In any criminal trial, the Crown prosecution must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt before there can be a finding of ‘guilt’ on any criminal charge. In fact, the Crown generally doesn’t proceed to trial on a criminal charge if they aren’t reasonably confident that they can win their case (i.e. the test is whether there is a ‘reasonable prospect of conviction’). This means that if the defence can raise a reasonable doubt that the accused did not commit the offence with which he/she was charged, there are grounds for having the charge dismissed.
In order for a person to be convicted on drunk driving charges, the Crown must provide good evidence that the driver was impaired, but there must also be indisputable evidence that the accused was actually driving. Sometimes, a vehicle is abandoned after having been involved in a collision and the vehicle owner is later located in a home or another location (not behind the wheel) and found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, anyone, such as a friend or family member, could have been driving the car when it crashed. Without any witnesses or video evidence that indicates the owner was driving at the time of the accident or driving at any time while under the influence of alcohol, there is reasonable doubt that the owner was guilty of a DUI charge.
In a 2015 trial, R. v. Lal, charges of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, impaired operation causing bodily harm and failure to stop at the scene of an accident, were dismissed because there was a reasonable doubt that the accused was actually driving. These charges were laid on a man suspected of driving an Acura that was speeding and subsequently crashed into another vehicle on a busy Toronto street. The ‘at fault’ driver immediately fled the scene, and no witnesses were able to describe the driver or how many people were in the vehicle. Both front doors of the car were found open.
Soon after the accident, Peel police answered a 911 call from a nearby homeowner, who reported a man banging on his front door. The alleged offender was seemingly under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and police soon discovered that his name matched the name on two traffic tickets found in the glove compartment of the Acura, where a Mason jar filled with what appeared to be marihuana was also discovered. During his trial, the accused man contested all of the charges. The judge remarked that it is a considerable coincidence that the accused was found in proximity to the abandoned vehicle and at the same time, acting in an out of control manner while seemingly attempting to break into a nearby residence. Nevertheless, the judge concluded “considering the evidence as a whole, it would be unsafe to conclude that the Crown has met its burden of proof, to a standard beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused was the operator of a the black Acura.” As a result, the DUI, dangerous driving and failure to remain charges were dismissed against the accused.
People from all walks of life can find themselves facing DUI charges, and it takes a fairly small amount of blood alcohol concentration to blow over the legal limit. Also, it is not unusual for someone charged with impaired driving to face multiple charges, such as dangerous driving and “over 80”. Due to the large number of accidents, serious injuries and fatalities attributed to drinking and driving every year in Ontario, police officers and the Crown treat these offences very seriously, and the consequences of any drinking and driving charge are significant. If convicted of a first time DUI offence, besides a fine and receiving a criminal record, you will lose your driver’s licence for a year and your motor vehicle insurance rates will skyrocket.
If you have been charged with a drinking and driving offence, call Kruse Law immediately. Our experience and success in representing clients charged with DUI offences is unparalleled. We will scrutinize the facts of your case and assess whether the arresting officers followed proper procedures down to the letter, and also determine whether there are any circumstances that may raise reasonable doubt. The fact that you were charged does not mean you will be convicted; the onus is on the Crown to prove your guilt beyond all reasonable doubt.