These two offences are less serious than culpable driving and more serious than careless driving. Dangerous Driving Causing death and serious injury are both provided for under section 319(1) of the Crimes Act 1958. In cases of a death the maximum penalty at law is level 5, 10 years imprisonment. In cases where a serious injury has resulted, the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment. 

In the Magistrates Court some serious indictable driving matters can be heard summarily and this would only be successful for a serious injury charge and not a death cases where the higher jurisdictional powers are invoked in the County Court. Typically however, we usually see serious injury cases determined in the County Court. 

Elements of the offence where death has resulted. 

It is the burden for the prosecution to prove to the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt that an accused person has driven a motor vehicle where evidence proves that: 

  1. The accused was driving a motor vehicle;
  2. That the accused drove dangerously; and that as a result of the dangerous act;
  3. The dangerous driving caused the death or serious injury of another human being.

In these often very traumatic cases, unfortunately, people may be accused of committing this offence by police even when there are no dangerous features of driving. It is our experience that the prosecution may stray into case theory in Court that relates to what a person ought to have done with the benefit of hindsight rather than observing a strict and clinical assessment of the evidence of what actually happened and whether that was dangerous in all of the circumstances. 

It can be of some comfort that if you have been charged with this offence and there is no clear evidence of a dangerous act, you may more than likely be able to successfully defend your actions in Court. Case law is very clear that there must be some feature of danger over and above the normal risks associated with driving for this offence to be made out. A motor vehicle collision of its own does not make out a dangerous act automatically. Even features of less than perfect driving, or negligent driving will not amount to a dangerous act. Evidence of a departure from the driving standard needs to be more remarkable. 

If the dangerous act becomes highly contentious between the parties, we may assist our clients with obtaining an independent expert report that can assist the Jury with their fact finding task. 

MK Law can provide 24/7 legal advice regarding charges of this nature by calling 1800 130 120 immediately.

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Elements of the offence where a serious injury has resulted

Section 319(1A) of the Crimes Act 1958 provides the three elements for this offence which must be made out for a finding of guilty. The only different between this section compared to the dangerous driving causing death provision is that element 3 requires that a ‘serious injury’ has resulted in a human being as a result of a dangerous driving act. 

A ‘serious’ injury is defined in the Crimes Act 1958 as a combination of injuries that in totality amount to a serious injury or any one or more injuries that on their own are so serious that they endanger life. Generally observations about what is and is not a serious injury are clearly made out in the majority of cases dealing with this offence. In cases distinctively different to the average, case law dealing with interpretations may be used to assist the jury with looking at features analogous to a similar fact pattern. Expert reports can also be tendered by the defence if this becomes a fact in issue. But essentially ‘serious injury’ is given its ordinary meaning. Therefore a serious injury would not be some sort of mental health impairment. It would not be pain or bruising or even disfigurement. The one caveat to this is pregnant women; a destructed foetus as a result of the accident may satisfy the definition of a ‘serious injury’ even if the mother is not in any life threatening danger. 

Dealing with police

Usually in these cases police attend on the scene fairly quickly after the motor vehicle accident. In most cases police will already have their body worn camera (BWC) devices activated and this evidence may be relied on later. In these contemporaneous field interviews, an accused person may be in extreme shock and provide very unreliable statements to police as to their account of what occurred. Police are required to provide you with a caution as to your right to remain silent if they have reasonable suspicion that you may have committed these serious indictable offences. Should this not occur and depending on what you have said, the BWC evidence may become inadmissible at a later stage should the matter proceed into Court. 

It is common that a person may not be interviewed at a police station about this offence until after the Police Major Collision Division have concluded their work which may take several months. During this interview (usually by appointment), you have the right to silence and we recommend you take a lawyer with you to ensure legal misunderstandings do not occur. This is especially important if you intend on pleading not guilty. 

MK Law - Dealing with police

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