If you have been charged with impaired driving, Winnipeg defence lawyers at Cassidy Ramsay are here to provide you with legal advice and to explain your options – and that is the #1 point you need to know if you are charged with a DUI: you have options. In this article, our Winnipeg impaired driving lawyers will discuss some of the important things you need to know if you are charged with a drinking and driving offence.
There are different types of impaired driving charges
The Criminal Code prohibits what is commonly referred to as “drinking and driving” but the actual legal terms for the offences are “impaired driving” and “over 80.” These are two separate offences at law, and in most cases, the police will charge the driver with both (though a person can only be convicted of one of the two). Here are the essential differences between the two types of charges:
The “over 80” charge means driving while exceeding the legal blood-alcohol limit. The prohibited blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is 80 milligrams or more (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood. It is important to note that there are consequences for registering a "warn" (a BAC of 0.05 to 0.079) on an approved screening device, and that there are separate prohibited levels for cannabis (THC), for alcohol and cannabis combined, and for other types of drugs.
The charge of “impaired driving” means operating a vehicle while your ability to do so was impaired to any degree by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two. The only requirement for a charge of impaired driving is that the ability to drive was affected to any degree by alcohol or drugs. In other words, a driver does not have to exceed the legal blood-alcohol or blood-drug limit to be charged with impaired driving, as this charge has to do with a witness such as a police officer observing “indicia of impairment” (e.g., erratic driving, slurred speech, blood shot eyes, smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath or in the car).
There are related charges in addition to charges of “impaired driving” and “over 80” such as the offence of failure or refusal to comply with a demand to provide a sample or perform a test. Depending on the circumstances, a driver may also be charged with criminal offences such as dangerous driving, impaired driving causing bodily harm or death, or failure to stop after an accident.
There are serious penalties for an impaired driving conviction
An impaired driving conviction can have a profound impact on many aspects of a person’s life, including possible employment and travel implications. Criminal consequences of pleading guilty or being found guilty depend on the specific offence and whether it is a first, second, or subsequent conviction. For example, a driver convicted of impaired driving or over 80 will be subject to a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 and a one-year driving prohibition for a first conviction. A second conviction would make the driver subject to a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days in addition to a driving prohibition. In Manitoba, all convicted impaired driving offenders are subject to a mandatory licence condition requiring them to use an ignition interlock device. There are other costs to consider, such as towing fees, vehicle impound fees, licence reinstatement fees, and increased Autopac and driver’s licence premiums. It is also important to note that the sanctions and Criminal Code penalties related to impaired driving apply to off-road vehicles, including snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, and construction or farm implements.
There are many possible defences to an impaired driving charge
Being arrested for impaired driving or over 80 is not the end of the story. A driver is not automatically guilty, even if they fail a breathalyser or are subject to a roadside suspension. The police make mistakes, including improperly charging a driver or violating a driver’s rights. Impaired driving defences can arise from Charter issues, for example, if the demand to provide a breath sample was not made within a certain amount of time, if the police did not inform the driver of their rights, or if the sample was taken without “reasonable suspicion” (at the roadside) or “reasonable grounds” (at the police station). A driver who has been charged with failing or refusing to provide a breath sample may have had a reasonable excuse for doing so. In all cases, the onus rests on the Crown to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. The failure of the prosecution to establish an essential element of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt will prevent conviction – for example, if the Crown cannot prove that the accused person was the driver, or if there are insufficient indicia of impairment to prove impaired driving beyond a reasonable doubt.
Charged with a DUI? Get legal advice from an experienced Winnipeg defence lawyer today
If you have been charged with impaired driving, the defence lawyers at Cassidy Ramsay are here to help. Our impaired driving team based in our Winnipeg office will explain your options and help you develop your defence strategy. Cassidy Ramsay is a law firm that has provided professional and knowledgeable legal services to Winnipeg and the surrounding area since the 1970s. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of Cassidy Ramsay’s defence lawyers, contact us by phone at 204-943-7454 or by using our online eForm.