Under the law, there are three different negligent driving offences:
- Negligent driving
- Negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm
- Negligent driving occasioning death
Negligent driving broadly refers to situations where you cause an accident, however your manner of driving is not reckless or dangerous enough to bring about a more serious charge, such as ‘reckless driving’ or ‘dangerous driving.’
For example, you could be charged with negligent driving where you were not paying attention to the road, or you did not comply with road rules, and you caused an accident.
Although it is the least serious ‘dangerous driving’ offence, negligent driving can still result in harsh penalties, especially if you have been charged with negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm or death.
These cases can also be confronting and emotionally draining.
But with the help of Sydney’s most experienced lawyers, you can ensure that you get the best possible advice, as well as effective legal representation, to help you win your negligent driving case.
Your Options in Court
If you have been charged with negligent driving, but you feel that you are not to blame, you can fight the charges in court by pleading ‘not guilty.’
To be found guilty of negligent driving, the prosecution must prove two factors beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you were driving a vehicle
- That you were not exercising ‘the degree of care and attention that a reasonable and prudent driver would exercise in the circumstances’
If you have been charged with ‘negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm,’ the prosecution must also prove that you caused another person ‘really serious harm,’ such as permanent and serious disfigurement. Examples include broken bones, damage to internal organs, or the killing of a foetus.
Alternatively, if you are charged with ‘negligent driving occasioning death,’ the prosecution must prove that you caused the death of another person.
If you don’t believe that the prosecution will be able to prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt you may wish to consider pleading ‘not guilty.’
Our highly experienced traffic lawyers will examine all the evidence carefully to identify any problems with the prosecution case. Where issues are found, we can raise these with the prosecution and ask for the charges to be dropped before the matter ends up in court – saving you time and money.
However, sometimes the prosecution will not agree to drop the charges. In these cases, our traffic lawyers can help you put together a compelling case to prove your innocence in court.
We can assist you in obtaining all relevant evidence, as well as expert witnesses, such as crash investigators, who may be able to provide testimony to support your case.
For example, if you believed that you were exercising a reasonable degree of care and attention given the circumstances, you can contest the charges and give evidence in court to support your claim.
Courts will determine the ‘degree of care and attention’ used by considering the circumstances of the accident, including weather, road and traffic conditions.
You can also plead ‘not guilty’ if you want to raise a defence to explain your actions, for example:
- Where you were coerced or threatened into driving negligently (duress)
- Where you drove negligently to avoid serious injury or danger (necessity)
- Where you were reasonably mistaken as to the road rules or speed limit (reasonable mistake of fact)
If you are willing to accept the charges against you, you may wish to plead guilty from the outset.
Pleading guilty at an early stage may help you get a better outcome in your case, as it shows the magistrate or judge that you have accepted fault for your actions. This may encourage them to give you a more lenient penalty.
However, before entering a plea to any offence, you should always speak to an experienced traffic lawyer, who will be able to advise you on whether there is some way for you to fight the charges.
You should also be aware of the maximum penalties that may apply. The maximum penalties for negligent driving depend on what you have been charged with:
|Relevant section||If you have been charged with…||The maximum penalty is…|
|S 117(1)(a) Road Transport Act 2013||Negligent driving occasioning death||
First offence: A fine of $3,300 and/or 18 months imprisonment. The ‘automatic’ period of disqualification is 3 years, but the court can reduce this to a minimum disqualification period of 12 months. The maximum disqualification is unlimited.
Second/subsequent offence: A fine of $5,500 and/or 2 years imprisonment. The ‘automatic’ period of disqualification is 5 years, but the court can reduce this to a minimum disqualification period of 2 years. The maximum disqualification is unlimited.
|S 117(1)(b) Road Transport Act 2013||Negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm||
First offence: A fine of $2,200 and/or 9 months imprisonment. The ‘automatic’ period of disqualification is 3 years, but the court can reduce this to a minimum disqualification period of 12 months. However, the maximum disqualification is unlimited.
Second/subsequent offence: A fine of $3,300 and/or 12 months imprisonment. The ‘automatic’ period of disqualification is 5 years, but the court can reduce this to a minimum disqualification period of 2 years. The maximum disqualification is unlimited.
|S 117(1)(c) Road Transport Act 2013||Negligent driving NOT causing death or grievous bodily harm||A fine of $1,100. The court may also choose to disqualify you from driving for 12 months.|
It’s important to remember that these penalties are maximums, which means that they will only be imposed in the most serious cases.
Our traffic law specialists can help you prepare effective sentencing submissions which highlight any positive factors, such as your good character or your low likelihood of reoffending.
These compelling submissions can help persuade the magistrate or judge to deal with the matter in a more lenient manner – for example, using a good behaviour bond, or even a ‘section 10 dismissal or conditional release order’ (where you are found guilty but no conviction is recorded, and you are not disqualified from driving).
The types of penalties that the court can impose include:
Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with.
Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:
- Proven Track Record of Exceptional ResultsSydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases. Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial. Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.
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