Dangerous driving is often seen as the most serious of road traffic offences and even instances of dangerous driving that do not involve a fatality or serious injury can still result in a custodial sentence being considered on conviction.
The offence carries a minimum disqualification from driving for two years.
Dangerous driving is described as an “hybrid” offence, which means that either the District Court or the Circuit Court can hear the case. The choice of venue (i.e. district court or circuit court) will depend on the circumstances of the case, whether an accident occurred, whether injuries were sustained, whether the driver has previous convictions etc.
To secure a conviction for dangerous driving, the prosecution must prove that the manner of driving fell far below the standard of a competent and careful driver.
They must also prove that the driving was likely to cause danger of personal injury or serious damage to property. It is a high standard of proof in comparison with Careless Driving or Driving Without Reasonable Consideration.
Whether your driving is regarded as Dangerous Driving is a matter of fact and degree for the Court to decide and many factors must be taken into account including the nature of the road (road conditions), the expertise of the person alleging dangerousness against you, the amount of traffic present at the time and the conduct of other road users. Other factors will also be taken into account.
Attitude of the Court
Fundamentally, the Courts are not places devoid of feeling or an appreciation of the difficulties motorists face in their daily lives. They usually understand that in life, accidents and chance are rife. Unusual outcomes are the rule. The Courts do not wish to see motorists disqualified from driving unless it is absolutely necessary that they should be or if the law mandates (e.g. drink driving) that they must be, if convicted.
Negotiating with the Prosecution
There is a solution to a charge of dangerous driving that can result in a person keeping their licence. This solution involves a certain amount of negotiation between your solicitor and the prosecuting Garda Inspector in Court. In practice what happens is that if the facts of the case suggest that it is appropriate to do so, the State may agree to substitute the charge of dangerous driving (which carries a mandatory disqualification from driving) for one of Careless Driving (which does not carry a mandatory disqualification).
This approach is rather delicate and involves consideration of a number of factors such as speed, weather conditions, amount of traffic on the road at the time, previous convictions recorded against you (if any), whether an accident occurred and if it did, whether injuries were sustained, and if they were, whether your insurance has fully compensated the other driver.
Generally speaking, if you have a clean record and there are no compelling reasons for your disqualification, the Gardai will sometimes be open to the possibility of reducing the charge from one of dangerous driving against you, to careless driving. That sees you enter the court system with a charge that carries an automatic disqualification from driving and possibly leaving court with your driver’s licence intact.
It is important to note that having a charge of dangerous driving reduced to careless driving is not a right i.e. it is not an entitlement. The Gardai have issued a charge of Dangerous Driving against you and they do not have to consent to it being reduced to careless driving just because your solicitor has asked them to. This process involves a certain element of diplomacy and should not be entered into lightly.
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