Supreme Court Clarifies Dangerous Driving Law

The Supreme Court of Canada has clarified the law regarding what constitutes dangerous driving under the Criminal Code.  The decision, R v. Roy, has implications for people who may be inadmissible to Canada for criminality.  Indeed, the Supreme Court’s decision is a timely one, as our firm is currently working on a case for an individual who was declared to be inadmissible to Canada for being convicted outside Canada of an offence that a visa officer equated to dangerous driving under Canada’s Criminal Code.

Section 249 of the Criminal Code provides that:

249. (1) Every one commits an offence who operates

(a) a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated and the amount of traffic that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place;

In R v. Roy, the Supreme Court was noted that (emphasis added):

It is, therefore, critically important to ensure that the fault requirement for dangerous driving has been established.  Failing to do so unduly extends the reach of the criminal law and wrongly brands as criminals those who are not morally blameworthy.  The distinction between a mere departure, which may support civil liability, and the marked departure required for criminal fault is a matter of degree.  The trier of fact must identify how and in what way the departure from the standard goes markedlybeyond mere carelessness.

Accordingly, the actus reus of s. 249 of the Criminal Code is driving in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated and the amount of traffic that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place.  The focus of the actus reus inquiry is on the risks created by the accused’s manner of driving, not the consequences.

The mens rea for the offence is a marked departure from the standard of care which a reasonable person would have exercised in the same circumstances.  Simple carelessness, to which even the most prudent drivers may occasionally succumb, does not meet the mens rea requirement.

Finally, even where the manner of driving is a marked departure from normal driving, s. 249 requires that the dangerous driving be a result of the marked departure from the norm.

A useful decision, and one that will be cited in the future by representatives whose clients receive criminality fairness letters on this type of offence.


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