How Does the Crown Prove Dangerous Driving Offences?
The elements that the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an accused person’s guilt are specific to the offence that they are charged with. However, there are three elements that are common to every offence. They are the identity of the accused, the date and time of the incident, and the jurisdiction which establishes that the case is being heard in the proper place and in the proper court. Once those issues are settled, the Crown must then prove the elements specific to the offences of dangerous driving causing death or bodily harm.
The first element that must be proven is that the accused operated a vehicle according to the definition discussed above. Then the Crown must prove that the accused’s driving was dangerous to the public. This might be proven by introducing evidence that the accused had been ignoring road signs, was swerving, and/or had collided with other drivers or objects. The Crown must also prove that the accused knew or ought to have known that their driving posed a risk to others. Once the dangerous nature of the driving is proven, the case will turn to the elements of death or bodily harm depending on the charged offence. For either type, the Crown must prove that another person either died or suffered bodily harm and that that harm was the result of the accident. If all these elements are proven to the required standard, the accused will be sentenced for the applicable offence.
What are the Penalties Associated with Dangerous Driving Offences?
Driving is considered a privilege and is an activity that requires a license. As such, the law has been formed under the principle that society should be protected from individuals who pose a threat to the health and safety of others because of their dangerous driving. When a person is sentenced for dangerous driving causing bodily harm, they are being sentenced for a hybrid offence. Hybrid offences give the Crown access to the widest possible range of sentencing options by allowing them to choose how to prosecute each individual case. More serious instances of offences are classified as indictable offences while the less serious are referred to as summary offences.
Because of the seriousness of both dangerous driving causing death or bodily harm, both offences carry minimum sentences. The minimum sentence for a first indictable offence causing bodily harm is a $1,000 fine. A second offence carries a mandatory 30-day period of imprisonment, and any additional offences will result in at least 120 days imprisonment. The maximum indictable punishment is 14 years imprisonment.
Summary offences carry the same minimum sentences as indictable offences, but the maximum for this category of offence is a $5,000 fine and/or two years less a day imprisonment. Given the severity of dangerous driving causing death, it is a straight indictable offence. It carries the same minimums set out above up to a maximum of life imprisonment. Beyond, the sentence an offender receives they may also be subject to certain ancillary orders, including a prohibition on driving and other forms of liability under provincial driving legislation like Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act.