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Careless driving, dangerous driving and criminal negligence

Region: Ontario Answer Number: 521

If the police lay a charge following an accident, it will likely be for careless driving, dangerous driving, or criminal negligence.


Careless driving

The offence of careless driving is committed when a driver drives without reasonable care or attention to other drivers. It is an offence under the Highway Traffic Act.  If you have been charged with careless driving, you will be convicted if the facts show that you were driving without proper care and attention. The penalty for careless driving is a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000, a possible six-month jail term (or both a fine and jail term), up-to two years licence suspension, and six demerit points.

If you are charged with careless driving, the prosecutor will often be willing to plea bargain. A plea bargain is where you make a deal with the prosecutor to reduce the charge against you, and in exchange you agree to plead guilty. For example, they might reduce a charge of careless driving to following too closely, changing lanes unsafely, or failing to yield. You should approach the prosecutor to find out whether they are willing to plea bargain.


Dangerous driving

Dangerous driving is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Unlike a charge under the Highway Traffic Act, when a person is charged criminally, their photograph and fingerprints are taken and they will have a police file.

Dangerous driving is committed when a driver drives with reckless disregard for public safety and it is punishable to a maximum of five years in prison, depending on whether the prosecutor proceeds summarily or by indictment.  The penalty is increased to a maximum penalty of either 10 or 14 years depending on whether the person is found guilty of dangerous driving causing bodily harm or dangerous driving causing death. A person found guilty of dangerous driving will have a criminal record of the conviction and also will lose their drivers license for a period of at least one year in Ontario.


Criminal negligence

Criminal negligence is also an offence under the Criminal Code, and the same procedure of taking photographs and fingerprints applies.

An individual is criminally negligent who, (a) in doing anything, or (b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.   For example, the offence of causing bodily harm by criminal negligence while street racing is considered an indictable offence and is punishable by a jail term of up-to 14 years. Criminal negligence causing death while street racing is punishable by a possible life imprisonment.

Again, as this is a criminal offence, a person convicted of criminal negligence will have a criminal record of the conviction and also will lose their drivers license for a period of at least one year in Ontario.

The first time you are convicted of a driving offence under the Criminal Code, including for dangerous driving and criminal negligence, you will receive a one-year licence suspension.  Your licence will be suspended for three years if you are convicted of a second Criminal Code offence. If you are convicted of a third offence, you will get a lifetime suspension from driving with the possibility of a reinstatement after 10 years only if certain requirements are fulfilled.  You will be suspended from driving for life with no chance of reinstatement If you are convicted for a fourth time.  Convictions under the Criminal Code will remain on your driver’s record for a minimum of 10 years.

If you are charged with a serious driving offence, you should contact a lawyer for assistance.

For more information on the penalties for criminal driving offences, refer to the Canadian Criminal Code. View the Ontario Highway Traffic Act for information on provincial offences.

For legal advice and representation to fight a traffic ticket, contact X-Copper .


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