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Dangerous Driving Causing Death

In Victoria, dangerous driving causing death carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. Upon a finding of guilt or a plea of guilty, the court must also disqualify the licence of the person for a minimum period of 2 years. Individuals are often charged with other offences as an alternative to this charge, including culpable driving; dangerous driving cause serious injury and careless driving.

The Offence Of Dangerous Driving Causing Death

The offence of Dangerous Driving Causing Death is contained in section 319 of the Crimes Act 1958 which states: “A person who, by driving a motor vehicle at a speed or in a manner that is dangerous to the public having regard to all the circumstances of the case, causes the death of another person is guilty of an indictable offence.”

Under this section, the offence can be committed by either driving at a speed that is dangerous to the public or driving in a manner dangerous to the public. There is no need to prove a course of conduct. Rather “manner of driving” covers all acts and omissions of a driver. This means that a single dangerous act is enough for the prosecution to be able to prove the charge.

What constitutes a “motor vehicle”?

A motor vehicle is a vehicle that is used, or intended to be used, on a highway, and that is built to be propelled by a motor that forms part of the vehicle. It does not include, amongst other things, trains, trams and motorised wheelchairs used solely for the conveyance of an injured or disabled person.

A motorcycle, car, truck or bus would be considered a motor vehicle.

What Actions Might Constitute Dangerous Driving Causing Death?

Actions which could be regarded as dangerous driving causing death include:

  • hitting a pedestrian due to a failure to brake as the driver was changing the radio station, and the pedestrian dies;
  • driving at 150km/h and crashing into another vehicle which causes the other driver to die;
  • falling asleep whilst driving which causes a collision and the front-seat passenger dies as a result.

What The Police Must Prove

To convict you of dangerous driving causing death, the prosecution must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • you were driving;
  • a motor vehicle;
  • at a speed or in a manner that is dangerous to the public having regard to all the circumstances of the case; and,
  • the dangerous driving caused the death of another person.

Possible Defences For Dangerous Driving Causing Death

Possible defences to a charge of dangerous driving causing death are:

  • justifiable action;
  • factual dispute;
  • causation; and,
  • voluntariness.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

Dangerous driving causing death can be finalised in the Magistrates’ Court if the accused consents. However, if there are other more serious charges, such as culpable driving, the charge is likely to proceed in the County Court of Victoria.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

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...

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