Dangerous Driving Offences & Negligent Driving | Charges, Penalties, Sentences & Fines

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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Dangerous Driving Causing Death


The maximum penalty for the offence of dangerous driving causing death is 10 years imprisonment. If the offence is aggravated the maximum penalty increases to 14 years.

What is Dangerous driving causing death?

Section 52A (1) Crimes Act states a person is guilty of the offence of dangerous driving occasioning death if the vehicle driven by the person is involved in an impact occasioning the death of another person and the driver was, at the time of the impact, driving the vehicle:

  • Under the influence of intoxicating liquor or of a drug, or
  • At a speed dangerous to another person or persons, or
  • In a manner dangerous to another person or persons.

Aggravated dangerous driving causing death

A person is guilty of the offence of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death if the person commits the offence while:

  • they had a blood alcohol content of above the legal limit;
  • they were exceeding the speed limit by more than 45km/h;
  • they were driving to escape police pursuit; or
  • their driving was impaired by a drug or combination of drugs.

Dangerous driving causing death –

What the police must prove

In order for the police to prove the offence of dangerous driving causing death, they must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • A person died;
  • Their death was caused by:
    • The vehicle overturning or leaving a road;
    • An impact between any object and the vehicle;
    • An impact between the person and the vehicle;
    • The impact of the vehicle with another vehicle or an object in, on or near which a person is at the time of the impact;
    • An impact with anything on or attached to the vehicle;
    • An impact with anything that is in motion through falling from the vehicle; and
    • At the time the vehicle was driven by the accused either under the influence or intoxicating liquor, under the influence of a drug, at a speed dangerous to another person, or in a manner dangerous to another person.

It will be necessary for the police to prove that the accused was the person who was driving.

Defences to Dangerous driving causing death

The Crimes Act provides a defence to the offence. Section 52A Crimes Act states:

It is a defence to any charge under this section if the death occasioned by the impact was not in any way attributable:

  • To the fact that the person charged was under the influence of intoxicating liquor or of a drug or a combination of drugs, or
  • To the speed at which the vehicle was driven, or
  • To the manner in which the vehicle was driven.

Other possible, though less common, defences to this offence are:

  • That the accused was acting under duress
  • That the offence was committed in circumstances of necessity.

Jurisdiction

This matter is strictly indictable and can only be dealt with in the District Court before a judge.

A person convicted of an offence under this subsection is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.

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