Impaired driving – driving with an alcohol content over .08 mg per 100 ml of blood – is one of the most common criminal charges laid in Canada. Impaired driving charges and convictions can have a number of serious consequences, including license suspension, fines, a criminal record, impact on employment, and potentially prison in serious cases, such as repeat offenders or when causing property damage or bodily harm.
If you have been charged with impaired driving or a BAC over .08, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer immediately. Elliot Starer, a criminal defence lawyer serving Thornhill and Vaughan, can review the case against you to ensure your legal rights have been respected by the police. Where your legal rights have not been respected, the evidence against you may be inadmissible, leading to the possibility of you being found not guilty. When Can Police Demand a Breath Sample? Section 254(3) of the Criminal Code allows an officer to make a demand for a breath sample where he or she has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the person has committed an offence in the previous three hours. If a police officer fails to comply with this legal requirement, then he or she may be violating section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, and section 9 of the Charter, which protects against arbitrary detention. Failing to follow requirements of the Charter is what occurred in the recent Ontario case of R. v. Arunthava-Selvani. The accused was reported to the police by a tow-truck driver. The police attended the accident at 6:51 a.m. and they never verified when the accused was last driving. Because of this, the trial judge found the subsequent detention of the accused to require a breath sample to be arbitrary and it violated the accused’s Charter rights. Based on this and another Charter violation, the judge excluded the evidence, leading to the accused being found not guilty. Who Typically Testifies at an Impaired Driving Trial? Impaired driving trials generally have very few witnesses, though your lawyer can include the testimony of passengers in your car and any surveillance videos you or your passenger took. The Crown typically will call police officers you interacted with as witnesses. An experienced criminal defence lawyer can effectively cross-examine the officers to ensure the testimony they are giving is fair and accurate. In R. v. Zuniga-Plucker, the testimony of one police officer was deemed by the trial judge to be inaccurate. The trial judge stated the officer “appeared to have a strong interest in the outcome of the proceedings and his testimony often more closely resembled submissions that might be made by the Crown as opposed to an honest and candid recounting of events.” Through a vigorous cross-examination, the defence lawyer was able to point out multiple instances where the officer’s testimony contradicted the notes he wrote at the time of the investigation or the testimony of another police officer. The trial judge found violations of the Charter and found the officers “lack of candour and apparent willingness to attempt to mislead the court places the violations in this case at the very serious end of the spectrum.” As a result, the evidence was excluded leading to the accused being found not guilty. What Is Essential to Know? If you are charged, speak to a criminal lawyer immediately. Your DUI defence lawyer in Thornhill and Vaughan will advise you about how to handle the immediate encounter with the police. Do not assume you are guilty just because the breathalyzer reading is high; the mechanical device could have malfunctioned. Do not incriminate yourself as you have the right to remain silent. You have the right to speak to a lawyer before providing any information beyond your identity. Do recognize how serious a DUI charge is. Beyond the several hours spent in police custody, towing and impound fees, many more consequences may result. If you are convicted, your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, travel to the U.S., or later get into school may be adversely affected by your criminal record. You can also expect a minimum $1000 fine and minimum licence suspension for your first offence. Call Right Away and Speak to Elliot Starer, Criminal Lawyer in Thornhill & Vaughan Elliot Starer has nearly 40 years of experience as a barrister and solicitor. He has nearly 20 years of experience running his own law firm in York Region, and has dealt with numerous serious criminal law matters, including impaired driving. Mr. Elliot also brings experience to his law practice of being on the opposite side, as a former Crown Attorney. If you or someone you care about has been charged with an impaired driving or other offence, call Elliot Starer in Thornhill and Vaughan today. While the results of each case differ, we always give full and vigorous defence that ensures your Charter rights are respected. We will ask you questions about your specific situation and help find sources of evidence that may be helpful for you. Contact us at 905-764-0074.