What is Careless Driving?
Of the over 2 million traffic tickets issued in Alberta each year, driving while unauthorized is one of the most serious.
The relevant sections of the Traffic Safety Act of Alberta, state as follows:
Also according to the Traffic Safety Act, a highway includes any:
- thoroughfare, street, road, trail, avenue, parkway, driveway, viaduct, lane, alley, square, bridge, causeway, trestle way, or
- any other place that the public is ordinarily permitted to use with their vehicles.
The offence of careless driving captures everything from a step beyond a momentary inattention, to a step short of a criminal offence (such as Dangerous Driving) under the Criminal Code.
To be convicted of careless driving, the Crown Prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt that in light of the given circumstances in your case, you failed to use the care and attention or to give to other users of the highway the consideration that a driver or ordinary care would have used.
While your driving is not expected to be perfect, the question is whether you did what an ordinary, prudent, or reasonably prudent person would have done in the circumstances.
Investigation of Careless Driving Violations in Calgary
An investigation of an allegation of careless driving in Calgary is typically started by:
- a complaint from a witness to the alleged careless driving,
- a police investigation at the scene of an accident, or
- the police spotting you driving carelessly.
The police will request a written, audio, or video statement from the witnesses and launch an investigation.
With over 1,900 police officers, the Calgary Police Service has considerable manpower to devote to such investigations. It is the third largest municipal police force in Canada. The Calgary Police Service Traffic Unit is most likely to investigate. In the rural areas surrounding Calgary, the RCMP and Sheriffs have authority to investigate these offences.
Penalties for Careless Driving Violations in Calgary
The penalties for a careless driving conviction are serious:
- 6 demerit points;
- Up to $2000 fine (with a specified fine of $473);
- Up to 3 month driving suspension; and
- Up to 6 months in jail for the most serious of cases;
Secondary consequences for a careless driving conviction can include an increase to insurance premiums, and insurance liability if an accident has occurred.
Defending Careless Driving Violations in Calgary
What are the best defences to careless driving violations in Calgary?
With potentially serious penalties, you need a serious defence.
Typically, the best defences for a careless driving ticket are:
- Factual Innocence: this is usually the strongest defence. Your driving should not lead to a careless driving conviction if it did not constitute careless operation of a motor vehicle.
- Violation of Constitutional Rights: the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 sets out your rights before and after your arrest. If they were not followed to the letter by the police, it will aid your defence.
- Due Diligence: you can avoid a conviction if you can prove that you took all reasonable care that a reasonable person would have taken in the circumstances.
- Technical Defence: While the Crown Prosecutor can ask the Court to amend minor errors on your ticket, some fatal technical errors may result in your charges being dropped. For example, your ticket might be withdrawn if it does not have a date, if the police officer did not sign it, or if your name is spelled incorrectly. Moreover, the police only have six months from the date of the offence to charge you with careless driving.
Unlike for a criminal offence under the Criminal Code, the Crown does not have to prove that you intended to drive carelessly. The only thing that the Crown needs to prove is that your driving was careless. However, the burden of proof remains on the prosecution.
This means that there are many successful defence strategies that our experienced defence lawyers can take, including those outlined above.
Even if the charges proceed and you are found guilty, a good defence can greatly reduce the severity of the consequences.
What can a lawyer do to help me defend against careless driving violations in Calgary?
Our lawyers will thoroughly review your disclosure package and determine the best strategy for your specific case. We will then negotiate with the Crown to have your ticket withdrawn or reduced to something with less serious consequences for you.
If your careless driving ticket cannot be resolved, we will represent you at trial where we will call evidence, cross-examine any police and civilian witnesses, and make submissions to the Court.
Lawyers are licensed and supervised by the Law Society of Alberta, governed by a provincial Code of Conduct, and have a duty to act in your best interest. “Traffic agents” do not need a law degree and do not typically have any formal legal training. Our lawyers, in contrast, have extensive legal training and are subject to significant oversight.
If we raise violations of your Charter rights as a defence, your case will likely be transferred from Traffic Court into Provincial Criminal Court where the case will be argued in front of a Judge. Our lawyers are far better equipped to do so than “traffic agents”.
For more information about the difference between traffic agents and lawyers, and which one may be best suited for your case, please read our article entitled Traffic Offences & Violations Calgary.
What can a lawyer do to help me if I missed my court date for careless driving violations in Calgary?
If you fail to attend court on the date listed on your ticket, you will likely be convicted in absence. You will receive a Notice of Conviction in the mail at the address listed on your driver’s license, which will indicate the fine amount that you owe as well as how long you have to pay the fine.
If you had a reasonable excuse for failing to appear in person or to send an agent to appear on your behalf on your court date, one our lawyers can make an application on your behalf to “set aside” the conviction.
This application must be made within 15 days from the date the conviction first comes to your attention. It is therefore crucial that you call our office immediately and speak to one of our traffic lawyers if you were convicted of careless driving in your absence.
How can I help defend my careless driving violation in Calgary?
If you have been charged with careless driving in Calgary, the following can help your lawyer build a strong defence:
- Making a statement about what happened;
- Collecting and maintaining all documents and records about the event; and
- Gathering any photographic evidence that you may have.
As soon as you receive the ticket, start to gather any information that may be of use to your lawyer immediately.
If you are truly proactive about the matter, consider doing the following:
These steps can be very helpful to building an effective defence (or convincing the prosecutor to drop the charges altogether).
How can I fight my careless driving violation in Calgary if the court is closed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Traffic Court is still operating. The only difference is that people do not need to attend court. If you have a court appearance scheduled during the closure, you must contact the Traffic Court by telephone, e-mail, or fax to advise them of what you intend to do with your ticket.
You have the option of:
- not disputing your ticket but ask for some time to pay the fine,
- adjourn your matter, or
- plead not guilty and set a trial date.
If you do not contact the court by your scheduled court date, you may be convicted in the absence of a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
Where Can I pay a Fine for a Careless Driving Conviction in Calgary?
If you are convicted of careless driving and have to pay a fine, you can pay your fine in person, through the mail, or online.
- In-person: You can make a full or partial payment at a registry agent or at any Alberta Provincial Court location.
- Mail: You can make a full payment only through the mail by sending your ticket and payment to:
Provincial Ticket Production Centre
601 5th Street SW
Calgary, Alberta T2P 5P7
Payment must be by cheque or money order made out to the Government of Alberta, with your ticket number written on the back.
- Online: You can pay your fine online. You will need your ticket number and a valid debit or credit card.
As discussed, careless driving violations can be very fact-specific, and a conviction can lead to serious consequences.
We have tried our best to provide a general outline of what you can expect if you find yourself in this situation. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To learn more about how we can help, please contact our team of criminal defence lawyers to conduct a thorough review of your situation so that we can tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful defence.