Tis The DUI Season: Recent SCC Ruling, Breakdown of DUI Investigations, Tips to Remember and Penalties of Impaired Driving

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SCC ruling on impaired driving case
The recent Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruling on a case related to impaired driving sent a very clear message: drunk driving will not be tolerated and sentencing judges have the right to impose harsh sentences – even in cases of young or first time offenders. This explains the court’s decision to restore the initial 6 ½ year jail sentence given to the 18 year old-man convicted of two counts of impaired driving causing death. The decision comes in time for the holiday season in which the issue of drinking and driving is more widespread. The ruling may certainly play a factor in the outcome of the high-profile impaired driving case of 29-year-old Marco Muzzo who allegedly failed to stop while impaired and caused four deaths.
The SCC ruled that trial judges must have the discretion to impose strict sentences in order to satisfy sentencing objectives of denunciation and deterrence with respect to impaired driving. That being said, while our justice system provides protection from suffering disproportionate punishments merely for the purposes of sending a message to the community to deter others, the court stressed the need to protect young people from drunk drivers who may also be young.
Breakdown of police DUI investigations
  1. If you’re driving a motor vehicle, the police can randomly stop you to check to see if you are impaired (as part of a traffic stop or a RIDE program).
  2. In order to be detained for the purposes of drinking and driving investigation, the police need a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that you have consumed alcohol.
    1. This is a very low threshold and can include admission of consumption, odour of alcohol, slurred speech, swerving, etc.
  3. In order to make an arrest and charge you with DUI, the police must form reasonable and probable grounds.
    1. This is typically done by obtaining a breath sample at the roadside using an approved screening device (ASD) / handheld breathalyzer
  4. You are required to provide a breath sample, if an officer makes a demand.
    1. If you refuse, you will be charged with a separate Criminal Code offence of fail to provide/refuse to blow.
  5. If you ‘fail’ the breath test, you will be taken to the nearest police station where two more breath samples will be taken.
  6. In addition to a charge of impaired driving, if your breath sample results are in excess of 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood, you will be charged with ‘over 80’.
Important DUI tips to remember
  • Upon being pulled over, the police may question you about how much you have had to drink before informing you of your rights to counsel. You do not have to answer such questions.
  • Any admission of consuming alcohol made to a police officer can be used against you (e.g. it may form part of the reasonable suspicion/grounds to continue a DUI investigation/lay charges)
  • The police may demand that you perform physical coordination tests at the roadside. You are obligated to comply.
  • The police officer may demand you provide a breath sample. You must comply.
  • If you are asked any questions or asked to conduct a physical coordination test at the police station by a police officer who is operating the breath testing device, you do not have to respond to any questions or comply as you are not under any obligation to do so.
  • You do not have to be driving a vehicle in order to be charged with DUI; you can be charged if you are in ‘care and control’ of the vehicle. If you have been drinking, avoid sitting in the driver’s seat or entering the vehicle at all.
  • When exercising your rights, always treat police officers with respect and be polite.
  • If you’re planning on drinking alcohol, do NOT drive.
Penalties for DUI convictions
The penalties for DUI-related offences including impaired driving, over 80, or refuse to blow are severe and can include a combination of the following:
  • 90 day Automatic Drivers License Suspension (ADLS)
  • Drivers license suspension periods ranging from 1 year on a first offence to a lifetime ban for a third offence (Ontario Highway Traffic Act suspensions are in addition to suspensions under the Criminal Code of Canada)
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock at your expense
  • Fines of $1,000 for first offence
  • Completion of an educational or treatment program (e.g. Back on Track)
  • Minimum jail sentences on subsequent offences ranging from 30 days to 120 days
  • Increase in insurance premiums or inability to obtain motor vehicle insurance
  • Criminal record which may limit your employment opportunities or ability to enter certain countries while travelling
If you or anyone you know has been charged with a DUI or any other criminal offence, please contact Farjoud Law at 647-606-6776 to speak to a Criminal Lawyer.
Farjoud Law hopes you have an enjoyable and safe holiday season and we wish you all a happy new year.
Please note that this article is solely for informational purposes and should not be considered legal advice. Please consult a lawyer prior to acting or relying on any information in order to ensure the protection of your rights and interests.


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