Culpable Driving Plea, County Court

The client was charged with culpable driving causing the death of his best friend, whom he had known since primary school. The two had been drinking at a 21st birthday party when the client became upset at a comment made to him by another party-goer.

What is alleged to have occured?
He went and sat in his car and the deceased went to console him, offering to drive him home. The deceased drove away from the party. At some point, the client commenced driving, lost control on a country road and driving into an embankment. The deceased was ejected from the car, dying almost immediately, before the car caught fire. Passers by pulled the client from the car. Both the client and the deceased had high blood alcohol readings.

What happened at court?
We represented the client at the Melbourne County Court.

The client was 21 years of age at the time of the offence, and 23 at the time of sentencing. He had voluntarily announced at the deceased’s funeral that he took full responsibility for the death of his best friend. He was a young man with no prior Court appearances and an excellent work history. He had remained close with the deceased’s family and they appeared to support him in Court as well as writing a Victim Impact Statement to the Court stating that they did not want the client to go to jail as he (and they) had suffered enough.

Sadly, the deceased’s family had lost all of their son’s memorabilia in the Kinglake fires – the client had rallied around his friends in an effort to replace lost photographs, as well as making a financial donation to the family and organising a water tank. He also offered to assist in the rebuilding of their home. The Judge took into account the age of the client, his lack of prior Court appearances, his obvious remorse, and the view of the deceased’s family that a jail term was not going to bring their son back.

What was the result?
Taking into account the sentencing issue of deterring other road users from driving whilst under the effects of alcohol, the Judge had no option but to impose a term of imprisonment to be immediately served. The client received a four year sentence of imprisonment, but was ordered to serve only 15 months before being eligible for parole. His driver licence was cancelled and he was disqualified from driving for a period of 2 years.
DISCLAIMER: This is a real case study of an actual case from our files. Details pertaining to the client have been changed to protect their privacy. The sentence imposed and the charge have not been altered. These case studies are published to demonstrate real outcomes and give an indication of possible tariffs in Court. We do not guarantee a similar case on these charges will get the same result. Please note that we post results at our discretion, therefore while many case studies are average results, others are notable for their exceptional outcomes. PUBLISHED 25/02/2013