Can a Careless Driving ChargeBe Beat In Court?
An Accused Person May Be Successful When Fighting a Careless Driving Charge By Raising Reasonable Doubt In the Case Presented By the Prosecution. In Particular, Strategic Legal Argument Using Similar Circumstance Precedent Law May Help to Show That Imperfect Driving Was Still Aligned With That of An Ordinary Prudent Driver.
Understanding the Defence Strategies For Fighting a Careless Driving Charge Including Due Care Arguments
The charge of careless driving, as either the general careless driving charge or the even more serious charge of careless driving causing death or injury, may be defended, essentially, in the same manner whereas the only difference between the two charges involves whether death or injury occurred; and accordingly, the only defence strategy unique to the charge of careless driving causing death or injury would be involve arguing whether a death or injury occurred. In all other respects, the two charges are defended similarly.
How Can a Careless Driving Charge Be Beat In Court?
The offence of careless driving requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused driver person was driving a vehicle upon a highway, as "vehicle" and "highway" are defined within section 1 of the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8 and that the driver did so, "without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway", per section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act. If the Prosecutor handling the case fails to show proof of the required elements, then the court should dismiss the case.
Accordingly, when a careless driving case is undergoing a court trial, the judge or justice hearing the case will be listening and watching for the Prosecutor, via proper witnesses, to provide evidence that:
- The driver is properly identified as the person who allegedly committed the offence;
- The driver was operating a "vehicle" and doing so upon a "highway";
- The driver failed to use "due care and attention" or "reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway";
If the Prosecutor forget to, or fails to, prove any of these elements of the charge, which is unlikely whereas the the Prosecutor is likely working from a checklist, is likely very well experienced, and likely has very well prepared witnesses such as police officers with courtroom experience as well as people who were eyewitness to the conduct that occurred. However, if indeed the Prosecutor does forget to, or fails to, prove the elements, a Motion for non-suit may result in the court dismissing the case without the accused person needing to begin the defence side of the case. Of course, this occurs very rarely and thus a proper defence strategy should be prepared and be ready to go.
Examining the Witnesses
As above, if the Prosecutor fails to prove the elements of a careless driving charge, then the case should be dismissed by the court without a conviction; and thus a 'win' from the perspective of the accused driver. While it is unlikely that the Prosecutor will fail to review the case and ensure that witnesses for the prosecution know what to expect, and very unlikely that the Prosecutor will simply forget the elements requiring proof, a professional advocate can perform a skilled cross examination, meaning questioning, of the witnesses for the prosecution. Additionally, the defence advocate can present other witnesses, including evidence, that may help to disprove the case presented by the prosecution, or at least give rise to reasonable doubt.
As a careless driving charge involves a failure of "due care and attention" or failure of "reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway", terms which are both broad and vague, a careless driving charge often turns on the actual conduct that occurred whereas the law requires more than just imperfect driving to qualify as a failure of "due care and attention" or failure of "reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway". As was provided at page one (Careless Driving, Introduction), the criteria for what constitutes as the level of carelessness rising to lack of "due care and attention" is a case specific concern as was explained within York (Regional Municipality) v. Lam, 2017 ONCJ 290, while citing the Court of Appeal decision of R. v. Beauchamp, 1952 CanLII 60 as the binding precedent case on the issue, and wherein it was said:
 In determining the requisite standard of care and skill required of a motorist facing a charge of careless driving, I look to the often cited Ontario Court of Appeal judgment, R. v. Beauchamp, 1952 CanLII 60 (ON CA),  O.R. 422, in which the standard is not one of perfection. Instead, Justice MacKay, writing for the Court, sets out the appropriate legal test as follows:
… It is whether it is proved beyond a reasonable doubt that this accused, in the light of existing circumstances of which he was aware or of which a driver exercising ordinary care should have been aware, failed to use the care and attention or to give to other persons using the highway the consideration that a driver of ordinary care would have used or given in the circumstances? The use of the term “due care”, which means care owing in the circumstances, makes it quite clear that, while the legal standard of care remains the same in the sense that it is what the average careful man would have done in like circumstances, the factual standard is a constantly shifting one, depending on road, visibility, weather conditions, traffic conditions that exist or may reasonably be expected, and any other conditions that ordinary prudent drivers would take into consideration. It is a question of fact, depending on the circumstances in each case. [Emphasis added.]
Accordingly, the issue of what is the proper standard of care commonly arises a key issue argued within a careless driving case. Establishing what type of conduct falls above the standard often requires research and review of prior cases with similar circumstances as well as an objectively based assessment of what, per the Beauchamp case, would be expected of "ordinary prudent drivers".
A careless driving charge is a very serious charge with potentially very harsh penalties for those charged with the general careless driving offence and potentially very severe penalties for those charged with the careless driving causing death or injury offence. The defence strategies available for defending the charges are, essentially, the same, whereas the elements of the two charges are identical except where the the obvious difference for careless driving causing death or injury involves a death or an injury.
Page 1 - Careless Driving, Introduction Page 2 - Careless Driving, Causing Death or Injury
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The topic of careless driving is a very deep legal subject with many subtopics that can only be lightly touched upon within a webpage article. Legal practitioners and scholars could spend hours discussing the various twists and turns that apply to the principles and concepts mentioned here.