Get the best defence when facing driving offences.
Driving under the influence
A driver may be charged with driving under the influence when their ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired by alcohol or drug consumption.
The impairment may be demonstrated by a number of observations such as unusual driving pattern, odour of alcohol, stumbling, slurred speech, etc.
The amount of alcohol consumed is irrelevant. The ability to drive does not need to be severely impaired but rather slightly impaired due to consumption.
Blood alcohol level exceeding 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood
Driving a vehicle with an alcohol level that exceeds 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood does not require proof of impairment. A driver may be found guilty of the offence when that level exceeds the threshold, regardless of whether his ability to drive is impaired.
Care and control of the vehicle under the influence
A driver may still be convicted of a driving offence if they are found to be in “care or control” of their vehicle following alcohol or drug consumption. If they are found in the driver’s seat, they are presumed to be in care and control of that vehicle, whether or not the vehicle is running, and whether or not the keys are in the ignition.
Drinking and driving: Possible consequences
There are three main offences in drinking and driving (DUI or DWI):
- Impaired driving: operating a motor vehicle or having the care and control of a motor vehicle while your ability to do so is impaired by alcohol or a drug
- Driving over the legal limit: operating a motor vehicle or having the care and control of a motor vehicle while your blood alcohol concentration exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.
- Failing or refusing to comply to a breathalyzer test
When you are arrested for a drinking and driving (DUI) offence, you not only face criminal charges but also face the possibility of losing your licence for a period of at least a year.
If you have been previously convicted of an impaired driving (DUI) offence, the consequences are greater. The law states that a second conviction can lead to a 30-day jail sentence.
In addition, as a first-time offender driving with a level that exceeds 0.08, your licence will be suspended by the Société de l’Assurance Automobile du Quebec for a period of 90 days. Penalties are also greater if your blood alcohol level exceeds 160 milligrams. You then risk the loss of your licence for a period of three years.
A second offence (in the last 10 years) will lead to a 90-day licence suspension, an impoundment of your vehicle and a mandatory alcohol and drug abuse risk assessment.
Driving while under prohibition
When a driver is found guilty of a driving infraction under the Criminal Code, the Court will suspend his licence for a definite period of time. Operating a motor vehicle during that period may lead to an additional offence of driving under suspension. The offence of driving while prohibited is defined in section 259 of the Criminal Code.
In case of a guilty plea, a driver risks another mandatory suspension, usually an additional year. Often times, prosecutors will ask for jail time, even for a first-time offender. This can be avoided.
A dangerous driving offence may occur when a driver operates a motor vehicle with reckless disregard for public safety. To prove this offence beyond a reasonable doubt, the Crown prosecutor must establish that the person was driving, that he consciously assumed control of the vehicle, and that driving was dangerous to the public.
The term “dangerous to the public” is established by examining all circumstances of the infraction, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated, the amount of traffic at the time, or what might reasonably be expected to be at that place.
A driver may face a driving prohibition in court if found guilty of such an offence. More importantly, the SAAQ will automatically suspend his licence for a period of one year in case of a first infraction.
Following an accident, a driver has the legal and ethical duty to stop and provide the other parties with his information. He also has the obligation to provide help to anyone who may need it. Failure to remain at the scene of an accident and provide assistance may result in criminal charges.
A driver’s explanations as to the circumstances of the offence will be essential to determine if there is a possibility of a defence. Just like the driving under prohibition and the dangerous driving infractions, a hit and run offence can also be prosecuted under the Highway Safety Code.
In case of a conviction, the driver may face serious consequences in court. The SAAQ will also automatically suspend his licence for a period of four years in case of a first offence.
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