Understanding the Different Legal Penalties if You Have Caused a Death While Driving

Dangerous driving causing deathOur office receives calls from people who would like an explanation of the different legal charges when a death occurs.

A large number of these questions revolve around the topics of causing death while driving, and causing someone’s death while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


What is Dangerous Driving Causing Death?

Western Australian law has several classifications under the umbrella of dangerous driving, causing death. Within the various classifications, we find some overlap between dangerous driving causing death and other types of homicide. For example, using a vehicle as a weapon with the intent to cause death or grievous bodily injury.

According to the Road Traffic Act of 1974, driving offences will separate into three main categories.

  1. Careless Driving Of the three categories of driving offences in Western Australia, careless driving is the least severe. The maximum penalty for careless driving is a $600 fine. Furthermore, the nature of the charge of careless driving is objective. Examples of careless driving include momentary inattention or sudden distraction.
  2. Dangerous Driving Dangerous driving distinguishes itself from careless driving based on the fact that a dangerous driver has no regard to the peril he or she may cause to the public. Fines for dangerous driving vary based on the number of offences. A first offender’s maximum penalty is $800. However, repeated offences bring $2,000 fines or nine months in prison and loss of driving privileges for a year.
  3. Reckless Driving The most serious offence is reckless driving. A reckless driver generally exceeds the posted speed limits by 45 km ph. The most significant difference between dangerous driving and reckless driving is the willfulness of the offence. Fines and penalties for reckless driving begin at $1,000 or nine months in jail as well as a required license suspension for six months. A repeat offence carries a $1,200 fine or a nine-month jail term along with a license suspension for 12 months. Further offences carry a $2,400 fine or 12 months in jail. Drivers committing three cases of reckless driving will permanently lose their driving license.


Are There Any Other Distinctions Within the Law?

Within these three categories, there are two distinctions come from the Road Traffic Act of 1974. These separate based on the consequences of the driver’s actions.

  1. Dangerous driving causing bodily harm
  2. Dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm

Ultimately, the driver’s actions and the consequences of those actions will determine the charges against the driver. For example, a driver who takes his or her eyes off the road and hits an unoccupied parked car will face a charge of careless driving.

However, if a driver looks away from the road for a moment and kills a person sitting in the parked car, the charge is dangerous driving causing death.


Are There Provisions Under the Law That Address Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs?

The 2004 amendments to the Road Traffic Act of 1974 address driving under the influence. If the accused has a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or impaired by drugs, the prosecution does not have to prove the accident was caused by how the accused operated his or her vehicle.

If you find yourself in any situation where legal assistance is necessary, do not hesitate to contact our office. Also, it is crucial that you understand your rights under the law.

Note: Your rights if arrested as a suspect will be different than if you are not a suspect.


Your Rights After an Arrest

  • Necessary medical treatment
  • An interpreter to help you understand questions and what is taking place
  • A reasonable chance to contact a friend or relative to let them know where you are and the circumstances surrounding your arrest
  • Reasonable protection from news media


Your Rights if You Are Under Arrest as a Suspect in a Criminal Case

  • You must be made aware of the reason for your arrest
  • You must hear about any other crimes the police suspect you committed
  • Law enforcement must caution you before you speak during a police interview
  • You shall have an opportunity to speak with or try to talk with legal counsel
  • If you require an interpreter, law enforcement must wait to interview you until an interpreter is present

In all cases, you have the right to silence except for giving the police your name, address, and date of birth.

While we hope that you do not need to receive legal help from Lawson Legal regarding a death you caused, rest assured that the professionals in our office understand the issues. We are pleased to be able to offer you advice and guidance through a challenging period of time in your life.