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Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle

Drivers on Queensland roads bear significant responsibilities in relation to their use of a motor vehicle and maintaining safety for other road users and the public at large.  Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle is the most serious criminal charge relating to the improper use of a motor vehicle on Queensland roads.

A conviction for dangerous operation can have severe consequences, from the disqualification of a driver’s licence through to significant prison sentences ion the most serious cases.

If you or a family member has been charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle it is important that you obtain advice at an early stage and we invite you to contact Townes & Associates for a cost and obligation free discussion about the situation.

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    Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle

    s.328A of the Queensland Criminal Code

    A charge laid under s.328A of the Queensland Criminal Code, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle is the most serious driving offence under Queensland law and it is committed when a person drives a motor vehicle in any way which is objectively dangerous. The maximum penalty for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle is between 3 and 14 years imprisonment depending on the circumstances of the case.

    There are three tiers of dangerous operation charges with the least serious, dangerous operation ‘simpliciter’ carrying a maximum fine of 200 penalty units and/or 3 years imprisonment.

    The next most serious version of the charge arises when the offence is committed while a person is intoxicated, participating in an unlawful street race or time trial or if they have been convicted of a dangerous operation offence in the past.  In this case the maximum penalty rises to a fine of 400 penalty units and/or 5 years imprisonment.

    The most serious iteration of the charge arises when the offence is committed in any of the circumstances above and results in the death, or grievous bodily harm, of another person.  In this case the charge carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

    Repeat offenders, that is people who are convicted of two or more dangerous operation offences in the past, must receive a sentence of imprisonment (either as the whole, or part, their sentence).

    If you would like more information about dangerous operation of a motor vehicle in Queensland use the tabs below to assist you.

    Dangerous operation offences in Queensland

    Select an offence from the tabs below for more information including the maximum penalty, common case examples and practical tips. Use the form at the bottom of this page, or the email link above, to get in touch if you have been charged with any of these offences.

    A charge laid under s.328A(1) of the Queensland Criminal Code, this least serious version of a dangerous operation charge carries a maximum fine of 200 penalty units and/or 3 years imprisonment as well as a mandatory 6 month minimum period of licence disqualification (though it is not uncommon for longer disqualification periods to be imposed).

    Being convicted of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle can have significant consequences over and above the criminal penalties applied (which include a criminal conviction).  There can be implications for insurance (in particular if there was an accident) and in some cases the Police will be empowered to seize and hold, and even forfeit, a person’s motor vehicle if they are guilty of dangerous operation.

    If you would like to know more about dangerous operation of a motor vehicle in Queensland use the tab headings below to assist you.

    Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle is often committed in the following ways:

    Public circle work

    A person drives their motor vehicle to an industrial lot where 50 other people are gathered to watch cars do ‘circle work’ – spinning their tyres to create excessive noise and smoke and to spin their cars around in circles.  Police happen to be conducting an ‘anti-hooning’ operation and attend the gathering, filming the person doing their burnouts and arresting them a short time later.  Assuming they are a youthful first offender (and that nobody was hurt or killed during the activity) then the person might expect to receive a substantial fine and a loss of licence for between 8 and 12 months.

    Road rage

    A person becomes enraged by the driving behaviour of a fellow road user and follows them, aggressively tail gating them at high speed, and then forcing them off the road by nudging the front of their car (again at relatively high speed).  Assuming the person is a first-time offender, and that no injuries were caused, this person might expect to receive a term of imprisonment either wholly suspended or with a release after 3-4 months.

    Please note this example and penalty is an illustration only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    A person is not guilty of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle if their driving conduct was not ‘objectively’ dangerous, which means dangerous in all of the circumstance of the case (including the relative skill of the driver).  It is a very uncommon case in which a professional driver is able to escape liability for dangerous operation because they are of above average driving skill and if you are considering a defence on this basis we strongly encourage you to contact us for advice about the merits of your case.

    A charge of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle (simpliciter) will be heard in the Magistrates Court.

    Dangerous operation is a type 1 offence for the purpose of the impoundment powers in the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2002.  This can be particularly problematic where a dangerous operation charge is laid along with a high range drink driving charge because the Police will often take the view that this constitutes a combined type 1 and a type 2 offence and that they therefore have the power to seize either the numberplates or vehicle (depending on the client’s history).

    It is possible to retrieve a motor vehicle from Police custody if it has been impounded under the hooning regime.  Essentially a client can get their car back if the impoundment is causing special hardship to their family (common where the client’s partner can no longer get to work or drive the children to school), they were not the owner of the car (common in cases where a young person is guilty of dangerous operation in their parent’s car), or – the lay down misere – they are not guilty of dangerous operation.

    A charge laid under s.328A(2) of the Queensland Criminal Code, this more serious version of a dangerous operation charge carries a maximum fine of 400 penalty units and/or 5 years imprisonment as well as a mandatory 6 month minimum period of licence disqualification (though it is not uncommon for longer disqualification periods to be imposed).

    The things which ‘aggravate’ a charge of dangerous operation are committing the offence while:

    • Excessively speeding or participating in an unlawful street race or time trial, and/or
    • Being intoxicated (by liquor or a drug), and/or
    • Having prior convictions for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

    Being convicted of aggravated dangerous operation of a motor vehicle can have significant consequences over and above the criminal penalties applied (which include a criminal conviction).  There can be implications for insurance (in particular if there was an accident) and in some cases the Police will be empowered to seize and hold, and even forfeit, a person’s motor vehicle if they are guilty of aggravated dangerous operation.

    If you would like to know more about aggravated dangerous operation of a motor vehicle in Queensland use the tab headings below to assist you.

    Aggravated dangerous operation of a motor vehicle is often committed in the following ways:

    Drag race from the lights

    A person stops beside a fellow road user at a red traffic light.  The two people agree, by an exchange of nods and revving of their engines, that they will race one another from a standing start when the light turns green.  The light duly turns green, the two drivers take off at high speed and the person, unfortunately, loses control and drives into a power pole.  Assuming they are a youthful first offender (and they survive) they will almost certainly be charged with aggravated dangerous operation of a motor vehicle (for having participated in an unlawful street race) and they will receive a large fine or some form of conditional release (perhaps probation and/or community service or even a suspended jail sentence).

    Wrong way home from the pub

    A person is heavily intoxicated and decides to drive home from the pub.  Unfortunately, because of their intoxicated state, they find themselves on the wrong side of the road driving headlong into oncoming traffic for several kilometres. Assuming nobody is hurt or killed this person might expect to receive a probation or community service order or even a suspended jail sentence.

    Please note this example and penalty is an illustration only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    A person is not guilty of aggravated dangerous operation of a motor vehicle if their driving conduct was not ‘objectively’ dangerous, which means dangerous in all of the circumstance of the case.  In cases where the alleged aggravated circumstance is intoxication, or prior convictions, it can be extremely difficult to defeat the charge but where the allegation is one of excessive speed or participation in an unlawful event it is sometimes possible to defeat the aggravated allegation, for example where the evidence of excessive speed is simply the fact of an accident (i.e. “they must have been going fast because they crashed”).

    A charge of aggravated dangerous operation of a motor vehicle will be heard in the Magistrates Court unless a defendant elects for a trial in front of a District Court jury.

    Dangerous operation, whether simpliciter or aggravated, is a type 1 offence for the purpose of the impoundment powers in the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2002 and it is extremely common for clients who are charge with aggravated dangerous operation to have the vehicle they were driving impounded under the PPRA ‘anti-hooning’ regime.

    It is possible to retrieve a motor vehicle from Police custody if it has been impounded under the hooning regime.  Essentially a client can get their car back if the impoundment is causing special hardship to their family (common where the client’s partner can no longer get to work or drive the children to school), they were not the owner of the car (common in cases where a young person is guilty of dangerous operation in their parent’s car), or – the lay down misere – they are not guilty of dangerous operation.

    A charge laid under s.328A(4) of the Queensland Criminal Code, this most serious version of a dangerous operation charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment as well as a mandatory 6 month minimum period of licence disqualification (though it is not uncommon for longer disqualification periods to be imposed).

    If the offence of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death or grievous bodily harm is committed while a person is intoxicated, excessively speeding, participating in an unlawful street race or time trial or leaves the scene of the accident, it carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

    If you would like to know more about dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death or grievous bodily harm in Queensland use the tab headings below to assist you.

    Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death or grievous bodily harm is often committed in the following ways:

    Running a red light

    A person significantly misjudges an orange traffic light and drives through it several seconds after it has turned red.  Upon driving through the red traffic light the driver strikes a motorcyclist who is turning across their path, following a green turn signal in their lane. Sadly, the motorcyclist dies as a result of the collision and the driver is charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.  Assuming they are a first offender the person might expect to serve between 3 and 6 months inside jail before receiving some form of conditional release (likely a suspended sentence for the balance of the imprisonment period).

    Failure to give way

    A person fails to observe a give way sign at an intersection and, by proceeding without slowing down, collides with a car travelling in the perpendicular lane.  Unfortunately, the driver of the other car is severely injured as a result of the collision, requiring brain surgery to avoid death and thereafter living in a semi-vegetative state.  The driver of the offending vehicle, assuming they are a first offender with a good driving history, should expect to spend 3-4 months inside jail before being released, likely on a suspended sentence.

    Please note this example and penalty is an illustration only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    A person is not guilty of aggravated dangerous operation of a motor vehicle if their driving conduct was not ‘objectively’ dangerous, which means dangerous in all of the circumstance of the case.  There can, in some cases, be a tendency for police to overcharge a person who is involved in an accident which caused the death of another.  Simply because somebody died does not, as a matter of law, make a driver’s conduct dangerous – it is possible to be guilty of careless driving (a much lesser charge) or not guilty of anything at all, even in circumstances which involve a fatality.

    A charge of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death or grievous bodily harm will be heard in the District Court.

    In cases of less than abjectly dangerous conduct, for example failing to give way to a sign which is partially obscured, consideration should be given – at the first instance – to a submission to reduce the charge to one of careless driving (which can also proceed by way of a traffic infringement notice).   

    As with dangerous operation simpliciter and aggravated, dangerous operation causing death or GBH, can sometimes give rise to the police impounding a client’s motor vehicle (or at least the vehicle they were driving).  More commonly, however, the vehicle is seized as an item of evidence and – in that case – there is no power to ask that it be returned before the conclusion of proceedings (at which point it might be come impounded by the police – assuming it is in driveable condition).

    Facing charges?

    If you or a loved one has been charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, you should contact Townes & Associates for a confidential, cost and obligation free discussion about the situation and how we can help.  Use the form below to get in touch, leave your best contact telephone number and we will give you call back at no cost to you.

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