Dangerous driving or operation of a motor vehicle is a serious criminal offence in Queensland. Consequences can be incredibly severe, so it is paramount that you engage a competent Brisbane Traffic Lawyer for advice in your matter.
Section 328A(6) of the Queensland Criminal Code 1899 states that:
“to operate, or in any way interfere with the operation of, a vehicle at speed or in a way that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances.”
The circumstances that a court has regard to when determining whether driving was “dangerous” include:
- The nature and condition of the place;
- The nature and condition of the vehicle;
- The number of persons, vehicles or other objects that could reasonably be expected to be in the place;
- The concentration of alcohol in the drivers blood or breath; and
- The presence of any other substance in the operator’s body.
Many drivers are unaware that intent is not a required element to dangerous driving. Consequently, failing to see a motorcyclist, temporary distraction and falling asleep at the wheel can all result in dangerous driving charges if harm has been caused to another. Some specific classifications of dangerous driving include:
- Doing donuts, burnouts, drifting, revving engines, screeching brakes and skidding.
- Street Racing
- Drag racing, rolling road blocks, time trials and speeding.
- Driving Recklessly
- Deliberately endangering other road users, for example by dangerously weaving in and out of traffic.
- Ignoring Road Rules
- Showing a “blatant disregard” for road rules and signs
At the first instance, penalties for dangerous driving may be:
- Fines of up to 200 penalty units ($23,560);
- A lengthy disqualification of a driver’s licence; and
- Up to 3 years imprisonment.
If the accused was affected by intoxicating substances, excessively speeding, unlawfully racing or has been convicted for a similar offence, heavier penalties may be imposed, including:
- Fines of up to 400 penalty units ($47,120);
- Up to 5 years imprisonment
If an individual is killed or grievously injured by dangerous driving, a charge of dangerous driving causing injury or death may be pressed. The maximum sentence for this is 10 years imprisonment for dangerous driving, or 14 years imprisonment if the accused was affected by intoxicating substances, excessively speeding, unlawfully racing or leaves the scene of the accident.
Additionally, under new anti-hooning laws, a dangerous driving charge can include impoundment of a motor vehicle for up to 90 days. The vehicle may even be forfeited to the state if the accused re-offends.
Are there defences?
Defences to a dangerous driving charge include:
- Unsatisfactory road conditions;
- Vehicle defects;
- Emergency or extreme circumstances;
- Environmental factors;
- Duress, that is, being unlawfully influenced to drive dangerously against the will or better judgement of the accused;
- Necessity, that is, that the unlawful act is justified by preventing more serious harm from occurring; and
- Any other significant facts the court may consider.
Many situations may call not for a complete defence; but a submission that the charge be downgraded from dangerous driving to “driving without due care and attention” (commonly known as “careless driving”).
It must be noted that mounting any defence to dangerous driving is usually incredibly complex, especially in cases where there has been severe injury or death. As imprisonment is a likely outcome, it is vital to obtain adequate legal advice around the issue.