Causing Death by Driving - an overview of the offences

Causing death by driving offences can only be dealt with in the Crown Court. 

The following offences are covered in this category:

  • Causing death by dangerous driving
  • Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving
  • Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs
  • Causing death by driving while unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured.

Causing death by driving offences are the most serious driving offences.

All of the above offences carry potential imprisonment. The most serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. At the lower end of the scale, causing death by careless driving can occasionally result in a community order (such as unpaid work) rather than a prison sentence.

In addition to custody, all of the above offences carry a mandatory period of disqualification. The offences of causing death by dangerous driving, and causing death when under the influence of drink or drugs, also carry a mandatory extended driving retest.

This page contains an overview of the different causing death by driving offences. If you would like to know more about a particular offence, please get in touch. 

We have experience in representing defendants in cases as serious as these. We recently defended an allegation of causing death by dangerous driving following a six day trial in the Crown Court. The jury's not guilty verdict was unanimous.

What are the penalty ranges for each offence?

The penalty depends on a number of factors, most of which are set out in Sentencing Guidelines. 

Causing death by dangerous driving

Maximum Penalty: 14 years in prison

Higher End: 7-14 years custody, with a starting point of 8 years

Mid Range: 4-7 years custody, with a starting point of 5 years

Lower Range: 2-5 years, with a starting point of 3 years

Driving Disqualification: The offence also carries a mandatory minimum 2 year disqualification from driving with the requirement to pass an extended re-test before driving again. 

Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving

Maximum Penalty: 5 years in prison

Higher End: 36 weeks - 3 years custody, with a starting point of 15 months

Mid Range: High level Community Order - 2 years custody, with a starting point of 26 weeks custody

Lower Range: Low - High level Community Order , with a starting point of a Medium Community Order. 

Driving Disqualification: The offence also carries a mandatory minimum 1 year disqualification from driving. The court has the discretion to order a re-test before driving again. 

Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs or having failed to provide a specimen or permit it to be analysed

Maximum Penalty: 14 years in prison

The Sentencing for this offence is more complicated due to the number of factors involved. The sentence depends not only on the level of drugs/alcohol or impairment, but also on the standard of the driving involved. 

Higher End: 5-14 years custody, with a starting point depending on level of alcohol/drugs and/or impairment

Mid Range: 4-9 years custody, with a starting point depending on level of alcohol/drugs and/or impairment

Lower Range: 18 months - 6 years custody, with a starting point depending on level of alcohol/drugs and/or impairment

Driving Disqualification: The offence also carries a mandatory minimum 2 year disqualification from driving with the requirement to pass an extended re-test before driving again. 

Causing death by driving while unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured.

Maximum Penalty: 2 years in prison

Higher End: 36 weeks - 2 years custody, with a starting point of 12 months

Mid Range: High level Community Order - 36 weeks custody, with a starting point of 26 weeks custody

Lower Range: Low - High level Community Order , with a starting point of a Medium Community Order. 

Driving Disqualification: The offence also carries a mandatory minimum 1 year disqualification from driving. The court has the discretion to order a re-test before driving again. 

Which court deals with these offences?

The following offences are triable only on indictment, which means that they can only be dealt with in the Crown Court:

  • Causing death by dangerous driving
  • Causing death by driving whilst disqualified
  • Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs

The offence of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving is "triable either way" which means it may be dealt with either by the magistrates court or by the Crown Courts. However, in reality it will more frequently be dealt with by the Crown Court.

Court Procedure for driving cases involving a death

All causing death by driving offences will have their first hearing in the magistrates court, regardless of their seriousness. If appropriate, the Magistrates Court will send the case up to the Crown Court to deal with.

The case can be sent to the Crown Court either for a trial to take place, or if a plea has been entered, for sentencing to be determined.

If you are represented, you will be given advice by your solicitor about whether your case is likely to be heard by the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. Sometimes you will be given a choice, and your solicitor should advise you on the pros and cons of both the magistrates court and the crown court. 

The Crown Court has greater sentencing powers than the Magistrates Court. However, just because your case is sent to the Crown Court, it does not necessarily mean that you will receive a greater sentence than the magistrates' powers allow.

The above is merely a summary of the causing death offences. It is not possible to explain fully the procedures and factors involved when dealing with these most serious cases. Therefore, if you find yourself facing a causing death by driving allegation, it is in your best interest to get specialist advice as soon as possible.

You may find that your car insurance provider is willing to pay your solicitor's fees and we can discuss this with you. It does not matter where in the country you are. 

Although Pragma Law is a relatively small firm, we have considerable expertise and experience dealing with these very serious offences. We will leave 'no stone unturned' when preparing your case for court, and you will always be dealt with by a solicitor, not a paralegal or a member of admin staff.

We have worked closely with specialist motoring barristers in previous cases. We will recommend representation only by barristers we know and trust. If you are paying privately for represenation, all of this will be done at a very competitive price.

If you are facing a causing death by driving offence, give us a call today on 0330 1330 081. We guarantee you will find us approachable, knowledgeable and helpful.