driving related offence

Stunt Driving and Racing: What are the Consequences?

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Due to the pandemic, there have been fewer vehicles on streets and highways across the province.  Some drivers are taking advantage of the situation by using the open roads for the opportunity to engage in dangerous driving behaviours.  According to Ontario Provincial Police, hundreds of drivers have been charged between the months of March and June with the offence of stunt driving in the GTA.

In Toronto, police have issued 443 racing and/or stunt driving tickets since the start of the pandemic in Ontario up until the end of June, which is a 357% increase compared to the same time period in 2019. 

York Regional Police began “Project Dragnet” in July to crack down on organized street racing.  This operation resulted in 13 arrests, 20 stunt driving charges and 116 offences related to illegal car equipment. 

In Peel Region, there has been a 26% increase in stunt driving charges between the months of March and August compared to the same time period last year. 

Although Durham Region Police have noted that most driving violations have decreased since the start of the pandemic in Ontario, stunt driving has escalated.  Typically Durham Police issue only 10 stunt driving tickets a month, however, between April and May, Durham Police have been issuing up to 23 stunt driving tickets a month.

Last month a traffic officer from Durham Region Police Service charged three drivers with stunt driving:

  • A 24-year-old was travelling 132 km/h in an 80 km/h traffic zone;
  • A 40-year-old was travelling 140 km/h in an 80 km/h traffic zone; and
  • A 19-year-old was travelling 116 km/h in a 60 km/h traffic zone.

WHAT IS STUNT DRIVING?

Stunt driving and racing are very serious offences and with them come very serious consequences, if you are convicted.

Stunt driving is an offence found under section 172 of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act:

No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway in a race or contest, while performing a stunt or on a bet or wager.

Stunt driving can include the following acts:

  • Driving a motor vehicle 50 km/h or more over the posted speed limit;
  • Driving a vehicle with an intention to lift some or all of the tires from the surface of the road;
  • Driving a motor vehicle with the intention to cause one or more of the tires to lose traction with the surface of the road;
  • Driving a vehicle with the intention of preventing another vehicle from passing you;
  • Driving a vehicle with the intention to spine the vehicle without maintaining control of it;
  • Driving a motor vehicle while there is a person in the trunk;
  • Driving a motor vehicle while not sitting in the driver’s seat (i.e. a passenger momentarily taking control of the steering wheel for the driver);
  • Driving without due care and consideration of others on the road, in a manner that might endanger someone by preventing them from passing, stopping or cutting someone off or slowing down.

THE CONSEQUENCES ASSOCIATED WITH STUNT DRIVING

Despite stunt driving being classified as a traffic offence opposed to a criminal offence, it is a various serious charge and it carries some significant penalties.  These include a minimum $2,000 fine and the potential for a driver’s license suspension. 

If you are charged with stunt driving, and even if you are not convicted of the offence, you are subject to an immediate 7 day administration roadside suspension of your driver’s license.  Also, your vehicle will be seized and impounded for 7 days, regardless of who owns the vehicle.  In order to get the vehicle back, you will be responsible for paying towing charges and storage fees for the 7 days.

If you are found guilty of the offence of stunt driving or racing, there is a fine of not less than $2,000 and no more than $10,000, or imprisonment for no more than six months, or both.

Anyone found guilty of stunt driving or racing can be subjected to a license suspension of up to two years on a first conviction, and up to 10 years for any subsequent convictions.  Following the end of your driver’s license suspension, you must pay $281.00 to the Ministry of Transportation to reinstate your license.

Being charged with stunt driving also means that you will receive 6 demerit points.

Stunt driving will stay on your record for a total of three years from the conviction date (the date you are found guilty in court).  However, the court can look at your driving record for the past ten years for this type of traffic charge.

An individual’s employment can be affected by a conviction of stunt driving.  If an individual requires a vehicle their employment eligibility can be at risk.

Stunt driving or racing, as with other offences under the Highway Traffic Act, are strict liability offences.  This means that the Crown prosecutor only needs to prove that the accused offender committed the prohibited act, not the intention behind the act.  The accused offender must prove that he/she was driving with due diligence at the time of the offence.

If you have been charged with a driving related offence, please contact the knowledgeable criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

Supreme Court Finds Driver Guilty as Risks are Reasonably Foreseeable When Driving Three Times the Speed Limit

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Earlier this spring, the Supreme Court of Canada determined that a reasonable person should foresee the risk of excessive speeding towards a major intersection and that this behaviour can be a departure from the reasonable standard of care required of drivers in Canada.

The highest court in Canada found that the trial judge in the case of R. v. Chung made two errors of law in a case of dangerous driving causing death.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On November 14, 2015, Ken Chung (“Chung”) drove his vehicle almost three times the speed limit towards a major intersection in a mixed residential-commercial area in Vancouver.  Chung crashed into a left turning vehicle, resulting in the death of the driver at the scene of the accident. 

A dashboard camera video caught 4.9 seconds of the accident showing Chung passing one car on the right and accelerating from 50 km/h to 140km/h before entering the intersection.  Chung was observed almost hitting a Toyota that was making a right turn in front of him and then colliding with the victim’s vehicle at a speed of 119 km/h.

The trial judge concluded that Chung’s speeding through the intersection was objectively dangerous to the public and fulfilled the actus reus (the physical act of the crime) of dangerous driving.  However, there was reasonable doubt as to whether Chung’s conduct met the mens rea (the intention, knowledge or recklessness of the accused) requirement for the crime of dangerous driving.  The test for mens rea in driving cases refers to a marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonable person in similar circumstances.  The trial judge held that the momentariness of Chung’s speeding did not demonstrate criminal fault.

At his trial, Chung was acquitted of dangerous driving causing death under section 249(4) of the Criminal Code (this section has been repealed and replaced with section 320.13(3) of the Criminal Code).  This crime requires two components:

  1. The prohibited conduct:  Operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner resulting in death; and
  2. The required degree of fault:  A marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised while driving in the circumstances when the incident occurred.

On appeal, it was found that the trial judge had erred in law by finding that Chung had lacked the mens rea of the driving offence, and in finding that the momentary acceleration in speed could not satisfy the mens rea component of the crime  Therefore, the acquittal was overturned and a dangerous driving conviction was entered.

Chung appealed the conviction and took his case to the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”).

THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA DECISION

The SCC found that the trial judge made two errors of law by applying the wrong legal principle and by failing to apply the correct legal test by not assessing what a reasonable person would have foreseen and done in the circumstances.

Justice Sheilah Martin, writing for the majority of the SCC, found that Chung’s actions were not comparable to momentary mistakes that a reasonable driver may make.  She wrote:

A reasonable person would have foreseen that rapidly accelerating towards a major intersection at a high speed creates a very real risk of a collision occurring within seconds.  This is what actually occurred in Mr. Chung’s case.  Risky conduct at excessive speeds foreseeably can result in immediate consequences. 

… A reasonable person understands that driving is an inherently risky activity.  It is made all the more risky the faster we drive, the harder we accelerate, and the more aggressively we navigate traffic.  Although even careful driving can result in tragic consequences, some conduct is so dangerous that it deserves criminal sanctions.

The SCC concluded that the test for mens rea is whether a reasonable person would have foreseen the immediate risk of travelling almost three times the speed limit towards a major intersection.  Therefore, it held that Chung’s driving was a “marked departure from the norm”.

Justice Martin warned that there may be cases where excessive speed may not be a discrepancy from the standard of care.  She explained:

Only when there has been an active engagement with the full picture of what occurred can the trial judge determine whether the accused’s conduct was a marked departure from the conduct of a reasonable and prudent driver.

The SCC dismissed the appeal and restored Chung’s conviction.

If you have been charged with a driving related offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.