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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Driving & Traffic Offences Serious and Major Traffic Offences Serious and Major Traffic Offences and Penalties in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

    Serious and Major Traffic Offences and Penalties in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

    There are different classifications of traffic crimes in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). While the State categorises certain offences as minor infractions, it considers others serious violations.

    The ACT Road Transport (Road Rules) Regulation outlines and governs minor traffic violations in the State. It generally penalises such crimes with fines and demerit points.

    On the other hand, serious traffic offences are regulated by the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 (ACT) and the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT).

    This article will consider the various serious traffic crimes and their penalties.

    If you get a conviction for a serious or major traffic offence in an ACT court, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome on the results of your criminal background check in the ACT.

    Culpable Driving Of A Vehicle Causing Death or Grievous Bodily Harm

    This crime is the most severe traffic offence in the ACT.

    As per Section 29 of the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT), a person who causes death or severe bodily harm to another while driving culpably commits an offence.

    Driving culpably here refers to either negligent driving or driving under the influence.

    A person drives negligently if they fail to observe a reasonable standard of care while operating a vehicle. This failure to exercise proper care must be unjustifiable and to a gross degree for the courts to consider it negligent.

    Similarly, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs also counts as culpable driving. However, the accused will not be guilty if the drug or alcohol level is not high enough to make them unable to control the car properly.

    When charging a defendant under this section, the prosecution must specify the basis on which it alleges culpability. While this offence is separate from homicide crimes, it can also be prosecuted as either murder or manslaughter.

    However, if an ACT court convicts or acquits a person under this section, they cannot be prosecuted for the same violation under another section or Act.

    Section 48A of the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) also introduces an aggravated element to culpable driving of a motor vehicle. Note that this element applies in cases where the victim was a pregnant woman.

    The penalty for driving culpably varies depending on the severity of the crime. For example, if the offence led to the death of a person, the punishment is 14 years imprisonment. Sixteen years if it is an aggravated offence.

    On the other hand, culpable driving causing grievous bodily harm is punishable by ten years in prison. However, this penalty increases to 12 years for aggravated offences.

    In addition, a conviction under this section leads to an automatic licence disqualification.

    Dangerous driving

    Section 7 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 (ACT) makes furious, reckless or dangerous driving an offence.

    Any person who commits this crime is liable to at most 100 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months.

    According to Section 7A of the Act, this crime can become aggravated if:

    • The accused person had alcohol or drugs over the lawful limit in their system.
    • The alcohol or drug in their system was not over the legal limit, but it was enough to cause them not to properly control the car.
    • The driver failed to comply with a police order to stop.
    • The accused had a child below the age of 17 as a passenger.
    • The defendant put vulnerable road users at risk, including motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists.
    • The driver exceeded the speed limit by at least 30 per cent.
    • The accused is a repeat offender with previous culpable driving or dangerous driving convictions.

    Under this section, the punishment for an aggravated offence is two years in prison or 200 penalty units.

    However, ignoring a police officer's signal to stop attracts 300 penalty units or imprisonment for three years if it is a first offender. The sanction is 500 penalty units or five years in prison for a repeat offender.

    Any offender under this section also faces automatic licence disqualification.

    Still, before an ACT court decides if a person has committed any of the above crimes, it will consider:

    • The condition, nature, and use of the road where the crime was alleged to have been committed.
    • The amount of traffic on the road or area.

    Negligent Driving That Is Not Culpable

    Section 6 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 (ACT) creates the crime of negligent driving that is not culpable.

    This offence is a less demanding one than the violation of Section 29 of the Crimes Act. Consequently, the penalties are not as severe.

    A charge under Section 6 of the Road Safety Act can serve as an alternative to culpable driving. For example, this option would apply if the court considers the punishment under the Crimes Act unjustifiably harsh under the circumstances.

    However, negligent driving can be a standalone offence if there is no resulting death or grievous bodily harm.

    Under this section, the maximum punishment for negligent driving is 20 penalty units.

    However, if the negligence caused actual bodily harm, the maximum sanction becomes 50 penalty units. Examples of actual physical injury include deep bruising, cuts, abrasions, sprained ankles, etc.

    A person who causes grievous bodily harm under this section faces a penalty of 1 year in prison or 100 penalty units. Grievous physical harm here includes permanent or severe disfigurement.

    Finally, if the negligent driving resulted in another's death, the offence attracts 200 penalty units or imprisonment for two years.

    It is important to note that whatever the severity of the crime, the offender's licence will be automatically disqualified upon conviction.

    Menacing Driving

    According to Section 8 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 (ACT), it is an offence to drive in a way that menaces another person. In simpler terms, driving in a way to harass an individual is a serious traffic violation.

    A person is guilty of this crime if they do so intending to menace another. However, they will equally be guilty if they had no intent but should have known that the other individual might be menaced.

    It is also irrelevant that the menaced person or property was not in a road-related area.

    However, a charge under this section will only stick if the prosecution can prove that the victim was menaced by a threat of bodily injury or by one of property damage.

    The punishment for this crime is a fine of 100 penalty units or one year in prison.

    And like other serious traffic offences, a conviction of menacing driving comes with an automatic licence disqualification.

    Bottom Line

    Offences under the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act and the Crimes Act are serious. Therefore, it is in the best interest of anyone facing such charges to get suitable legal representation.

    Will a serious or major traffic offence in the ACT show up on a nationally coordinated criminal history check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a serious or major traffic offence in an ACT court, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of a police check.

    Individuals can obtain a background check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

    Sources

    Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) - https://www.legislation.act.gov.au/a/1900-40

    Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 (ACT) - https://www.legislation.act.gov.au/a/1999-80/

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