Death By Dangerous Driving

Death By Dangerous Driving

Tuckers Solicitors lawyers provide legal advice and legal representation to clients facing prosecution for death by dangerous driving. Our expert lawyers deal with each case effectively and efficiently ensuring the best possible outcome is achieved.

Death by dangerous driving is an extremely serious offence which often results in a lengthy custodial sentence. It is vital that you receive expert legal representation and advice from the earliest stage possible.

Our lawyers are available 24 hours a day, providing immediate advice, representation and assistance during legal proceedings, ensuring the best interests of our clients. Please contact our Road Traffic and Driving Offences Department on 0808 169 5980 or email info@tuckerssolicitors.com

You can also read more about the Law and Criminal Defence for Causing Death by Dangerous Driving below here, or for even further information read our FAQs on Causing Death By Dangerous Driving below here.

The Law on Causing Death by Dangerous Driving in England & Wales

causing-death-dangerous-driving-lawyersCausing death by dangerous driving is treated as the most serious motoring offence by the law in England and Wales. A custodial sentence of up to 14 years is almost an inevitable outcome of a conviction. In addition to a prison sentence, the court has the power to disqualify the offender from driving (for a minimum of two years) and require the offender to take an extended driving test if they wish to apply for a license after the driving ban has elapsed.

With such gravity attached to this crime, it is vital that those accused of this offence seek professional assistance from reputable and experienced defence solicitors as soon as possible after an incident has occurred. Recognised as the UK’s leading criminal law firm, Tuckers’ dedicated team of lawyers have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the law relating to all dangerous driving offences.

In this guide, we will provide an overview of the law on causing death by dangerous driving and the approach we take to criminal defence in such cases, including the range of defences that may be applicable. It is important to be aware that even where the facts are not in a defendant’s favour, there are things that can be done to minimise the impact the penalty will have on their life. This guide will also discuss how arguing for a lesser charge of causing death by careless driving and advancing mitigating factors can reduce the level of blame and, consequently, the punishment imposed.

Causing Death by Dangerous Driving – An Overview of the Law

Established by section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the crime is committed when a person causes the death of another person ‘by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place’.

Death by dangerous driving is an indictable only offence, which means it is treated as a serious driving offence and can only be tried at the Crown Court. If a defendant pleads not guilty to the charge, the case will be heard before a jury. On the other hand, where there is a guilty plea, the facts of the case will be considered and the judgment handed down by a Crown Court judge.

In most criminal cases, the onus of proof is on the prosecution. To prove guilt, the prosecution must demonstrate two things:

  • The defendant’s driving was dangerous, and
  • The defendant’s driving caused the death of another person.

For the manner of driving to be considered dangerous, it must be evidenced that it falls ‘far below’ the standard expected of a competent and careful driver, and that it would be obvious to a competent, careful driver that the driving would be dangerous (Road Traffic Act 1988, section 2A). The term dangerous driving includes, but is not limited to, exceeding the speed limit, being avoidably distracted while driving (by a mobile phone or map for example), driving aggressively, driving a vehicle that is in a dangerous condition and driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

In terms of establishing causation between the driving and the death of another person, the prosecution is not required to prove that the driving is the only, or even the main, cause of death. It is enough that the driving contributed to the death of another person in a more than minimal way.

Causing Death by Dangerous Driving – Criminal Defence

When representing a defendant who has been accused of causing death by dangerous driving, the factual evidence is examined carefully in order to challenge the prosecution’s case. The value of evidence from witness statements, medical records, expert witnesses and accident re-enactments must not be understated. This information may be used to rebut the charge by demonstrating to the court that the defendant’s driving did not fall far below the standard of a reasonable and competent driver, or that the driving in question was not the cause of death of another person. For example, evidence given by expert witnesses may show that an unexpected mechanical problem, which led to a loss of control of the vehicle, was the single cause of the accident, and therefore the death, absolving the defendant of blame.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, it may be possible to advance the defence of automatism. Automatism argues that a person should not be held accountable for actions taken where they had no conscious knowledge of those actions. For this defence to be successful, the circumstance that led to the loss of conscious knowledge must be immediate and unforeseeable. Situations that could trigger this defence in a dangerous driving case include a blow to the head or an underlying medical condition unknown to the defendant.

Another defence that could be advanced, so long as the facts of the case allow, is necessity. Here it must be shown that the defendant’s actions were necessary in order to evade or avert death or serious injury to themself or another person. The defendant’s actions must be proportionate to the outcome that was intended to be avoided or prevented.

Closely linked to necessity is the defence of duress. Duress argues that a person should not be held responsible for their actions when they carry them out under violence, threat or other pressure against them. If, for example, the defendant was driving dangerously in order to escape a threat of violence, a necessity/duress defence may be successful.

Creating a solid defence against a charge of causing death by dangerous driving requires in-depth knowledge of the applicable law. At Tuckers Solicitors, we have an award-winning team of lawyers with the expertise and contacts to deal effectively with death by dangerous driving cases. Being represented by experienced solicitors could mean the difference between acquittal and conviction.

Causing Death by Dangerous Driving – Reducing Blame and Penalties

The approach towards this crime is particularly complicated when it comes to deciding the appropriate sentence for persons who are found guilty. The difficulty comes in striking the right balance between the loss of life and the fact that the offender acted dangerously but, in most cases, had no intention to end the life of another person.

It may be possible to argue on behalf of the defendant that the manner of driving was ‘careless’, rather than dangerous. Provided that the defendant was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, causing death by careless driving comes with a lower penalty: a maximum five year custodial sentence and a mandatory driving ban of one year minimum. A fine line exists between the two charges. Essentially, it must be proven that the defendant’s driving was ‘below’ the standard of a competent and careful driver (careless driving) rather than ‘far below’ that standard (dangerous driving). Examples of careless driving from previous cases include overtaking on the inside lane, getting too close to another vehicle and accidentally driving through a red traffic light.

If the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving can be established as early on in the investigation as possible, it can save the defendant the stress of being charged and tried for a much more serious offence. This is one of the reasons why it is vital to instruct a defence solicitor as early as possible following an incident.

When making a decision on an appropriate sentence for an offender, the judge will take into account certain mitigating factors to determine the level of blame. Factors that the defence team may be able to advance are a good driving record, no previous convictions, a timely guilty plea, providing assistance at the scene, genuine shock and remorse and serious injury of the defendant. It is important to be aware that mitigating factors such as these will be taken into account after a finding of guilt and, therefore, do not constitute a defence.

As well as factors which reduce blame, it must be made clear that circumstances that increase the level of culpability will also be taken into account when sentencing. Elements that are likely to aggravate the sentence include more than one fatality, previous convictions for motoring offences, other offences committed at the same time and escaping the scene in order to avoid arrest.

While the penalties attached to this crime are indeed hefty, in most cases, unless the offence is considered to be the most serious (there was a conscious and obvious disregard for road safety and an apparent disregard for the threat posed to others) as well as numerous aggravating factors, the sentence delivered is usually well under the upper limit of 14 years.

Expert Dangerous Driving Legal Advice and Defence

Tuckers Solicitors provide legal advice and representation to clients facing prosecution for death by dangerous driving. We understand the devastating impact a road accident involving a fatality, followed by court proceedings and the prospect of a serious penalty, can have. Our lawyers are adept at carefully analysing the facts, cross-examining witnesses and preparing cases to the highest standard. We guarantee to take an effective and efficient approach; making sure that the best result possible is achieved for our clients.

Where someone is involved in a road accident that results in a loss of life or life-threatening injuries to another person, it is vital to seek legal advice as soon as possible. This provides the best opportunity for the facts to be studied and a powerful defence strategy to be built.

Contact Tuckers Solicitors – Defence Lawyers for Death by Dangerous Driving Manchester, Birmingham, London & across England & Wales

At Tuckers Solicitors, our specialist criminal defence team have an enviable reputation in defending client’s accused of serious driving offences. We understand that facing a charge of causing death by driving creates a great deal of stress and anxiety for people and their families. We approach each client’s case with professionalism and sensitivity, and will handle your defence with the utmost care and diligence. For more information on how we can help, contact our leading criminal defence team head Stuart Sutton on 0808 164 6795 or at suttons@tuckerssolicitors.com.

Need even more information? Read our FAQs below:-

Causing Death by Dangerous Driving — Frequently Asked Questions

Causing death by dangerous driving is the most serious road traffic offence in England and Wales. Upon conviction, in the majority of cases, a prison sentence is unavoidable.

Facing an allegation of causing death by dangerous driving is undoubtedly distressing. In order to make sense of the situation and to get the best outcome possible, it is important to instruct a solicitor straight away.

Tuckers’ criminal defence lawyers have a wealth of experience defending clients accused of road traffic offences. Our solicitors provide advice and support to clients throughout, from the initial interview with the police to trial. We strive to deliver high-quality client care, always acting in the best interests of our clients.

Our lawyers are available at all times — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — to provide expert legal advice. If you need to speak to a solicitor, please contact email suttons@tuckerssolicitors.com or contact Stuart Sutton on 0808 164 6795 or 0808 169 5980.

You may have questions about an incident or want clarity on your legal position. In this guide, we will provide clear and straightforward answers to frequently asked questions on the offence of causing death by dangerous driving.

What will the police investigate following a fatal accident on the road?

The police will investigate the scene of the crime, examining the state of the road surface, the weather at the time of the incident and the condition of the vehicle, or vehicles, involved. They will also speak to witnesses and each of the drivers involved.

Once all the information has been collected, the case will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), where the investigation will be analysed and a decision will be made on whether there is sufficient evidence to charge the suspect.

The police have requested an interview. Am I obliged to attend?

Where you have not been arrested, you do not have to attend an interview with the police. However, unwillingness to cooperate is unlikely to work in your favour and will not prevent you from being charged at a later time. If you are arrested in connection with the incident, you will be required to attend an interview with the police.

It is highly recommended that you seek legal advice and representation when you have been requested to attend a police interview. The information you give, or do not give, could have an effect on the result of your case. At the police interview stage, our road traffic defence lawyers can advise you on what actions to take to achieve the best possible outcome and will ensure your rights are respected and upheld.

What are the penalties for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving?

The court has the power to pass a sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment. In addition, a mandatory two year driving ban together with a compulsory extended driving re-test, will be issued.

Where are death by dangerous driving cases heard?

Because the law treats death by dangerous driving as one of the most serious driving offences, all cases of this nature are heard in the Crown Court. Where there is a guilty plea, the case will be heard by a judge but if the defendant pleads not guilty, there will be a jury trial.

What must the prosecution prove in a case of causing death by dangerous driving?

The prosecution must prove that the defendant’s driving was dangerous and the manner of driving caused the death of another person. Dangerous driving is defined as driving that falls far below what is expected of a reasonable driver. In previous cases, the term has included speeding, knowingly driving a vehicle that is unsafe, ignoring road signs or traffic lights and wittingly driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. To prove that the dangerous driving caused the fatality, the prosecution is only required to demonstrate the driving was a cause of death; it is not necessary to show it was the only or primary cause.

How will a defence team prepare my case?

Experienced defence lawyers will carry out a thorough examination of the facts of the case, using their in-depth knowledge of criminal law to ascertain if any defences are available and investigating the reliability of witnesses and the correctness of evidence presented by the prosecution. The defence team will also collect independent evidence from witnesses, experts, for example from a vehicle expert, and any other evidence of value.

All of this information will be used to produce a Defence Statement which will detail the defendant’s defence case and highlight any concerns with the prosecution’s case. A well-prepared Defence Statement can be very powerful, sometimes resulting in the termination of the case or the charge being lowered. For example, in a death by dangerous driving case, the defence may be able to argue that the charge should be downgraded to that of causing death by careless driving; an offence which carries a much less maximum sentence of five-years imprisonment.

If I am convicted, how can defence solicitors help to reduce my sentence?

When deciding on an appropriate sentence, the judge will calculate the level of culpability and harm of the offence, which requires judgment on the standard of dangerous driving and consideration of any aggravating and mitigating factors.

The defence will aim to convince the court that the offence comes under the lowest level of blame possible and set out any mitigating factors that should reduce the sentence. Mitigating factors include serious injury of the offender, genuine remorse and where the victim was a family member or close friend of the offender.

The 14 year maximum penalty for this crime is indeed heavy. However, only in the most serious of cases — where there was a deliberate disregard for road safety and the risk posed to others — will the upper limit be appropriate, and in most cases, the sentence handed down is much lower.

Contact Tuckers’ Criminal Defence Solicitors

If you need to speak to a defence lawyer about a caution or arrest, we are here to help you out with dependable advice and a sensitive approach. E-mail suttons@tuckerssolicitors.com or contact Stuart Sutton on 0808 164 6795 or 0808 169 5980, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Death By Dangerous Driving