Charge: Drive with intent to menace ("menacing driving"); pursuant to section 118(1) of the Road Transport Act 2013.
Penalties: The penalties for menacing driving with intent are a maximum fine of $3,300; an automatic licence disqualification of 3 years; and a term of imprisonment for 2 years.
Case Summary: On our advice, our client pleaded "not guilty" to the charge and the matter was set down for a full day hearing. The allegations were that our client, whilst on the highway, was tailgating and swerving towards a carload of youths. At some point during the driving, it was alleged that our client angrily signalled to the driver of the car to pull over to the side of the road. The driver of the car did in fact pull over, stopping approximately 20 metres ahead of our client.
It was alleged that our client got out of the car and walked quickly towards the other car, waving his fists in the air.
As our client got closer to the other car, the driver of the other car accelerated quickly and pulled out onto the highway, to drive away from our client. As this occurred, a semi-trailer crashed into the car, at speed, writing off the vehicle and causing some injury to the occupants.
Our lawyer cross-examined the main witnesses, being the driver of the other car (the victim) and two of the passengers. It was put to the witnesses that it was their car that was swerving, "brake-testing" (ie, speeding up and then heavily braking in front of our client, almost causing him to collide with the car in front) our client, sticking their fingers up at our client and laughing and mocking our client as he asked them to pull over.
The truck driver also gave evidence and confirmed that he only witnessed our client walking towards the other car, when they were both pulled over at the side of the highway. He gave evidence that he saw our client waiving his arms at the occupants of the other car, as he quickly approached.
In cross-examination, the driver was forced to agree that the other car pulled out onto the highway, without indicating, contrary to what the driver of the other car asserted.
As we formed the view that the police had not properly charged our client, we did not spend too much time trying to contradict various parts of the evidence.
We then called our client to give evidence of his background and also his version. Our client owned a security business, did not have any previous criminal convictions (and could not afford to be found guilty of any criminal or serious traffic offence).
His evidence was that the driver of the other car was driving dangerously, while her passengers laughed and stuck their fingers up at our client; appearing to urge the driver on. Our client gave evidence that he formed the view that someone needed to talk sense into the young driver, as her actions were liable to cause a serious accident.
For that reason, our client gave evidence that he asked the driver to pull over, so that he could "tell her off" and impress upon her the importance of road safety, because her actions were immature and dangerous.
Our client agreed that he was waving his arms when approaching the car, after it had pulled over, because the driver accelerated quickly and drove off.
Submissions: The prosecutor argued in submissions that the police relied on the evidence given by the occupants of the other car that they felt intimidated and "menaced" by our client's manner of driving and that, even if the Court accepted that our client did not mean to scare the occupants of the car, the offence had been committed, because he should have known that his actions would amount to a menace.
The prosecutor also submitted that our client's aggressive approach when approaching the car at the side of the road also amounted to a menace. The prosecutor submitted that the Court could find our client guilty based on all his actions.
Our experienced traffic lawyer quickly pointed out to his Honour that the prosecution case had to fail, on both bases relied on by the prosecution.
Firstly, for the charge to be made out, it was a requirement that the menace occurred at the time of driving and further, that it was the way the car was driven that had to cause menace, not just the actions of the driver. Pulling over to the side of the road, waving his hands and even an intimidation at the side of the road could never amount to the charge.
Secondly, even when our client was driving behind and beside the other car, the Court had to find that our client intended his driving to be menacing. The prosecution's argument at the hearing that it was enough for the Court to find that our client ought to have known that his driving menaced the occupants, was incorrect, as our client had been charged pursuant to section 118(1), which required an "intent" to menace.
The Court was reminded that section 118(2), where a person could be found guilty even if they did not intend to menace, but ought to have known that they were menacing, was not an alternative charge and had to be charged separately, if to be relied on. For that reason, it was argued, the prosecution case had to fail, because there was not enough evidence that our client intended to menace the occupants of the other car, at the time and with his manner of driving.
Result: His Honour agreed with all the submissions and found that he had no option but to find our client "not guilty" of the charge and commended our lawyer for the way he ran the case.
Given that the other car was written off by a semi-trailer and the occupants received some injuries, if our client had been found guilty, he would have been disqualified for a long time and also faced the very real likelihood of a full time prison sentence and of course, the loss of his business.
Our client was therefore relieved that he instructed an experienced traffic lawyer of Prime Lawyers to properly analyse his case, provide him with the right advice and more importantly, obtain for him the right result.
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