Negligent Driving Whilst Being Pursued by Police

Following on from our recent article on ‘Evading Police’, we explore the offence (including potential defences) of ‘negligent driving whilst being pursued by Police’. This offence differs from ‘Evading Police’ as it is considered a criminal offence, as opposed to a breach of the Victorian Traffic Laws.

The Offence

It is an offence in Victoria to drive a motor vehicle dangerously or negligently whilst knowing that you have been given an instruction to stop the vehicle by a Police Officer whilst Police are in pursuit of the vehicle.[1] ‘Dangerously’ means to drive a vehicle at speed or in a manner that is dangerous to the public. ‘Negligently’ means to drive at a manner which significantly breaches the standard of care expected from a driver under the same circumstances.[2]

For example, if you drive erratically at a high speed and refuse to pull over after noticing flashing red and blue lights and engage in a Police pursuit, you could be charged with negligent driving whilst being pursued by Police.

Elements of the Offence

The Police must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you:

  1. Drove a motor vehicle;
  2. In a manner that was dangerous or negligent;
  3. You knew, or reasonably ought to have known, that a Police officer provided a direction to stop; and
  4. A Police officer was in pursuit of your vehicle.[3]

For the purposes of this offence ‘vehicle’ does not include a vessel.[4] However, the Police pursuit element does not have to be at high speed to be established.[5]

Potential Penalties for Negligent Driving Whilst Being Pursued by Police

The maximum penalty if you are found guilty of negligent driving whilst being pursued by Police is 3 years imprisonment.[6] A conviction will also result in an automatic disqualification, cancellation or suspension of your licence for a period of time specified by the Court.[7] The offence is also classified as a Tier 1 Hoon offence and if you are found guilty, orders can be made to impound your vehicle (first offence) or forfeit the vehicle (second or subsequent offence).

Defences Available

Several defences are available to your negligent driving whilst being pursued by Police charge. Firstly, there may be a factual dispute regarding the identity of the offender, particularly if the vehicle was stolen. Secondly, if you can establish that you were not provided with a clear direction to stop the vehicle or the direction provided by the Police Officer was ambiguous, you may have a defence.

You may also be able to reduce your negligent driving whilst being pursued by Police criminal charge to the lesser charge of ‘Evading Police’ if you can successfully argue that you were not operating the vehicle in a manner considered to be negligent or dangerous.

It is important that you consult an experienced legal practitioner if you have been charged with a criminal offence as soon as practicable so that the best defence can be identified, based the individual circumstances of your case.

[1] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 319AA(1).
[2] Crimes Act 195 (Vic) 319AA(2).
[3] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 319AA.
[4] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 319AA(3).
[5] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 319AA(2)(c).
[6] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 319AA.
[7] Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) s 89 A.

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