Being pulled over for impaired driving is a situation no one wants to find themselves in. If you have been involved in an accident and arrested for impaired driving or driving with a BAC above 0.08 (“over 80”), it is important to know quickly the appropriate steps to take.
Cooperate with the Police First and foremost, it is important to be respectful of and cooperative with the police. Any threats made to a police officer or any attempts to thwart the police’s actions may results in further charges against you. Never leave the scene of an accident - no matter how frightened you might be, wait for the police to arrive. Leaving the scene of an accident, especially where people have been injured, is a very serious offence. Expect the police to ask you questions, but this does not mean that you are obligated to tell them any information beyond providing your identification. The right to remain silent upon arrest is a fundamental right, and every person should have the opportunity to decide what to disclose to the police only after having sought the advice of legal counsel. Understand and Act Upon Your Rights Understanding your rights will help you know how to deal with an arrest for impaired driving. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees: • The right to remain silent (section 7, section 11c) • The right to be informed of the reasons for your arrest (section 10a) • Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure (section 7) • The right to seek and retain counsel (section 10b) As above, do not feel that you must give the police any information, other than your identity, upon arrest. Do ask to speak to legal counsel. Also ask what you are being charged with. It is important to understand whether you have been charged with impaired driving or “over 80”, and if there are any other charges as a result of the accident you’ve been in (e.g., impaired driving causing bodily harm). Being able to communicate this to an impaired driving lawyer at an early stage will help the lawyer determine what information needs to be gathered and what strategy is most appropriate in the circumstances. Record Your Recollections of the Events It is important to write down, as soon as possible after the accident, your recollections regarding what transpired. It is important not only to record your recollections with respect to how the accident occurred, but also your recollections relating to your interactions with the police and how you were arrested. In impaired driving cases and in other criminal cases, the police’s failure to abide by lawful procedures at the time of arrest, or seriously infringing on an accused’s charter rights, can sometimes result in charges being dropped against an accused. Retain a Criminal Defence Lawyer In Orangeville, Brampton or where ever you reside, it is important to retain legal counsel if you have been involved in a car accident involving impaired driving charges. Where another party was also in the accident (e.g., another driver or one of more passengers), it is possible that more serious charges will be laid against you if any person involved in the accident alleges s/he has been injured. The evidentiary issues involved in assessing whether there are any possible Charter challenges that could result in charges being dropped can be quite complicated and are generally best assessed by a lawyer. Further, a lawyer will be best suited to helping you determine whether you ought to take your matter to trial, how to plead at trial, or alternatively, whether it may be possible in your circumstances to seek a conditional discharge or plea bargain. Examples of Outcomes Impaired Driving Trials Lawyers cannot change the facts of a case. Sometimes, securing an acquittal for an accused will not be possible. However, an experienced criminal lawyer can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your circumstances. In a recent Ontario decision, the accused was involved in a car accident and was charged with two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm. Two people were seriously injured, and the accused’s blood alcohol level was notably above the legal limit. While the accused was incarcerated, the court noted that a mitigating factor in her 16-month sentence was the fact that she pled guilty prior to receiving full disclosure from the Crown. It is possible that, in the accused’s circumstances, her lawyer recognized at an early stage that acquittal would be unlikely, and that pleading guilty without forcing the Crown to exhaust its resources would help lighten her sentence. Further, the accused’s lawyer in this case was able to highlight several relevant factors that helped mitigate the sentence: the fact that the accused was a first-time offender, difficulties in her personal history, and prior struggles with substance abuse. In a matter at the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Crown appealed from the trial judge’s acquittal of the accused on both an impaired driving charge an over 80 charge. The appeal was dismissed, and the acquittal upheld. In this case, the accused and his lawyer were able to establish that the police officer had unlawfully arrested the accused, as the officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe that the accused was impaired. The court found that the unlawful arrest meant that the accused’s breathalyzer results must be excluded from evidence. Consequently, it was impossible to convict on the available evidence. Contact Richard Allman Law Office for an Impaired Driving Lawyer in Orangeville If you have been involved in an accident and have been charged with impaired driving, call us at 519-940-0415. We can help you protect your rights and achieve a favourable outcome.