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Impaired driving is a term used to describe the crime of operating a motor vehicle while the operator’s ability to do so is impaired to any degree by alcohol or a drug. Section 320.14(1) (a)of the Criminal Code addresses impaired driving. The severity of the punishment is dictated by various factors, including the nature of the driving, whether there was an accident, the level of impairment, the driver’s blood alcohol concentration and the damage or harm that resulted from the offence.
Changes to the Criminal Code
A new bill was passed in October of 2018 that made the possession and consumption of small amounts of marijuana officially legal in Canada. In December 2018 parliament also passed new legislation (i.e. Bill C-46) that strengthened our impaired driving laws. Bill C-46 is meant to be a companion of the marijuana bill. However, it did not get the same warm reception or level of media coverage as the bill which legalized the possession of marihuana for personal use.
The companion bill has two interesting sections.
New Criminal Offences
The first details three new criminal offences for driving while impaired by drugs. Additionally, it also puts a limit on the quantify of drugs that are legally permitted in a motorist’s blood. Under the bill, an individual cannot operate a motorized vehicle within two hours of being caught over the legal limit. For example, assume a person is driving and is sober. The person then attends a bar and begins drinking alcohol. The police receive a 911 call that the person had been driving and swerved on the roadway before they attended the bar. The police then attend the bar one hour after the person finished driving and demand they provide an approved screening device breath sample. The person could potentially be arrested and charged with a DUI if their blood alcohol level (“BAC”) rises to 80 mg% or over at the time their BAC is tested by the police. In other words, an innocent and sober driver could potentially be arrested and charged with a DUI under the new law. Law enforcement is also granted greater power to conduct field sobriety tests to determine if a motorist is under the influence of drugs.
If police officers suspect your faculties may be impaired while you are driving, they are authorized to make you take the standard field sobriety test. Depending on the factual situation, they may also contact another police officer who is a drug recognition expert who will perform further standardized drug evaluation tests and potentially seize saliva, blood or urine for analysis in a lab. This may seem excessive, but in court, the burden of proof is on law enforcement to prove you were driving while impaired.
To possibly reduce your fines, minimize the length of a driving suspension or get the charges dismissed, contact a criminal defence lawyer immediately if you are charged with impaired driving.
Changes in Roadside Screening Tests
The second part of the companion bill authorizes police to conduct alcohol screening on motorists. The law has changed in that the police no longer need reasonable grounds to suspect the driver is impaired. In other words, the police could pull your car over to simply check your licence or insurance and demand that you provide a roadside approved screening breath sample even if they have no grounds to suspect that you have been drinking alcohol.
Police throughout the country are already performing field sobriety tests for impaired driving, so motorists may not notice any difference. In the past, law enforcement was obligated to have evidence that supported their claim that a driver was impaired.
That could be in the form of an erratic driving pattern or the smell of alcohol on someone’s breath. Now, however, police can now conduct sobriety tests anytime at their own discretion. In other words, police in Canada have the right to pull you over and demand a breath sample.
It is expected that there will be various constitutional challenges to some of the new Bill C-46 impaired driving laws essentially arguing that they are unfair and potentially penalize sober drivers.
Impaired Driving Defence Lawyers Serving Ontario
If you are facing charges of impaired driving, most likely you are very concerned about the consequences and what they mean for your future.
At Kruse Law, we have extensive experience defending cases of impaired driving by alcohol or a drug. We have a very strong record of providing invaluable counsel and winning DUI trials for clients with cases just like yours. We will explore all legal options available and discuss what you can expect with your case.
Call our office toll free at +1-800-699-0806 or schedule a free consultation so we can help by evaluating your situation today.