Serious traffic offences in Queensland are dealt with as criminal matters under Section 328A of the Criminal Code 1899, which outlines the types of offences and penalties relating to the dangerous operation of a vehicle. Mainly that it is an offence for you to operate, or interfere with the operation of, a vehicle dangerously in any place. When determining what is considered dangerous, the speed or way the vehicle is being driven is taken into consideration.
Other circumstances are also taken into consideration such as the nature, condition and use of the place; the nature and condition of the vehicle; the number of persons, and vehicles that might be expected to be in that place; the concentration of alcohol in the drivers blood; and the presence of any other substance in the drivers blood. Prior to 1997, it was only an offence if the dangerous driving took place on a road or in a public place, however since the Act was amended it now applies to ‘any place’. It is important to note that you do not have to be purposely driving dangerously to be convicted.
You may have had no intention of driving in a dangerous manner but due to the speed you were travelling, or an action you have taken which has placed the public at risk, the Courts may deem it so.
Circumstances of Aggravation
If you are charged with dangerous driving the maximum penalty is 3 years imprisonment. However, if there are elements of aggravation the term of imprisonment is increased to a maximum of 5 years. Circumstances of aggravation include being affected by alcohol or drugs; excessively speeding; taking part in a street race; or have been previously convicted of this offence prior. If you have been previously convicted and were affected by an intoxicating substance at the time of the offence, or have been twice previously convicted, then the Courts must order a term of imprisonment.
Excessively speeding means operating a vehicle at a speed of more than 40km/hr over the speed limit, and is defined in the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995. A street race is defined in section 85 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995, and includes single vehicle speed trials.
Causing Death or Grievous Bodily Harm
If you kill someone while driving, you may not be not be charged with manslaughter, or murder, but under the dangerous driving provisions of S328A (4) of the Criminal Code 1899. If you are charged with causing death, or grievous bodily harm, due to the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, the courts do not have to prove that your driving was the sole cause of the death or injury, but merely that is was a substantial or significant cause. The penalty is a term of imprisonment for 10 years. This is increased to 14 years if at the time of the offence you were affected by an intoxicating substance, were excessively speeding, taking part in a street race, or if you leave the scene of an accident reasonably knowing that someone has been killed or injured.
Indictable or Summary Offence
The offences relating to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle are all indictable in nature. However, if there are no aggravating circumstances the matter can be dealt with in the Magistrates Court. If there are aggravated circumstances, or death or grievous bodily harm caused, then the matter is strictly indictable and will be transferred to the District Court at the Committal Hearing.