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  • Dangerous Driving Offences and Penalties in Victoria (VIC)

    There are several ways of discouraging people from driving dangerously as some people might consider it a fun activity. One of the most effective means involves formulating different laws that kick against the act of driving dangerously.

    As such, Victoria created several laws regarding dangerous driving. These laws come with different penalties, ranging from disqualification to imprisonment sentences. The laws and penalties touching the various dangerous driving offences are present in the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) .

    Primarily, this article will be discussing what the law says regarding dangerous driving offences and their penalties. Furthermore, this write-up will delve into the possible defences that a person can use in countering dangerous driving allegations.

    If an individual is convicted in a Victorian 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 Victoria.

    What the Law Says Regarding the Different Dangerous Driving Offences

    There are different sections in the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) that deal with the offences that fall under dangerous driving. These offences are:

    #1. Driving Dangerously

    Section 64 of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic), states that it is an offence for a person to drive a motor vehicle in a way that constitutes a danger to the public. Committing this offence attracts a fine not exceeding 240 penalty units or two years imprisonment, or both.

    Also, an offender under this section could have their licence cancelled, or the court could disqualify them from obtaining a licence. The minimum cancellation or disqualification period that the court can give is six months.

    Nevertheless, before the court can convict a person or give any penalty, the prosecution will need to establish that:

    • The defendant drove a motor vehicle.
    • The accused drove in a manner that placed other road users at risk.
    • The defendant has no means of legally justifying their action.

    #2. Driving at a Dangerous Speed

    According to Section 64(2A) of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic), it is a crime for an individual to drive at a speed that poses a risk to other road users or the public. This offence carries a fine not exceeding 120 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment, or both.

    However, the court can only convict a person for driving at a dangerous speed after the prosecution has proven to the court beyond all reasonable doubt that:

    • The accused drove a motor vehicle on a road.
    • The defendant drove at a speed that put other road users in danger.
    • The defendant has no justifiable excuse for their action.

    #3. Careless Driving

    Under Section 65 of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic), a person can become guilty of a crime if they drive a vehicle carelessly. The penalty for this offence depends on if it is a first time or a subsequent offence.

    A first-time offence carries a fine not exceeding 12 penalty units, while a subsequent offence comes with a fine of 25 penalty units.

    Also, Section 65(2) of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) establishes that it is a crime for an individual to drive a vehicle (other than a motor vehicle) carelessly on a highway.

    A first time offender under this subsection may receive a fine of 6 penalty units, while a repeat offender may get a fine of 12 penalty units.

    Nevertheless, the court will only convict a person for the crime of careless driving if the prosecution can prove that:

    • The accused operated a vehicle or a motor vehicle.
    • The way the accused drove the vehicle fits the description of dangerous driving.
    • The defendant placed other road users at risk through their careless driving.
    • The accused has no legal excuse for their action.

    #4. Improper Use of a Motor Vehicle

    Based on Section 65A of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic), a person can become guilty of an offence if they cause a motor vehicle to undergo a prolonged loss of traction in one or more of its wheels. Committing this offence can attract a fine of 5 penalty units.

    Nonetheless, before the court can convict a person for improperly using a motor vehicle, the prosecution must have been able to show that:

    • The accused operated a motor vehicle.
    • The defendant intentionally caused the motor vehicle to undergo a prolonged loss of traction in one or more of its wheels.
    • The accused has no means of legally justifying their action.

    It is essential to note that the court may be unable to find a person guilty if the individual improperly used a vehicle during a registered event. Usually, motoring organisations are in charge of these events, and they typically make use of a particular venue.

    #5. Heavy Vehicles Exceeding a Particular Speed Limit

    Section 65B of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic), makes it an offence for a person to drive a heavy vehicle beyond the speed limit of 35km/h.

    If an individual commits this offence, they may face a fine of 30 penalty units. On the other hand, the fine will be 120 penalty units if it is a corporate body.

    Nonetheless, the court can only convict a person/a corporate organisation after the prosecution convinces the court beyond all reasonable doubt that:

    • The accused operated a heavy vehicle on the road.
    • The accused exceeded the speed limit of 35km/h.
    • The defendant has no legal excuse for committing the offence.

    The Power the Police Can Exercise when They Suspect the Commission of a Traffic Offence

    If a police officer suspects that an individual has committed a traffic offence, the police have the right to request their information. Refusal to obey this order can lead to a person committing a crime.

    Based on Section 60 of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic), this offence comes with a fine not exceeding 20 penalty units or two months imprisonment or both.

    Furthermore, Section 63B of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) gives the police the power to immobilise a suspect's vehicle depending on some factors.

    Possible Defences to Counter Dangerous Driving Allegations

    Some defences are suitable for countering dangerous driving allegations. These defences are:

    • Necessity
    • A defendant can use the defence of necessity if they drove dangerously to prevent a terrible event from taking place. For example, emergency workers sometimes may have to drive dangerously while on duty.

    • The Accused Person Did Not Intentionally Commit the Crime
    • It is a defence against an allegation of dangerous driving if the accused claim that they did not intentionally commit the crime of driving dangerously. For instance, a defendant might have driven dangerously because a passenger in the vehicle distracted them.

    • Duress
    • The defence of duress is applicable in a situation where the accused only committed the crime of driving dangerously because of a threat they received from another party.

    The Court that Oversees the Trials for Dangerous Driving in Victoria

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

    Bottom Line

    Driving dangerously could cost an individual a lot. This is because most dangerous driving offences come with a fine. Therefore, it is in the best interest of a person facing an allegation of driving dangerously to seek legal advice. This can lower the chances of a person having to pay a fine or face some other penalties.

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

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

    The offence will be shown as a traffic conviction on the police check.

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

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