Few of us are perfect drivers; we’re only humans, and humans make mistakes. Should a momentary lapse in judgement lead to a prison sentence? Or should drivers who make mistakes be given the benefit of the doubt?
Some would argue that all drivers have the responsibility to be mindful of other vehicles on the road. Others would say that the court should forgive those who make a mistake, even if it affects other drivers.
In the court case R. v. Chung, dangerous driving resulted in a fatal collision. Over five years, the case was heard in multiple levels of court. Chung was initially acquitted of all charges by Provincial Court Judge Gregory Rideout. Then, the verdict was overturned in the Court of Appeals, which resulted in a guilty conviction. We’re going to provide an overview of this case and the reasoning behind each verdict:
In 2015, Ken Chung accelerated to 139 km/hr as he entered an intersection. The speed limit was only 50 km/hr. He mistimed the distance between his vehicle and an oncoming car, causing a collision with Dr. Alphonsus Hui. The crash resulted in Hui’s death.
In 2018, Chung was acquitted of dangerous driving charges by provincial trial judge, Justice Rideout.
The central question of the case was this: did Chung’s actions demonstrate negligence of care? Could he have intended to drive dangerously if he only sped for a few moments, despite the collision that claimed the life of the victim? The trial judge deemed that no, he could not, and acquitted him of all charges.
There was no question that he committed a dangerous act, which is referred to as an actus reus. But Justice Rideout reasoned that Chung was only speeding for a brief time. Therefore, he lacked the mens rea (or criminal intent) required for a guilty conviction.
This verdict was met with controversy. The family of the victim, along with the community, believed that Chung should not have been acquitted. An appeal was filed, which brought the case to The Supreme Court of Canada.
This appeal was analyzed by the Supreme Court in Canada in 2020. They found that, although Chung only sped briefly, he was still accelerating at three times the speed limit. The initial provincial judge’s decision was based on an error of law, wherein Justice Rideout focused on how Chung was only speeding for a few moments. This error in judgement was partially blamed on how overworked the trial court system can be.
Justice Martin of the SCC deemed that it still amounted to dangerous driving to make that split-second decision. In the end, the SCC declared that Chung was guilty of the charges. The case wrapped up almost five years after the initial collision.
R. v. Chung demonstrates the complexities of a criminal court case. Even if someone is acquitted of their charges, the case might be appealed and the verdict overturned years later.
Navigating the complexities of dangerous or impaired driving charges is never easy. Without a criminal lawyer, there’s no telling what might happen once a trial is in session. If you need a Winnipeg DUI lawyer, we can help. For legal representation, contact Brodsky Amy & Gould today.