Under section 320.14(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, everyone commits an offence who operates a conveyance while being impaired by alcohol or drugs. A conveyance includes cars, vessels, aircraft and even railway equipment. You are considered to be impaired by alcohol when your blood alcohol concentration is .08 percent or higher, and it is an offence to be at or over a prohibited blood drug concentration for certain impairing drugs, including THC (at or higher than two nanograms of THC/ml of blood).
The Canadian Department of Justice has reported that impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. Consequently, charges of impaired driving are treated very seriously. Penalties for an impaired driving offence can range from a fine to life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offence.
However, each case is evaluated on its own facts, and there may be defences or factors which help to mitigate the charges and any potential penalties. If you are facing an impaired driving charge it is important that you speak with a qualified defence lawyer as soon as possible.
There are numerous ways that impaired driving can be defended. Below are some of the most common approaches. If you have been charged with impaired driving it is important that you contact an experienced lawyer so that they can assist in identifying all possible defences available to you.
In Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides several rights guaranteed to an individual upon their arrest. These include the right to not answer questions or the right to speak with a lawyer upon arrest.
Depending on the circumstances of an arrest, if the police violated any of your rights then that may be enough to justify the reducing or dropping of charges. Speaking with a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible following your arrest can assist in identifying if there have been any violations.
In cases of impaired driving the burden is on the Crown prosecutor to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. There are sometimes technicalities that the Crown is required to prove in cases of impaired driving that can impact their ability to do so. For example, if the breathalyzer test was not administered quickly or the machine was not appropriately operated or maintained, then the results may be called into question. Demonstrating the unreliability of test results can afford a defence.
When a police officer commences a traffic stop they need to have reasonable and probable grounds to do so. This is more than just a mere suspicion of impairment. Probable grounds are viable and credible reasons for pulling you over such as violation of traffic laws, dangerous behaviour, or driving excessively slow or fast. If there is evidence that an officer lacked probable grounds then that can amount to a violation of a person’s rights and a judge may be forced to drop or lower the charges faced.
Consequences for impaired driving extend beyond what can be found in the Criminal Code of Canada. The Ontario Highway Traffic Act also creates punishments in addition to criminal penalties. This includes a licence suspension between 1 year for a first-time offender to a lifetime for a third offence. Following a licence suspension, an individual will need to meet certain conditions before a judge can return their licence. This can include attending an educational or treatment workshop.
Being charged with impaired driving can cause massive disruptions in an individual’s life. Court proceedings can be timely and costly. Attending the appropriate court hearings can mean that individuals are forced to take time off work. The penalty of a licence suspension can cause people to lose their employment if they rely on being able to drive. Additionally, having an impaired driving charge on your criminal record can impact your ability to obtain future employment.
There are many factors which can impact the penalty you receive for an impaired driving conviction. For example, there are generally less severe penalties for first-time offenders but any following offence will receive harsher penalties.
· BAC of 80-119mg is a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000
· BAC of 120-159mg is a mandatory minimum fine of $1,500
· BAC of 160mg or more is a mandatory minimum fine of $2,500
· Refusal to be tested is a mandatory minimum fine of $2,000
· A criminal record
· Licence suspension or revocation
· A maximum of 10 years of imprisonment
· The second offence is a mandatory minimum of 30 days imprisonment
· Third or more offence is a mandatory minimum of 120 days imprisonment
· Impaired driving causing death can result in life in prison
· Having your vehicle impounded
· Having to attend rehabilitation or educational program
· Needing to install an ignition interlock device to drive a vehicle
Penalties for impaired driving are generally harsher for those found to be under the influence of both drugs and alcohol and those who refused to comply with giving a sample.
Driving while impaired by either drugs or alcohol can cause devastating accidents and is therefore taken very seriously by the Canadian criminal justice system. However, it is not impossible to defend against impaired driving charges.
The defences available to someone charged with impaired driving are very case specific. This is why it is so important to speak with an experienced criminal lawyer if you have been charged with impaired driving. They will work with you in building a credible defence to help minimize or eliminate any potential penalties.
The team at Pyzer Criminal Lawyers is experienced in defending against impaired driving charges and are committed to providing excellent service to their clients. For a free case evaluation call 416-658-1818 or visit https://www.torontodefencelawyers.com/