The offence of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle (commonly referred as dangerous driving), occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public. Although this section of the Criminal Code includes the dangerous operation of a vessel and aircraft, charges before our courts almost always involve the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
Pursuant to section 249 of the Criminal Code of Canada, the circumstances that are taken into account when determining whether a person has operated a motor vehicle in a way that is dangerous to the public include but are not limited to; “the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated and the amount of traffic that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place”
A passenger in the vehicle is considered part of the public. Also, it is not necessary that a member of the public be present where the dangerous driving is alleged to have taken place. Rather it is only necessary that a person might have reasonably been expected to be present.
The Crown Attorney must prove that you had the intention to operated the vehicle in a manner, which when viewed objectively, was a departure from the standard of care expected of a reasonable driver in the circumstances. It is the manner in which the vehicle was operated that is considered, not the consequences that resulted from the operation of the vehicle.
Where a driver falls asleep while operating a vehicle, that driver cannot have formed the intention to depart from the standard of care expected, unless the driver knew or ought to have known that there was a real risk of falling asleep.
Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle is a hybrid offence and upon conviction under the Criminal Code carries a maximum penalty of a fine not exceeding $5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months for a summary offence, and a maximum penalty under the Criminal Code of 5 years imprisonment for an indictable offence. Where the offence caused bodily to any other person, a person then becomes liable to a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Where the death of another person is caused as a result of dangerous driving, a person is liable to a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. In addition to the penalties listed under section 249, there are additional penalties the court may impose pursuant to section 259 of the Criminal Code, including a driving prohibition of up to 3 years.
Pursuant to section 41(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, a conviction for dangerous driving also carries a mandatory 1 year licence suspension for a first conviction, a 3 year licence suspension for a subsequent conviction within a 10 year period of the previous conviction, and upon a third conviction with 10 years of the subsequent conviction, your licence will be suspended indefinitely. If your licence is suspended indefinitely, you cannot apply to have your licence reinstated until 10 years have passed since your previous conviction, and you have not had any other driving offences in that 10 year period.