in judgement. We have in the past acted for people who have been charged with dangerous driving for;
1. Failing to see a motorcycle before entering an intersection
2. Being temporarily distracted causing the car to run off the road into the other lane of traffic
3. Falling asleep at the wheel resulting in a collision with a power pole and serious injuries to the passenger in the car
4. Turning too sharply on a dirt road causing the vehicle to roll and cause injury to a passenger in the vehicle
5. Driving at excessive speed
In most cases if no person had been injured the driver may only have faced a careless driving charge.
What court will hear the charge?
Whilst all matters start in the Magistrates Court the charge of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death or grievous bodily harm can only be finalised in the District Court. For people in Brisbane this would mean the matter would start in the Brisbane Magistrates Court but would need to be transferred to the Brisbane District Court to finalise. The Gold Coast has a District Court at Southport, the Sunshine Coast has a District Court at Maroochydore. There is also a District Court at Beenleigh.
Who prosecutes the charges?
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will prosecute the matter but will rely on the Queensland Police Service to investigate the matter and obtain the evidence.
Are there any defences?
Defences to a charge of dangerous driving might include:
1. The driving was in fact not dangerous, for example the condition of the road or the vehicle caused the accident.
2. Necessity, for example the driver had to drive as a result of an emergency
3. The accused was wrongly identified as the driver
A lawyer would be required to properly advise as to what defences might be available. If you plead not guilty to the charge of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle driving causing death or grievous bodily harm because you have a defence then the matter will go to a trial before a jury.
How long will the charge take to resolve?
It all depends on whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty. Typically for a guilty plea in the Brisbane Court it might take 6-8 months from the arrest to when it is finalised in the Brisbane District Court.
Will the charge result in a jail sentence?
It all depends on what happened, whether alcohol or drugs were involved and the extent of the injuries to the victim. In most cases you can expect a prison sentence if you plead guilty or are found guilty after a trial for a charge of dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm.
How long will the licence disqualification be for?
The disqualification period must be at least 6 months but depending on the circumstance of the charge and the traffic history perhaps much longer. It is not possible to obtain a work licence or hardship licence to allow you to drive during the disqualification.
This article is written by Steven Brough one of Queensland’s most experienced traffic lawyers and contains general advice only not legal advice. For more information on Dangerous Driving visit the driving law website or call 1300 952 255 7am – 7pm seven days a week. This article is for general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice.