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Legislative changes decriminalizing impaired driving are a possibility in Ontario

  • February 6, 2018
  • by Will Davidson LLP
  • car accident, drunk driving, impaired driving, Ontario car accident lawyers, Personal Injury Lawyer, road safety, Will Davidson LLP,

In 2010, the British Columbia government enacted legislation that partially decriminalized drunk driving. Police officers were given power under the new rules to decide whether to file criminal charges or levy administrative sanctions against individuals who blew over the limit. Most first-time offenders were not charged, but had their licenses suspended for 90 days. After the initial three-months, they could recover their licenses by joining a year-long interlock program, or face a further 12-month suspension.

The results have been positive. After almost a decade under the legislation, road deaths related to impaired driving in British Columbia have significantly decreased. Now, other provinces are considering following suit.

The CBC reported on December 29 that Alberta was preparing to issue ‘a directive to police that will largely decriminalize impaired driving.’ As in British Columbia, the directive will replace criminal charges with administrative sanctions like licence suspensions, fines, and roadside towing.

Ontario – and Ontario car accident lawyers – may also see changes. In January, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada CEO Andrew Murie told CBC’s Ontario Today radio program that he enthusiastically supports the BC approach.

“The focus of that program is solely on things that might rehab and reduce recidivism, where the criminal code focuses more on a punishment,” he said. “Immediately behaviour changed [in B.C.]. People were continuing to go out and purchasing alcohol, but when it came to the actual act of driving their behaviours changed.”

Murie believes that impounding vehicles could be another effective alternative to criminal charges.

“… they wake up the next morning and realize, not only can they not go to work, they can’t make any family commitments, they have a lot of [explaining] to do,” he said. “So that swift, quick punishment really is a determining factor.”

Administrative sanctions are also far easier and much less costly to process than criminal charges. Today, impaired driving cases account for roughly 40 percent of trial time in Alberta’s courts. MADD believes the proposed legislative changes will reduce delays in the court system and prioritize the most significant offences.

Of course, the rumoured changes haven’t received unanimous support from the law enforcement and legal communities. Calgary defence lawyer Greg Dunn told the CBC that the new rules could be unconstitutional.

“Do we want a society where police officers are essentially charging, trying and convicting at the side of the road and the citizen doesn’t get due process?” he asked. “It’s not the judge making the determination, it’s not a jury making the determination, it’s the police making the determination.”

Impaired driving remains a serious concern for Ontario car accident lawyers, law enforcement, and members of the public. A 2016 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that Canada had the highest percentage of road deaths linked to drunk driving among 19 developed nations. If British Columbia’s approach has indeed reduced impaired driving-related deaths, other jurisdictions could benefit from following its lead.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident involving an impaired driver, contact the Ontario car accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today. Our team can help you access compensation for your injuries.

 

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