Unlike most offences relating to the conduct of drivers, dangerous driving or dangerous operation of a motor vehicle is a criminal offence, not a traffic offence. Under section 328A of the Criminal Code 1899 (QLD) (“the Code”), dangerous operation of a motor vehicle is defined as a person who operates, or in any way interferes with the operation of, a vehicle dangerously.
What Is The Meaning Of “Dangerously”?
“Dangerously” is to be given its ordinary dictionary meaning of something that presents a real risk of injury or damage. The ordinary meaning of “dangerous” is “fraught with or causing danger; involving risk; perilous; hazardous; unsafe.”¹
A person operates a vehicle dangerously when the person operates a vehicle at a speed or in a way that is dangerous to the public having regard to all the circumstances.² Those circumstances may include:
- The nature, condition and use of the place where the driving occurred, and
- The nature and condition of the vehicle being driven, and
- The number of people, vehicles or other objects that are, or would be reasonably expected to be in the place, and
- The concentration of the alcohol in the driver’s blood, and
- The presence of any other substance in the driver’s body.³
What Is The Penalty For Dangerous Driving?
Dangerous driving carries a maximum penalty of 200 penalty units ($26,690) or 3 years imprisonment.
The Code provides a number of additional circumstances which will make the charge of dangerous driving more serious. These are called “circumstances of aggravation” and being convicted with a circumstance of aggravation will mean you will be exposed to a greater maximum penalty.“
What Circumstance Of Aggravation Could I Be Charged With?
The “circumstances of aggravation” for this offence are:
- While adversely affected by an intoxicating substance,
- While excessively speeding or taking part in an unlawful race or unlawful speed trial, and
- Has been previously convicted of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
A charge of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle must be heard in the Magistrates Court.
A charge of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle with a circumstance of aggravation can be heard in the Magistrates Court, or you can elect to have your matter heard in the District Court.
“While Adversely Affected By An Intoxicating Substance”
If your blood alcohol concentration is 0.150 or higher, you can be found to have been adversely affected by an intoxicating substance.
Being adversely affected by an intoxicating substance is not conclusive proof that you were driving dangerously, but it is something that will be considered.
“Whilst Excessively Speeding Or Taking Part In An Unlawful Race Or Unlawful Speed Trial”
For the purposes of section 328A, you can be found to have been excessively speeding if you were driving over 40 km/h over the legal limit at the time of the alleged dangerous driving.
Unlawful race and unlawful speed trial encompasses any race between vehicles or animals on a road, attempts to break speed records on a road and competitions to test a drivers skills when a prize over $100 may be won by a competitor.
What Is The Penalty For “Circumstances Of Aggravation?”
Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle with a circumstance of aggravation carries a maximum penalty of 400 penalty units or 5 years imprisonment.
If a person has:
- Previously been convicted of dangerous driving while adversely affected by and intoxicating substance, or
- Twice previously been convicted of dangerous driving, drink driving or drug driving,the court must impose imprisonment as either a part of the whole of the person’s sentence.
“To Cause Death or Grievous Bodily Harm”
If a person is seriously injured or dies as a result of your dangerous driving you will be charged with a more serious offence under the Code. The maximum penalties for this offence are much greater and the charges will be dealt with in the District Court.
¹Supreme and District Court Benchbook (No 129.2)
²Ball and Loughlin (1966) 50 Cr App R 266; R v Parker (1957) 41 Cr App R 134.
³Supreme and District Court Benchbook (No 129.1)
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This article is for your information and interest only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, and it does not constitute and must not be relied on as legal advice. You must seek specific advice tailored to your circumstances.