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Culpable Driving


Andrew Fraser

Under section 29 of the Crimes Act it is an offence to cause the death of or an injury amounting to grievous bodily harm to another person by the culpable driving of a motor vehicle.

To convict you of an offence under this section, the Police must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you:

  1. Drove:
    1. In a negligent manner;
    2. Under the influence of alcohol or drug to the extent you were incapable of having proper control of the vehicle; and in doing so,
  2. Caused the death of another person, or caused an injury amounting to grievous bodily harm.

Negligence for the purposes of this section requires a subjective determination. A person will be deemed to have driven their vehicle negligently if they fail to "observe the standard of care that a reasonable person would have observed in all the circumstances of the case." This failure must be done unjustifiably and to a gross degree, which places the threshold of proving negligence for the offence of culpable driving higher than that for the offence of negligent driving under road transport legislation.

There are two main charges of culpable driving under this section:

Culpable driving occasioning grievous bodily harm

If you have been in a motor vehicle accident where someone has been injured you may be at risk of being charged with this offence. The seriousness of any injury suffered and the manner of your driving will determine whether you will be charged under this section and will also affect the severity of any penalty imposed.

Grievous bodily harm is defined by the Court to mean a really serious injury. For example, a minor cut or bruise would not be considered grievous bodily harm. A broken bone may constitute grievous bodily harm.

As this is seen to be a serious offence due to the nature of injury caused to another person, it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible if you believe you may be charged.

If you are found guilty of this offence, a period of imprisonment is very likely, even for a first offence. The maximum term of imprisonment available to the court is 10 years. If the offence is one committed against a pregnant woman, this will be treated as an aggravated offence and the maximum penalty rises to 12 years.

If you are convicted of the offence of culpable driving automatic disqualification periods also apply. For a first offence, the automatic period of disqualification is six months. If it is a repeat offence, the automatic period of disqualification is 24 months however the Court has the discretion to impose a lengthier period of disqualification.

Culpable driving occasioning death

If you have been in a motor vehicle accident that caused the death of another person, you are at risk of being charged with this offence. This is a serious charge and it is imperative that you seek legal advice as soon as possible after the collision, even before you are charged.

If you are found guilty of this offence, a period of imprisonment is a very likely possibility, even for a first offence. The maximum term of imprisonment available to the court is 14 years. If the offence is one committed against a pregnant woman, the maximum penalty rises to 16 years.

If you are convicted of the offence of culpable driving automatic disqualification periods also apply. For a first offence, the automatic period of disqualification is six months. If it is a repeat offence, the automatic period of disqualification is 24 months however the Court has the discretion to impose a lengthier period of disqualification.


where to next?

In Canberra, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

Why Choose Armstrong Legal?

Contact Armstrong Legal:
Canberra: (02) 6288 1100
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