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  • Dangerous Driving Offences and Penalties in Tasmania

    Reducing the rate at which people commit dangerous driving offences can go a long way in preventing road accidents. As such, the state of Tasmania has put several laws and penalties to discourage the act of dangerous driving.

    Presently, driving dangerously can attract penalties ranging from disqualification to incarceration. The laws and penalties regarding dangerous driving offences are present in the Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas) and the Traffic Act 1925 (Tas).

    This article will discuss the different dangerous driving offences and their penalties. Also, this write-up will consider the various defences that a person can raise when accused of any dangerous driving offence.

    If an individual is convicted in a Tasmanian court for a dangerous driving offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check in Tasmania.

    What the Law Says Regarding the Different Dangerous Driving Offences in Tasmania

    Based on the Police Offences Act 1935 and the Traffic Act 1925, there are several offences under the category of dangerous driving. Here are the different crimes and what the law says concerning them:

    #1. Excessive Noise, Smoke and the Likes From Vehicle

    Section 37J of the Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas) states that an individual can become guilty of an offence if they are without a permit and:

    • The person operates a motor vehicle in a public area in such a way that causes a needless amount of noise.
    • The individual drives a vehicle causing an unnecessary amount of speed, acceleration or a prolonged loss of traction in one or more of the vehicle wheels.
    • The person engages in a racing competition with another vehicle.

    Committing any of these offences may attract a fine of 20 penalty units, three months imprisonment, or both. Also, the court will have no other choice but to disqualify the offender for a maximum of 2 years.

    #2. Reckless Driving

    Under Section 32 of the Traffic Act 1925 (Tas) it is an offence for any individual to drive recklessly on a public street. Any person guilty of this offence will be liable to a summary conviction. Upon conviction, the offender may face different penalties. The severity of the punishments depends on if an individual is a first-time or a repeat offender.

    A first-time offender will be liable to a maximum of 20 penalty units or two years imprisonment, or both. On the other hand, a repeat offender may receive a maximum fine of 40 penalty units or four years imprisonment.

    However, before the convicts a person for reckless driving, it will have to consider the following:

    • The nature or condition of the road when the defendant allegedly committed the offence.
    • The traffic on the road.
    • The traffic expected to be on the road.

    Furthermore, a conviction can only take place after the prosecution has proven beyond all reasonable doubt that:

    • The defendant operated a vehicle.
    • The accused drove on a public street.
    • The manner with which the defendant drove the vehicle fits the description of reckless driving.
    • The accused has no justifiable excuse for their action.

    #3. Negligent Driving

    Section 32(2) of the Traffic Act 1925 (Tas) establishes that a person who drives a vehicle negligently on a public street commits an offence. This offence comes with a fine not exceeding five penalty units.

    However, the penalty can increase if a case of negligent driving results in the death of another person. When giving the sentence, the court will consider if the individual is a first-time or a repeat offender.

    A first-time offender faces a fine of 20 penalty units, two years imprisonment, or both. A repeat offender may face a maximum of 40 penalty units or four years imprisonment.

    Furthermore, the law states that a person may face severe penalties for negligent driving if the offence caused severe bodily injury to another person. In this scenario, the court will consider if it is a first-time or subsequent offence.

    A first-time offence can attract a fine not exceeding ten penalty units or two years imprisonment, or both. A subsequent offence comes with a maximum of 20 penalty units or 18 months imprisonment, or both.

    Nevertheless, the court cannot convict a person for negligent driving without taking a look at the following:

    • The circumstances surrounding the case.
    • The nature/condition of the road where the crime allegedly occurred.
    • The amount of traffic or the expected traffic on the road.

    Also, the court will only convict an individual for negligent driving after the prosecution has proven that:

    • The accused person drove a car or vehicle on a road.
    • The defendant drove negligently, consequently placing other road users at risk.
    • The accused has no means of legally justifying their action.

    The Power of the Police Upon the Commission of a Dangerous Driving Offence

    In Tasmania, the police have the right to give a person an order to stop a vehicle. Disobeying this order can result in a person being guilty of an offence.

    Also, Section 43G of the Traffic Act 1925 (Tas) empowers the police to serve a traffic offender with a notice of demand.

    Upon receiving a notice of demand, the offender must provide the required information. Failing to provide the information can attract a fine of 40 penalty units.

    The Possible Defences Against Dangerous Driving Allegations

    When accused of a dangerous driving offence, there are several defences that a defendant can raise. These defences are:

    • The Defendant is an Emergency Service Worker

    If an accused is an emergency worker, the court might be unable to convict them for a dangerous driving offence. This is because, in the process of carrying out their duties, they may have to drive in a manner considered dangerous.

    • The Offence Was Unintentional

    A defendant can claim that they did not intentionally commit a dangerous driving offence. For instance, an accused might have committed a dangerous driving offence due to a distraction.

    • Duress

    The defence of duress is applicable if an accused person drove in a dangerous manner as a response to a threat they received from another person.

    The Court that Conducts the Trials Regarding Dangerous Driving Offences in Tasmania

    In Tasmania, the Magistrates Court handles most of the trials for dangerous driving offences.

    Bottom Line

    A conviction for any dangerous driving offence could have a long-lasting impact on a person's life. This conviction could result in a criminal record that they cannot erase. In turn, having a criminal record can prevent an individual from doing certain things. For instance, a person might be unable to visit some countries or seek employment in some places.

    Will a dangerous driving offence in Tasmania show up on a criminal history check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a dangerous driving offence in a Tasmanian court, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their police record check.

    Individuals can obtain an Australian police check via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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