Dangerous Driving and the Defence of Sudden or Extraordinary Emergency
Melbourne Magistrates’ Court
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 minimum of 12 months licence disqualification.
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, and 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 her husband’s injuries. Along the way, he informed her to 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 travelling at 110 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. Our client was captured by the camera at 6:30am. Animal Hospital records demonstrated the dog’s admission at 7:00am, and our client’s husband’s hospital admission records demonstrate his arrival at 7:30am.
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.
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 –
- The person reasonably believes that –
- Circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency exist; and
- The conduct is the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency; and
- 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 offending, the prosecution formed a view that the circumstances of a sudden or extraordinary emergency was not available because an ambulance should have been called. However, our office made the argument that whereas that is an acceptable way to handle the emergency regarding the husband, the emergency arising from the dog’s condition did satisfy the test as there are no animal ambulances (or not in that area). We then also collated material for the prosecution to demonstrate the time frames, ie the time of incident and the time of the animals admission to the veterinary hospitable.
We successfully convinced the prosecution that if this matter was to be contested in Court, the Defence of Sudden or Extraordinary Emergency would be made out, the prosecution agreed to withdraw all charges.
Our client suffered no licence loss or other punishment, and left Court without any charges, criminal record or demerit points.
This was a fantastic outcome because when the client first attended our office, it was for the purposes of representation in relation to a plea of guilty. This case highlights why it is so important that every lawyer properly assesses every case that comes before them rather than blindly accepting the client instructions, if it wasn’t for this client attending Dribbin & Brown Criminal Lawyers she would have served at a minimum 12 months off the road.Melbourne