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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. V.B. – Vancouver Provincial Court

.Charges: Assault; Uttering Threats (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to Crown counsel on our client's behalf which resulted in Crown deciding to enterr a stay of proceedings on both charges. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Assault of a Peace Officer.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for our client to be granted a discharge for his actions in spitting in the face of an RCMP officer at the Vancouver Airport.
Result: Mr. Gauthier presented information to the Court and after hearing his submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal record.

R. vs. F.S. – North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Theft Under $5000.
Issue: Whether Crown could prove the number and value of the electronic devices they alleged our client stole from his workplace.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to allege that the theft involved  only 7 devices worth only $1000. After hearing Mr. Mines submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. M. G. – Sechelt RCMP investigation

Charges: Criminal harassment; Distributing intimate images without consent.
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove the circumstantial evidence they sought to rely on and whether jail was the  appropriate sentence.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to convince Crown counsel to not rely on much of the aggravating evidence and, on our client's guilty plea to not seek a jail sentence. After hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence with probation. No jail.

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

Charges: Criminal harassment; Distributing intimate images without consent.
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove the circumstantial evidence they sought to rely on and whether jail was the  appropriate sentence.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to convince Crown counsel to not rely on much of the aggravating evidence and, on our client's guilty plea to not seek a jail sentence. After hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence with probation. No jail.

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

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issues: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction and whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown counsel that resulted in Crown electing to stay the proceedings and to end the prosecution. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown counsel which resulted in Crown deciding to end the prosecution not approve any charges.  No criminal record.

R. vs. J.L. – UBC RCMP Investigation

Charges: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of obtaining a criminal conviction and whether it was in the public interest for police to recommend charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to police whic resulted in police closing their investigation. No charges recommended. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.A. – West Shore RCMP investigation

Charge: Assault (Domestic).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the Crown to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information to Crown Counsel that convinced them not to approve charges against the client. No criminal prosecution. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.S. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault (reduced to common assault.)
Issue: Whether Crown counsel could prove that our client touched the complainant for a sexual purpose.
Result: Mr. Mines was able tp persuade Crown counsel that our client did not intend to touch the complainant in a sexual manner. The Crown agreed to proceed on the lesser charge of common assault and, after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction. No jail. No sex offender registry.

R. vs. N.R. – Sechelt Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether it was in the pubic interest for our client to be sentenced to a conditional discharge for this offence which resulted in a serious facial cut to the complainant.

R. vs. S.K. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Assault with a Weapon, Breach of a Release Order.
Issue: Whether our client could be released on bail given Crown's concerns for his willingness to attend court and potential to commit further offences.
Result: Mr. Johnston was able to persuade the Judge to release our client on the least onerous conditions.

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.