What are criminal driving violations? Is there such a thing as a criminal traffic violation?

Driving a motor vehicle is one of the most regulated activities an individual can undertake.  From licensing and vehicle equipment rules and regulations all the way up to driving behaviour that can result in a period of incarceration, operating a motor vehicle is one area where the individual might expect to run into trouble with the law at some point in their life.  Driving violations are generally either traffic matters or Criminal matters, depending on the severity.  The vast majority of driving regulation is governed by provincial traffic legislation, in Alberta that is under the Traffic Safety Act.

What is a criminal traffic violation?

The phrase criminal traffic violation is not actually used legally.  Criminal offences relating to operation of a motor vehicle are generally referred to as Criminal Driving offences or charges.  Criminal Code Driving charges relate to behaviour that is often more serious in nature than the types of offences covered by traffic tickets but there is also quite a lot of overlap and the decision to lay a criminal charge instead of a ticket frequently rests with the peace officer investigating the incident.  These are the most common Criminal Driving offences:

Impaired Driving, Driving while “over 80” or Refusing to Provide a Breath Sample.  (Sometimes also referred to as Driving Under the Influence – DUI)

In Alberta, there is a now an Administrative system in place, often called “Saferoads Alberta” which treats the majority of Impaired Driving and other alcohol-related driving offences as Administrative Law matters covered by the Province of Alberta, and not resulting in Criminal Charges.  The Criminal Charges still exist, however, and the police have the discretion to proceed with criminal charges if there are aggravating circumstances, such as prior conviction(s) or if there was a collision or any injuries

Driving with a Suspended or Prohibited License

Driving with a Prohibited or Suspended License can sometimes result in a criminal charge. If you were previously convicted of a Criminal Code driving offence and received a court-ordered driving prohibition as part of your sentence, you would likely be charged with the Criminal Code offence of Driving While Prohibited if you were found operating a motor vehicle prior to re-acquiring your license.  This can be a serious offence often resulting in a period of incarceration.

Dangerous Driving

Dangerous Driving is a criminal driving offence where a person is found to be guilty of driving a motor vehicle in a manner that is objectively dangerous to the public.  Depending on the gravity of the traffic offence, dangerous driving can result in a summary offence or indictment. Summary offences can result in up to two years imprisonment, and an indictment of dangerous driving can result in a lengthy term of imprisonment. 

Hit and Run 

Criminal hit and run is the offence of “Leaving the Scene of an Accident”.  This is a serious criminal offence, particularly if someone is injured and if the driver is aware of that or is reckless to that fact.  If no one is injured this charge might only receive a fine, but in the case of injuries or serious property damage this is a serious matter that could result in jail.

What Should You Do if Charged with a Criminal Driving Violation ?

If you are charged with a criminal code driving charge, the first thing you should do is find an experienced criminal defence lawyer. A criminal defence lawyer with extensive experience in all types of driving violations is your best hope for a positive outcome for your case. Alleged criminal driving offences are very serious, and you need someone with years of court experience on your side!

Brian McGlashan has well over 25 years of experience in fighting all traffic violations, criminal code driving charges, and DUI cases in Alberta. Brian has extensive experience with Alberta traffic violations and his practice in criminal law has a primary focus on Impaired Driving Charges and all other Criminal Code Driving Charges. If you have been charged with a criminal driving offence or a traffic violation, you want Brian fighting for you! Contact McGlashan and Company if you’re charged with a criminal driving offence. We’re here to help.