Dangerous Driving GBH/Death

What is Dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm or death?

The offence of Dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm or death is found at section 52A of the Crimes Act 1900.

The offence is an extremely serious one for which penalties of full time imprisonment are often imposed if a person is found or pleads guilty. It is possible to be found not guilty of this offence if your criminal lawyer is able to argue the driving did not amount to dangerous or the injury did not amount to GBH. Often the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will accept a plea of guilty to negligent driving occasioning GBH/death or even just a negligent driving if negotiations are conducted correctly.

If you are charged with the offence of Dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm or death, your options will normally be to plead guilty or not guilty.

Pleading not guilty                              

You will be found not guilty of the offence of Dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm or death if the police cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. Death or grievous bodily harm (really serious harm) was occasioned to any person;
  2. The vehicle you were driving was involved in an impact (collision) including where it is proven that your vehicle caused an impact involving another vehicle/s;
  3. At the time you drove the vehicle you:
    1. Were under the influence of intoxicating liquor;
    2. Under the influence of a drug;
    3. Driving at a speed dangerous to another person or persons; or
    4. Driving in a manner dangerous to another person or persons.

The offence of Dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm or death will be aggravated if:

  • A prescribed concentration of alcohol greater than 0.15 was present in your blood;
  • You were driving the vehicle concerned on a road at a speed that exceeded, by more than 45 kilometres per hour, the speed limit;
  • You drove the vehicle to escape pursuit by a police officer; or
  • You drove under the influence of a drug (other than intoxicating liquor) or a combination of drugs which thereby very substantially impaired his/her ability to drive.

It is a defence to this charge if the death or grievous bodily harm occasioned by the impact was not in any way attributable (as relevant):

  • To the fact that the person charged was under the influence of intoxicating liquor or of a drug or a combination of drugs, or
  • To the speed at which the vehicle was driven, or
  • To the manner in which the vehicle was driven.

If the police are able to prove the above elements beyond reasonable, you will still be found not guilty if any of the following defences can be established:

Contact our offices in Sydney, Parramatta, Blacktown or Redfern to organize a time for one of our criminal lawyers to advise you of your prospects of successfully defending the charge of Dangerous driving occasioning GBH/death.

Pleading guilty

If you agree that you have committed the offence (and the police are able to prove so), it is best to plead guilty as you will normally receive a discount on sentence and it will demonstrate remorse and contrition. Alternatively, it may be the case that one of our experienced solicitors can negotiate with prosecutors for you to plead guilty to less serious facts or even a less serious charge.

The maximum penalty for the offence of Dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm is two years imprisonment in the Local Court. In the District Court the maximum penalty is 7 years imprisonment and if the offence is aggravated, the maximum penalty is 11 years goal.

The maximum penalty for the offence of Dangerous driving causing death is 10 years imprisonment. If the offence is aggravated the maximum penalty is 14 years goal.

Dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm/death is subject to a guideline judgement.

A frequently recurring case of an offence under s 52A has the following characteristics:

  • Young offender.
  • Of good character with no or limited prior convictions.
  • Death or permanent injury to a single person.
  • The victim is a stranger.
  • No or limited injury to the driver or the driver’s intimates.
  • Genuine remorse.
  • Plea of guilty of limited utilitarian value.

In such circumstances, a custodial sentence will usually be appropriate unless the offender has a low level of moral culpability, as in the case of momentary inattention or misjudgement.

A person’s moral culpability will be increased by:

  • Extent and nature of the injuries inflicted.
  • Number of people put at risk.
  • Degree of speed.
  • Degree of intoxication or of substance abuse.
  • Erratic or aggressive driving.
  • Competitive driving or showing off.
  • Length of the journey during which others were exposed to risk.
  • Ignoring of warnings.
  • Escaping police pursuit.
  • Degree of sleep deprivation.
  • Failing to stop.

Where the offender’s moral culpability is high, a full time custodial head sentence of less than three years (in the case of death) and two years (in the case of grievous bodily harm) would not generally be appropriate

Penalties a court in NSW can impose:

Do I need references for Dangerous driving occasioning GBH/Death offence?

In order to get the best the best result for this offence, your criminal lawyer will request you obtain references. If the offence is one that carries a loss of licence, the referees should state your needs for a licence. Below are some reasons a court may invoke for not recording, or reducing, a disqualification period. However, please note the seriousness of this offence means a loss of licence is inevitable and a detailed guide to reference writing for serious offences can be viewed here.


Loss of employment is a classic reason for a court not disqualifying a person. If a person will lose their job if they lose their licence then the referee should put forward that assertion with absolute certainty. The court will see straight through waffle such as “his position may be reviewed”. For example:

A licence disqualification will prevent Joe Blog’s from fulfilling his duties and hence, if this occurs, he will be asked to temporarily leave his post until the disqualification lapses or if the disqualification is for more than 3 months, his employment will be terminated as per clause 8.2 of his contract enclosed herein. There is no discretion in this situation. He is a sales representative and our clients cannot be serviced by public transport.

Lack of public transport

No viable alternative transport is a matter the court may consider when deciding whether to impose a disqualification. This mainly applies to people in the country, but may apply if you are a shift worker, reside or work in an area not serviced by public transport, or to females who work late. For example:

Joe Blog’s works at Marayong Chickens in an industrial area where there is no public transport. He wakes up at 3am, leaves at 4am, and starts his shift at 5am. We have explored all options and, as he is the only licenced driver in our family, he has no way to get to work if he loses his licence. We have a mortgage and two school age children. Without a licence, he cannot get to work. Worse still, we’d have no way to get to the Richmond shops, a 20 minute drive from where we live on acreage.

Family responsibilities

Family reasons such as care for a child or elderly parents, sickness of yourself or another who relies upon your ability to drive, are matters a court may consider. For example:

Joe Blogs resigned from his job to look after our sick son as he is the only licenced driver in our family who could take him to his daily medical appointments. When he stopped working, I started a lower paying job. Even though it meant less money, it was the only way we could ensure our son received the treatment he needed. Joe is with our son 24 hours a day in case his conditions worsens and he needs to be taken to hospital. We simply cannot look after our son without a car.

Why choose AC Law Group?

Our solicitors are experts at representing persons charged with Dangerous driving occasioning GBH/Death including defences, negotiations and sentencing. To read more about AC Law Group, click here, and call us at Sydney, Parramatta, Blacktown and Redfern or make a website inquiry today.

Contact us to book a FREE first consultation

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