Julie Santarossa, LLB

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Impaired Driving

What is Impaired Driving?

Impaired driving is also referred to as driving under the influence (DUI).  In order for the Crown to obtain a conviction they must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a person's ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired by alcohol or a drug.  The Crown can attempt to prove their case by calling witnesses to demonstrate bad driving, odour of alcohol on a person's breath, slurred speech, blood-shot eyes, unsteadiness on feet etc. (although these factors, in and of themselves, are often not enough to lead to a conviction).  There are numerous defences to impaired driving charges such as vigorous cross-examinations of alleged observations of the supposed erratic driving, that such observations were incorrect, exaggerated or simply mistaken, and that this evidence is totally consistent with a sober driver. 

Also, alcohol on a person's breath does not necessarily mean that he or she is impaired, only that he or she had consumed alcohol in the near past.  Likewise, there are many innocent explanations for blood-shot eyes, coordination problems and slurred speech such as being extremely tired or nervous.  An accused person may call his own witnesses at trial.  All of this together may lead to a reasonable doubt in the Crown's case against you, allowing for an acquittal of the charges.

What Should You Expect?

A conviction for impaired driving is a criminal conviction.  For a first offence, the minimum mandatory punishment is a $1000 fine and a 1 year driving prohibition.  However, recently the government has created the Back on Track and Interlock Ignition Device programs that may allow you to drive as soon as 3 months, instead of the 1 year driving prohibition.  A second or third conviction for impaired driving will lead to automatic jail time and a loss of your licence for a lengthy period of time.  Overall, a conviction for impaired driving can result in:

  • A criminal conviction;
  • Loss of licence for a period of time;
  • Increased insurance fees;
  • Difficulty travelling to the United States; and
  • Serious jail terms for cases causing bodily harm or death.

You should contact our office to determine if you qualify for the Back on Track program or for legal advice for your impaired driving charge.