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Reckless Driving and the Penalties

Reckless driving is punishable in South Australia under the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935. To be considered reckless, the driver’s driving must have been culpably negligent to the point that the public was endangered.

In aiming for a conviction the prosecution must be able to prove that the negligence of the driver was to the highest degree.

Intent and malice is absent in this type of offence that is why the penalty is lesser than that of murder or manslaughter. So, if the reckless driving results to death or grievous injury the penalty for a first offence is a maximum imprisonment of 10 years and disqualification from driving for a minimum of 5 years. A maximum prison term of 15 years and 10 year minimum of disqualification from driving are the penalties for a subsequent offender.

The death or injury may be caused to a passenger or to someone on the road. If there is no death and the injury caused is not grievous the penalty is a prison term of up to 4 years and disqualification from driving for at least one year. The penalty for a subsequent offender is a maximum imprisonment of six years and disqualification from driving for at least 3 years. 

Even if there is no death or injury caused the driver may still be found guilty of reckless driving and penalized with imprisonment up to 5 years and a minimum disqualification of 1 year.

It is important to take note of the location where the offence was allegedly committed. It is a common practice of drivers to take a different style of driving on a busy street as opposed to a long stretch of countryside road. Of course a driver may speed up if the road is clearly deserted but would take a slower course on the streets of a city. So the court may judge the situation differently based on the location.

Reckless driving may be determined by the following signs observed in the person’s manner of driving:

  • Speed;
  • Failure to stop at red lights;
  • Overtaking at high speed or in a way that is unsafe;
  • Tailgating;
  • Road and weather conditions; and
  • Disregard of road signs.

Due to the grave penalties attached with the offence, pleading guilty is almost out of the question for some who have been charged with reckless driving. Many accused choose to go through trial in order to prove that they drove carefully under the circumstances. If the negligence committed was not to the highest degree then the defence may be able to argue that the charge filed should not have been for reckless driving. If the accused could not completely prove his innocence then he could at least try to show to the court that there are mitigating circumstances deserving of only the minimum penalties. 

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