Dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death is one of the crimes taken most seriously by society and the courts. It is also a crime that carries substantial penalties in terms of imprisonment.
The maximum penalty for dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death not involving circumstances of aggravation is seven (7) years imprisonment.
If an intoxicating substance is involved the maximum term of imprisonment rises to ten (10) years.
In the event that the intoxicating substance is alcohol and your blood alcohol reading was greater that 0.15%, you can be sentenced to up to fourteen (14) years imprisonment.
It is settled law that a person convicted of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death and who was intoxicated at the time of driving must serve a term of imprisonment as the whole or part of their sentence.
If convicted of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death you will suffer an absolute disqualification from holding a driving licence. In the event that you are disqualified for life, you may be able to lodge an appeal to set aside the disqualification after a period of two (2) years.
Manslaughter arising from an Incident of Driving
Manslaughter occurs when a person unlawfully kills another person in circumstances which do not constitute murder. The charge of manslaughter (where a motor vehicle related fatality occurs) is reserved for the most serious cases of death arising from a driving incident.
The difference between the charge of manslaughter and that of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death turns on the standard of proof, or fault, required.
Manslaughter arising out of a driving incident infers that the driver was criminally negligent or, in other words, did more than just fail to take reasonable care.
For example, you may be charged with manslaughter in respect of a driving incident if you:
- drove in a manner which was deliberately reckless, careless or wanton; and/or
- showed a callous disregard for human life.
Charges of manslaughter require trial by jury in the Supreme Court. If you are found guilty, the maximum penalty is imprisonment with hard labour for life.
In general terms, juries are unwilling to convict drivers of manslaughter, and prefer to convict on the alternative offence of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death.