Impaired Driving Lawyer Toronto
Over the years of my practice I developed a special expertise in defending my clients against various drinking and driving offences.
Although they do not sound serious and many people mistake them for simple traffic violations, the offences of impaired driving, impaired care or control, over ’80 and refuse to provide breath sample are criminal offences with long lasting negative consequences. If found guilty of any of those crimes, at a minimum, a person acquires criminal record, loses his driver license and is ordered to pay a fine. In addition, the car insurance premiums for people convicted of drinking and driving offences may sky rocket for a long time following their conviction.
Due to the policy aimed at eradicating drunk driving and overwhelming number of drinking and driving prosecutions, the government constantly tries to discourage accused from pursuing their cases to trial by taking away defences which were available to them before. Some of the government’s initiatives in this regard were found unconstitutional in November of 2012 by the Supreme Court of Canada.
However, people charged with the drinking and driving offences are still pressured into early (and often ill informed) guilty pleas by the prospect of regaining their driver license sooner. It works like this: under the Criminal Code, for the first conviction the accused loses his driver license for a minimum of one year, however, if you plead guilty within the first 90 days after the date of offence and if the Court and Crown Attorney do not oppose it, you can lose your license for three months and the remaining nine months you can drive as long as you enrol into the Interlock Program administered by the Ministry of Transportation which involves, among other things, an installation of special interlocking ignition device on any motor vehicle you drive which prevents you from starting the engine unless you have no alcohol in your system. I see many problems with this approach including the following:
- 1. The ultimate decision as to whether or not you are admitted into the Interlock Program is not up to the judge or the prosecutor and definitely not up to you, the decision is made by the Ministry of Transportation after you enter your guilty plea;
- 2. Once you plead guilty, you get a criminal record;
- 3. Often times you simply do not have time to properly assess your chances at trial because the materials required for your lawyer to properly advise you in this regard are simply not available within 90 days after the date of the offence. I had a case, for example, where my client was charged in August but his case first got to Court only in October and then no video recording made of him at the police station (showing whether he looked impaired) was not available until after the expiration of the 90 day period;
- 4. Even though you get your license sooner, you may still be unable to drive because your insurance premiums are so high that you simply cannot afford this luxury.
On the other hand, if you take your case to trial, the advantages include the following:
- 1. With the assistance of an experienced impaired driving lawyer you can beat the charges;
- 2. Even if you do not succeed at the end of the day, the new legislation still allows you to get your license back sooner than one year only in this case you cannot drive for six months and then can drive with interlocking device for twelve months (versus three and nine months in case of a guilty plea).
As you can see the incentive to plead guilty is not as compelling as the government would want you to think. In my opinion, in the current state of affairs it makes more sense to take your case to trial than plead guilty. However, if you want to fight the drinking and driving charges, you need a lawyer specializing in this area of criminal law to have a fighting chance.
The drinking and driving offences are indeed very complex and not all criminal lawyers even take them on. The defences are there but many of them are very technical and there are literally tons of precedents (previous court decisions) which may or may not be applicable depending on the specific fact scenario of your particular case. I usually walk into courtroom armed with briefcase full of different precedents which can be relied upon to advance one type of argument or another depending on how the evidence comes out at trial.
The police use different types of breath testing instruments to gather evidence of concentration in blood. The officer’s lack of knowledge or improper operation of breath testing device may afford you a defence and in order to challenge the officer on these issues the experienced impaired driving lawyer must himself have sufficient knowledge and understanding of workings of this equipment.
A lot of impaired driving cases are dismissed based not on the merits but on constitutional violations which occur in the course of interaction between the police and individual accused. Not surprisingly, a lot of famous Charter of Rights decisions which established general constitutional principles involved drinking and driving offences.
In many other cases, your impaired driving lawyer has to engage a toxicologist who may provide expert evidence on your behalf to establish your defence.
In short, a good impaired driving lawyer has to possess specialized knowledge of issues specific to impaired driving cases and also must have deep knowledge of the Charter jurisprudence.
One thing is for sure – “charged” does not necessarily mean “convicted” in most impaired driving cases as long as you have an experienced impaired driving lawyer by your side.