Toronto criminal dangerous driving and careless driving lawyer

Toronto Dangerous Driving Lawyer

For most people driving is a practical necessity. If one is convicted of a driving offence, this privilege may be temporarily or permanently lost. There are two main sources of law that create driving offences in Ontario. The first is the provincial Highway Traffic Act. This Act creates regulatory offences for particular forms of driving behaviour. The second source is the Criminal Code of Canada.

How Serious are the Driving Offences Under the Highway Traffic Act?

The Highway Traffic Act creates a number of serious offences that may result in significant fines, vehicle impounding, and the potential for jail time. Two of the most serious offences under the Act are:

  • Stunt driving/racing;
  • Careless driving.

Section 172(1) of the Highway Traffic Act creates an offence for driving a motor vehicle in a race or contest, while performing a stunt or on a bet or wager. Under the related regulation, “stunts” include exceeding the posted speed limit by more than 50 kilometers per hour. If one is convicted of racing or stunt driving, he/she risks a fine of up to $10,000, a maximum of 6 months in jail, and a maximum two-year license suspension for a first offence. This is in addition to immediate vehicle impoundment and an administrative 7-day license suspension.

What is Careless Driving and What Does the Prosecution Have to Prove?

Section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act creates the offence of careless driving. The section states:

130. Every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both, and in addition his or her licence or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than two years.

In order to secure a conviction for careless driving, the prosecution must prove the following elements:

  • the accused was the driver of the vehicle;
  • the accused was driving a vehicle or a street car;
  • the vehicle or street car was being driven on a highway;
  • the vehicle or street car was being driven without due care and attention, or, without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.

What is ‘Due Care and Attention” or “Reasonable Consideration for Other Persons Using the highway?”

The question that arises in careless driving situations is what standard ought to be applied to the accused driver. Caselaw has since held that the standard of skill and care to be applied is not one of perfection. However, a “reasonable” amount of skill in the handling and operation of a vehicle is required.

In situations involving an accident, the question is not whether the accident would not have occurred had the accused used greater skill or care, but rather whether it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused, in light of the circumstances which he/she was aware, failed to use the care and attention that an ordinary driver would have given in the circumstances. As such, evidence of surrounding circumstances will be relevant to a determination of whether due care and attention was given. Finally, before liability will flow, the conduct must be of such a nature that it can be considered a breach of duty to the public at large and deserving of punishment.

What is Dangerous Driving?

Dangerous Driving is a common term applied to Criminal Code offences arising from the “dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.” Section 249 in fact creates three “dangerous operation” offences:

  • dangerous operation of a motor vehicle (249(1)(a);
  • dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm (249(3));
  • dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death (249(4)).

Unlike careless driving, a conviction for dangerous operation results in a criminal record.

What are the Penalties for a Dangerous Operation of a Motor Vehicle Charge?

If one is convicted of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle simpliciter, one is liable to a maximum punishment of 6 months in jail if the matter proceeds by way of summary conviction, or a maximum of 5 years in jail if the matter proceeds by way of indictment.

Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

Finally, a charge of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death carries with it a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.

What Does the Crown Have To Prove In Order Obtain a Conviction For a Dangerous Operation Charge?

In order to secure a conviction for a charge under s. 249(1)(a), the Crown must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was driving in a manner that was dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is operated and the amount of traffic that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place.

Subsequent caselaw has clarified that it is the manner in which the motor vehicle was driven at the time of driving that is at issue, not the consequences of the driving.

The Crown must also prove that the driving at issue constituted a marked departure from the standard expected of a reasonably prudent driver. Courts are also required to examine evidence of the driver’s state of mind. This is then used to determine whether a reasonable person in the accused’s position would have been aware of the risk created by the conduct.

In cases of dangerous operation causing death or bodily harm, the Crown must also prove causation, namely, that the accused’s driving caused the death or bodily harm. This is not usually in issue, however. Where the accused’s driving was at least a contributing cause of death beyond the de minimis range, causation will be made out.

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