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Dangerous Driving Causing Death

Dangerous driving causing death, a serious criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison, consists of two components:  prohibited conduct — operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner resulting in death — and a required degree of fault — a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in all the circumstances.

However, because driving is an inherently dangerous activity, the trier of fact must not infer simply from the fact that the driving was, objectively viewed, dangerous, that the accused’s level of care was a marked departure from that expected of a reasonable person in the same circumstances.  The fault component ensures that criminal punishment is only imposed on those deserving the stigma of a criminal conviction.  Determining whether the fault component is present may in turn be done by asking two questions.

First, in light of all of the relevant evidence, would a reasonable person have foreseen the risk and taken steps to avoid it if possible?

Second, was the accused’s failure to foresee the risk and take steps to avoid it, if possible, a marked departure from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person in the accused’s circumstances?  The distinction between a mere departure, which may support civil liability, and the marked departure required for criminal fault, is a matter of degree, but the trier of fact must identify how and in what way the driver went markedly beyond mere carelessness.  This will generally be done by drawing inferences from all of the circumstances.

Furthermore, in answering these questions, personal attributes will only be relevant if they go to capacity to appreciate or to avoid the risk.  Of course, proof of deliberately dangerous driving would support a conviction for dangerous driving, but it is not required.

Source: R. v. Roy, 2012 SCC 26

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