The client had been charged with dangerous driving under s 64 of the Road Safety Act, as well as a charge of speeding under rule 20 of the Road Rules. She was driving 45 kilometres an hour above the speed limit. These charges both carry a mandatory 12-month licence disqualification. The second charge against the Road Rules also carried an additional eight demerit points (at the time—the law has since changed) to apply to the licence after it had been reinstated.
Our client awoke one morning to hearing her husband’s panic; their dog had suffered a seizure and was completely limp. She went to investigate. Her husband had begun to lift their dog into their car to take him to the animal hospital. Whilst being lifted, their dog had bitten our client’s husband’s neck and drawn blood. There was a large gash on his neck and blood was streaming out. Our client jumped in the car, with her husband in the back seat with the dog, and began to drive to the hospital for assistance with her husband’s injuries. Along the way, he demanded that she drive directly to the animal hospital as the dog had stopped breathing entirely. Our client then sped to the animal hospital and was captured by a speed camera at 6.30 am, travelling at 110 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. The animal hospital records demonstrated the dog’s admission at 7.00 am, and our client’s husband’s hospital admission records demonstrate his arrival at 7.30 am.
Our client was very remorseful for her behaviour and intended to serve her licence disqualification period, however, our office advised her that the defence of sudden or extraordinary emergency may be applicable in her situation, so her charges could be successfully challenged or withdrawn by the prosecution.
The defence of sudden or extraordinary emergency is s 322R of the Crimes Act 1958. It notes that:
A person is not guilty of an offence in respect of conduct that is carried out in circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency.
This section applies if:
a. The person reasonably believes that:
i. Circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency exist; and
ii. The conduct is the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency; and
b. The conduct is a reasonable response to the emergency.
- The section only applies in the case of murder if the person believes that the emergency involves a risk of death or really serious injury.
At the time of the offence, our client believed that the circumstances of a sudden or extraordinary emergency did exist. However, the circumstances related to her husband did not satisfy this test. A reasonable way to deal with that emergency other than to travel at such a speed would be to contact an ambulance on his behalf. However, our office made the argument that whilst this was an acceptable way to handle the emergency involving her husband, the emergency arising from the dog’s condition excluded other reasonable ways to deal with the emergency. Animal ambulances are currently not in existence. Our office was able to demonstrate that as the offending behaviour arose out of attempting to get their dog to medical treatment, rather than the client’s husband, the speeding was a reasonable response to that emergency.
Our office was assisted by our client in keeping constant records of the event, including admission and discharge summaries by the medical centres. Our office was thus able to show that the dog was attended to first, and then our client’s husband, which would support our argument that the dog’s emergency situation was dealt with by the offending, and could not have been handled in any other fashion.
As such, the prosecution was satisfied that if this matter was to be contested in court the defence of sudden or extraordinary emergency would be made out, and decided to withdraw all of the charges entirely.
Our client suffered no licence loss or other punishment, and left court without any charges, criminal record or demerit points. This was an exceptional outcome as the defence of emergency is a challenging one to establish. If you feel that you might have a defence to serious driving offences, call Dribbin & Brown Criminal Lawyers to get real advice about your prospects.