Criminal Law: Overview of Traffic-Related Offences
Civil Law versus Criminal Law Most traffic activity in the province is regulated in the civil realm through the Traffic Safety Act, including such things as:
· distracted driving,
· careless driving,
· and more
Depending on the type of offence, you could face a fine and demerit points that would appear on your driver’s abstract that is kept with the Alberta registries.
However, there are some types of conduct that when committed with intention or recklessness can amount to a criminal offense in Canadian law under our Criminal Code. This means that if you are convicted of the charges, they could appear on your criminal record as opposed to simply appearing on your driver’s abstract.
Consequences of Criminal Convictions
Criminal convictions carry serious consequences that affect your ability to:
· and other freedoms
For those who hold permanent resident or refugee status, a criminal conviction can also impact your ability to even stay in Canada.
Types of Criminal Driving Offences
Some types of intentional or reckless conduct are well-known for being offenses under the Criminal Code: such as if you were to:
· drive a car while impaired by drugs or alcohol (section 320.14), as well as any accidents you may cause as a result of that,
· drive a car in a dangerous manner to the public (section 320.13), and again, for any accidents you may cause as a result of that,
· fail to stop without reasonable excuse for an officer who is pursuing you (section 320.17)
However, perhaps a lesser-known criminal offence is if you fail to stop after an accident your car is involved in – section 320.16(1). Indeed, this section requires that if you’re involved in an accident – unless you have a reasonable excuse – you must stop your car, give your name and address information to the other people at the scene, and offer assistance to any person who seems injured or seems like they need help.
There are further consequences if you fail to remain at a scene where your car was involved in an accident that hurt someone (section 320.16(2)) or that resulted in someone’s death (section 320.16(3)). Note that there are also specific sections that result in charges where you failed to stop for an accident you were involved in where you were impaired by drugs or alcohol.
The Criminal Code is thorough in that if your car was involved in an accident, you should just stop and remain on the scene.
An Example from Our Case Law In the recent 2023 Manitoba case of R v Goodman (T.S.), Tyler Goodman, the accused (i.e. the person who was convicted of the charges), pled guilty to driving while impaired which resulted in the death of Jordyn Reimer, and he also pled guilty for failing to stop and remain at the scene. Tragically, Jordyn, the deceased, was a designated driver for her friends that night, and was struck by Tyler while she was on her way to pick up one of her friends.
In sentencing Tyler for the convictions, the court sentenced him to six years in jail for the charge of impaired driving resulting in death, as well as a further one year for the charge of failing to remain at the scene. His sentences were to be served consecutively, which means one after the other.
In closing – we encourage you to exercise caution and drive safely out there, and to be aware of the laws that are in place to protect us when certain incidents happen in relation to a car accident.