“Road rage” incidents have attracted much media attention in recent years, causing parliaments to legislate again and again to capture various anti-social activity on our roads.
Menacing driving is one of the more serious driving offences that can be charged in the ACT, requiring both a physical element (conduct) and a mental element (intent or knowledge, depending on how the matter is charged.)
The Offence of Menacing Driving:
This charge is closely allied to furious, reckless or dangerous driving and is found at Section 8 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999.
The maximum penalty is a fine of $15,000 and/or imprisonment for 1 year.
The mandatory minimum licence disqualification for menacing driving is three months for a first offender and 12 months for a repeat offender. The courts can impose more if they find it appropriate.
What the Police Must Prove:
To be found guilty, you must not only be found to have driven in a way that menaces someone else, but to have done so with the intention of menacing the other person (if the court finds you ought to have known that the other person might be menaced).
The offence is made out whether the other person is menaced by a threat of personal injury or by a threat of damage to property; and whether or not the other person or that property is on a road or “road-related area”, which the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act defines as:
- an area that divides a road; or
- a footpath or nature strip adjacent to a road; or
- an area that is open to the public and is designated for use by cyclists or animals; or
- an area that is not a road and that is open to or used by the public for driving, riding or parking vehicles; or
- a shoulder of a road.
Any other area that is open to or used by the public can from time to time be declared a road-related area by the Minister for Transport, under Section 12 of the Road Transport (General) Act 1999.
Possible Defences to Menacing Driving:
Subsection (4) of Section 8 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act provides that a person does not commit menacing driving if the person “could not, in the circumstances, reasonably avoid menacing the other person”.
Other defences include, but are not limited to, duress and necessity.
Subsection (5) of Section 8 provides that a person cannot be found guilty from the one incident of both having intent to menace and simultaneously being assumed to know the other person might be menaced. You have to be prosecuted for one or the other.
Similarly, a person cannot be found guilty of either negligent driving nor dangerous driving and an offence of menacing driving arising out of a single incident.
Which Court Will Hear My Matter?
As menacing driving carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison, charges are dealt with in the Magistrates Court.
Between 1 July 2012 to 30 April 2017, 27 people were dealt with for menacing driving in the ACT Magistrates Court, with only four receiving any actual prison time and with more than half being dealt with by way of a Good Behaviour Order or fine.
WHERE TO NEXT?
In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.