Driving Offences

Ontario Judge Strikes Down Mandatory Minimum Sentence for Indigenous Offender Convicted for Impaired Driving

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Justice Paul Burstein has declared that Canada’s impaired driving laws are unconstitutional.

Justice Burstein ruled in the case of R. v. Luke that the mandatory requirement for a criminal conviction of a first impaired driving offence violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Morgan Luke (“Luke”) is a 22-year-old Indigenous woman from the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.  She was raised by her mother and maternal grandparents.  Her Aboriginal ancestry is derived from her father, who she did not see much as she was growing up.  He was a drug addict, alcoholic and had a lengthy criminal record. 

As she grew older, Luke began to spend time at the Scugog Island reserve, participating in cultural activities and working summer jobs.  She also had contact with her paternal family on the reserve.

Luke’s mother became ill when she was 15 years old, at which point she began spending more time with her father and moved to the Scugog Island reserve for 2 years.  She began abusing drugs and alcohol and dating an older man who was a serious drug addict.

On November 4, 2017, Luke took her mother’s car without consent.  She accelerated quickly out of the parking lot, causing the back of the car to slide out.  She overcorrected and the car hit a curb and left the ground.  The car landed on the sidewalk, just missing a lamp post. 

Luke proceeded along Highway 7A when she was stopped by the police.  The officer noticed a strong odour of alcohol on her breath and she admitted to having consumed alcohol.  She was arrested for impaired driving and breath tests showed that her blood alcohol concentration was almost three times the legal limit. 

According to Luke, she had been drinking all afternoon as she was upset after seeing her cousin with her boyfriend.

Following her arrest, Luke began counselling with two professionals associated with the Scugog First Nation.  She has stopped using drugs and alcohol and has plans to finish high school and become a youth worker on the reserve.

THE CONSTITUTIONAL ARGUMENTS

Luke pleaded guilty to the charge of driving while impaired by alcohol.  Section 255(1) of the Criminal Code provides a mandatory minimum sentence of a fine of not less than $1,000 to an individual who has been found guilty of impaired driving for the first time.  This would result in a conviction and a criminal record.

According to section 730 of the Criminal Code, a court may grant an absolute or conditional discharge when it is in the best interest of the individual and is not against the public interest.  A discharge of this nature does not result in a criminal conviction or a criminal record.   However, under this section of the Criminal Code, discharges are not available to offenders who have been found guilty of offences that hold a mandatory minimum punishment.

Luke challenged the constitutionality of section 255 of the Criminal Code as it applies to the sentencing in her case.  It was Luke’s position that section 255(1), which prevents the consideration of a discharge, violates her rights under the Charter.   It was argued that the legislation provides a mandatory minimum sentence rather than allowing for a consideration of a discharge, thus allowing a punishment that is “grossly disproportionate” to an otherwise appropriate sentence.

On the other hand, the prosecuting Crown lawyers argued that section 255 does not violate the Charter, given the seriousness of the offence of impaired driving.  Although the mandatory minimum punishment may seem disproportionate in some cases, it is not “grossly” disproportionate, which is the requirement for a Charter violation. 

It is well-established law that legislative provisions which provide mandatory minimum sentences that are “grossly disproportionate” to an appropriate sentence will be found to infringe the Charter.  A court must consider the following in these circumstances:

  1. What would be the appropriate sentence for the offence taking into account the circumstances of the offence and of the offender?
  2. Is the prescribed mandatory minimum sentence grossly disproportionate to the otherwise appropriate sentence for the offender?
  3. If not grossly disproportionate for the offender before the court, could “reasonable foreseeable applications” of the mandatory minimum sentence result in grossly disproportionate sentences for other hypothetical offenders?

If the court finds that the mandatory minimum sentence would be grossly disproportionate for either the offender or another hypothetical offender, it must find that the provision is inconsistent with section 12 of the Charter.

OFFENDER’S INDIGENOUS STATUS CONSIDERED IN RULING

Justice Burstein stated that the mandatory minimum sentence prevents him from considering several factors fundamental to a just and appropriate sanction, including:

  1. She is a young first time offender with strong rehabilitative potential;
  2. The offence was motivated by her alcohol addiction and her continued treatment is expected to effectively deal with this issue; and
  3. The offence was connected to her Aboriginal background and her Aboriginal heritage provides for rehabilitative and restorative sentencing options.

Justice Burstein found that imposing the shame of a criminal record for impaired driving would amount to a grossly disproportionate sentencing implication for Luke.  Justice Burstein wrote:

On the facts of this particular case, I find that it would not be contrary to the public interest to grant Ms. Luke a conditional discharge and thereby relieve her of the lasting consequences of a criminal record.  I am satisfied that a driving prohibition and two years of probation will adequately achieve the level of denunciation and deterrence required in this particular case, while still respecting the importance of Ms. Luke’s rehabilitative potential.

Justice Burstein granted Luke a conditional discharge with various conditions, including to attend counselling and treatment, perform community service work, attend school or maintain a job, and to only operate a motor vehicle when travelling to or from work, school or counselling appointments.

If you have been charged with impaired driving or any other driving offence, please contact the experienced criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer 24-hour phone service to ensure you have access to justice at all times.

Can I Be Charged for Being Impaired While Canoeing?

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Justice Peter West is the first judge in Canada to provide a ruling that a canoe is a “vessel” for the purposes of the criminal charges of impaired operation of a vessel causing death, operation of a vessel over 80, and the dangerous operation of a vessel.

According to the Canadian Red Cross, following 18 years of research on all deaths involving boats in Canada, more than 40% of recreational boating deaths are alcohol related.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On April 7, 2017, Thomas Rancourt (“Rancourt”), eight-years-old at the time, had gone for a canoe ride with his mother’s boyfriend, David Sillars (“Sillars”), on the Muskoka River on a cold spring day in Bracebridge, Ontario. 

The canoe capsized and Sillars was able to escape and swim to shore.  However, Rancourt continued down the river and had gone over the falls.  A search led to the discovery of Rancourt, where he was pulled from the icy water, CPR was immediately  administered and he was rushed to hospital.  He died shortly thereafter. 

Rancourt did not know how to swim and was wearing a lifejacket that was too small for him. 

Sillars was charged with impaired operation of a vessel causing death, operating a vessel with more than 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood, dangerous operation of a vessel, and criminal negligence causing death.

Sillars pleaded not guilty to all four criminal charges.  The Judge in this case has reserved his judgment.  We will provide information regarding the judgment in this case and any updates in this blog when they become available.

THE RULING THAT A CANOE IS A ‘VESSEL’ UNDER THE CRIMINAL CODE

Last fall, Justice West was asked to consider whether a canoe is included in the term “vessel” contained in the specific sections of the Criminal Code related to the case against Sillars.

The definition of vessel in section 214 of the Criminal Code of Canada does not specifically include a canoe, it merely states that a vessel “includes a machine designed to derive support in the atmosphere primarily from reactions against the earth’s surface of air expelled from the machine”. 

Justice West ruled that it was clear that as a result of growing concern that the public was not taking the regulations as set out in the Small Vessel Regulations under the Canada Shipping Act seriously that the term vessel was added to a number of offences in the Criminal Code in 1961, including the offence of dangerous operation of a vessel, impaired operation of a vessel, and operating a vessel with the blood alcohol concentration over 80 mg.  The wording was added to provoke members of the public to take the safe operation of pleasure crafts more seriously and therefore attach a criminal stigma to these offences.

Vessel was also added to these offences due to the increase in the number of pleasure crafts being used on waterways throughout Canada.

Justice West stated:

[O]perating any type of vessel on a lake or river or sea requires some level of competency and knowledge as to the proper operation of the vessel and an awareness of the rules and regulations which govern safety on the water.

The danger of harm is to the person or persons operating the canoe, or the passengers in the canoe or other persons operating small vessels in the vicinity or those coming to assist when an emergency occurs as a result of the person operating the canoe being impaired, over 80 or operating dangerously.

The fact is, like impaired drivers, the impaired operation of a pleasure craft presents a continuing danger on the waterway.  The goal is to screen operators of a vessel before there is an accident or emergency situation.  These inherent dangers of operating a ‘vessel’ on the water affect all operators of small vessels on Canada’s lakes and rivers and territorial waterways.

Justice West ruled that that the danger of harm is no different when one’s ability is impaired whether they are operating a motor boat with a five horsepower motor, a motor boat with a 150 horesepower motor, or a canoe.  Each of these acts justifies the stigma of a criminal sanction.

DRUNK BOATING IN ONTARIO

Drunk boating is equivalent to drunk driving.  Under the Criminal Code, if you are operating a boat, including a canoe, while impaired (80 mg of alcohol per 100 mg of blood), you are committing an offence under the law. 

Marine police can perform spot checks on waterways, the same as police do on our roadways.  Police can look for signs that a paddler is impaired.  The same rules that apply on land, apply on water.  In Ontario, if you are convicted of impaired operation of your boat, the consequences will extend to your privileges to drive your automobile.

If you have been charged with an impaired driving or any other driving offence, whether on land or water, please contact the experienced criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.  Contact our office online or at 905-404-1947.

Police Services Launch Project ERASE to Target Dangerous Drivers

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

On May 10, 2019, Durham Regional Police, OPP and police services across Ontario launched their annual campaign “Project E.R.A.S.E.” to eliminate street racing from our roadways. 

The operation utilizes police in the air and on the ground to stop dangerous driving that endangers the safety of the participants, spectators and other innocent vehicles on the streets.

WHAT IS PROJECT ERASE?

ERASE stands for “Eliminate Racing Activity on Streets Everywhere”.  This campaign started in 1996 and includes 22 police services (some of which include York, Durham, Peel, Halton, South Simcoe, Barrie, Waterloo and Toronto), the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Transportation.  These police forces work together and provide resources such as planes, helicopters, unmarked vehicles and specially trained officers aimed at cracking down on street racing, stunt and aggressive driving in Ontario.

High speeds on our roadways is extremely dangerous.  Driving in this manner makes it difficult to stop safely if there is an emergency, if a car pulls out in front of the driver, or if a child runs into the roadway. 

Excessive speed was directly related to 10,000 motor vehicle collisions on OPP-patrolled roads last year alone.  In 2018, OPP laid a total of 5770 street racing charges.   According to the OPP, there have been more than 750 stunt driving charges laid in the Greater Toronto Area this year.

York Regional Police Insp. Ed Villamere stated:

Our mission is to change aggressive driving behaviour through education, awareness and strict enforcement of both the Highway Traffic Act and the Criminal Code of Canada. … If you are hooked on street racing, rest assured you will be hooked up in handcuffs, your car will be hooked up and impounded, and your driver’s licence will be suspended.

WHAT IS STREET RACING AND STUNT DRIVING?

Street racing is illegal and is defined under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (section 172(1)):

No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway in a race or contest, while performing a stunt or on a bet or wager.

A regulation entitled “Races, Contests and Stunts” found in the Highway Traffic Act provides a list of behaviours that can encompass “stunt driving”.  Such behaviours that violate the law may include:

  • Exceeding the speed limit by 50 km/h or more;
  • Causing a vehicle to spin or circle;
  • Causing one or more wheels of a vehicle to leave the ground;
  • Driving without due care or attention;
  • Preventing another vehicle from passing;
  • Two or more vehicles driving side-by-side where at least one of the vehicles occupies a lane intended for oncoming traffic;
  • High speeds decreasing a driver’s ability to react to pedestrians and other motorists;
  • Loss of control of a vehicle because of speed or unsafe maneuvers;
  • Rollover hazards.

Unlike a typical speeding ticket, if you are charged with street racing or stunt driving, you will be subject to a 7 day administrative driving suspension, a 7 day vehicle impound and impound fees. 

If you are convicted of these offences, pursuant to section 172(2) of the Highway Traffic Act, there are even more severe penalties, which may include:

  • A fine ranging from $2,000 to $10,000; and/or
  • Imprisonment for a term of not more than six months; and
  • A driving suspension, which can last up to 10 years in some cases.

The consequences of street racing and stunt driving become even more serious if charges of careless driving or careless driving causing bodily harm or death are involved. 

If a driver is convicted of careless driving, he/she will face a fine of up to $2,000, six demerit points, and/or a jail term of six months, and a licence suspension of up to two years.

If a driver is convicted of careless driving causing bodily harm or death, he/she will face a fine of no less than $2,000 to the maximum of $50,000, six demerit points, and/or imprisonment up to two years, and a licence suspension of up to five years.

STREET RACES AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Some drivers communicate and coordinate illegal activities, such as street racing, through social media. 

OPP Supt. Tony Cristilli advises:

They run so-called qualifying races in municipalities around the GTA and often hold final races on our 400 series highways patrolled by the OPP.  Take it to the race track where it belongs.

Police are encouraging the public to report any information regarding street racing activity or videos found on social media of street racing or dangerous driving behaviours in Ontario.

According to OPP Supt. Tony Cristilli:

There are different forms of communication these days and social media is definitely one platform that’s used to communicate these activities.  Obviously that reaches a broad spectrum of people that are out there that’s on social media who could easily advise the police.

If you are facing a street racing or stunt driving charge or any another driving offence, please call the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP at 905-404-1947 or contact us online.  We offer a free consultation, and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Truck Driver in Brocos Bus Crash Sentenced to Prison

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu (“Sidhu”) was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty in January to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Sidhu was the semi-truck driver involved in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in rural Saskatchewan on April 6, 2018.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The accident occurred when Sidhu drove through a stop sign and collided with a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team that was heading to a playoff game. Sidhu was traveling between 86 and 96 km/h. He passed four signs warning him about the upcoming intersection that had an oversized stop sign with a flashing light.

A forensic collision report found that Sidhu did not brake at the intersection of Highway 335 and 35 before colliding with the bus. The report also indicated that Sidhu’s view of the intersection was not impeded by any environmental factors, such as trees or sunlight.

At the conclusion of the four day sentencing hearing, Sidhu apologized to his victims and took full responsibility for the crash. He stated that the accident occurred due to his inexperience as a truck driver.

More than 90 victim impact statements were presented to the court by friends and families of the victims and hours of arguments were made by lawyers. The victim statements were emotional with some families stating that they were able to forgive Sidhu, while others admitted that they would never be able to forgive him for his role in the accident.

Sidhu’s lawyer explained that he had been hired by a small Calgary trucking company three weeks prior to the accident. He spent two weeks with another trucker and then began driving on his own. Sidhu was apparently distracted by a tarp flapping on the trailer of the truck which resulted in his missing the four warning signs regarding the upcoming intersection. His lawyer advised the court that sentencing in cases of dangerous driving ranged from 18 months to 4 ½ years.

The Crown prosecutor argued that Sidhu had enough time to slow down and stop and described Sidhu’s driving as entering the intersection “like a rocket”.  He argued that Sidhu should receive a 10-year prison sentence, followed by a 10-year driving ban.

THE SENTENCE

Judge Inez Cardinal provided her sentencing decision in a makeshift courthouse at the Kerry Vickar Centre. The victim’s family and friends wore Broncos jerseys with the last names of their loved ones on the back.  Judge Cardinal began handing down her sentencing decision by reading the names of each of the victims aloud. She described the victims as:

…gifted athletes, community leaders, and team builders with hopes and dreams for the future…Some were dreaming of having a family, while others were already raising their families.

 Judge Cardinal recognized that there has been no similar case in Saskatchewan or Canada given the number of fatalities and injuries. She acknowledged that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea spared the victims’ families a lengthy trial and saved him from a maximum sentence of 14 years.

Judge Cardinal stated:

It is baffling, and incomprehensible, that a professional driver, even one with little experience, could miss so many markers over such a long distance. His inattention displays risky behaviour given he saw the signs but they did not register because he continued to focus on the trailers behind him.

Sidhu was sentenced to eight years for each count of causing death, and five years for each count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. The sentences are to be served concurrently as they all arise from the same circumstances, which means the sentences will be served simultaneously.  Sidhu was also given a 10-year driving ban, a firearms prohibition, and is required to provide bodily samples for the purpose of DNA analysis.

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Sidhu grew up in India and came to Canada in 2013. He is a permanent resident, not a Canadian citizen. As a result of his conviction and sentence, Sidhu will face deportation to India.

Under Canada’s federal law, permanent residents cannot remain in Canada if they commit a crime for which the maximum sentence is at least 10 years or their jail sentence is more than six months.

As a result of this accident, the Saskatchewan government has undertaken to make changes to the intersection where the crash occurred, promising to add rumble strips and better signage.  The government has also promised to put millions of dollars into improvements at other intersections.

Although there is mandatory training for semi-truck drivers in Ontario, training for semi-truck drivers in Saskatchewan only became mandatory last week. Training for drivers across the rest of the country will also become mandatory in 2020.

If you are facing a dangerous driving charge or need to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about criminal charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are available when you need us most.

New Harsher Penalties Are in Force for Distracted Drivers in Ontario

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

When the clock struck midnight on December 31, 2018, stiffer fines and long-lasting penalties for distracted drivers began in Ontario.

According to the Ontario Provincial Police, distracted drivers are the leading cause of fatal collisions in Ontario. In 2016, 65 people died in accidents caused by inattentive drivers.

WHAT IS DISTRACTED DRIVING?

Distracted driving is defined as driving a vehicle while engaging in another activity such as texting, reading, using any handheld device (including typing on a GPS or changing a playlist), grooming, eating, and drinking.

Using a cell phone while driving involves three types of distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual requires you to take your eyes off of the roadway. Manual entails taking your hands off of the wheel of the vehicle. Cognitive involves taking your mind off of driving. Even using a phone for a handsfree call provides a distraction to one’s cognition as your mind is taken off of the road.

STATISTICS REGARDING DISTRACTED DRIVING

Distracted driving has severe consequences to both the distracted driver, his/her passengers, and anyone within his/her path.

Statistics demonstrate that a distracted driver can fail to see up to 50% of their immediate environment.

Distracted drivers contribute to 20-30% of all motor vehicle collisions and are three times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident than focused drivers.

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000 in Ontario.

ONTARIO’S NEW DISTRACTED DRIVING LAWS

Beginning January 1, 2019, as part of Ontario’s Bill 174 , Ontario will have the toughest penalties for repeat distracted driving convictions.

Drivers who are found to be talking on their phones, texting, dialing, or emailing with a hand-held device will be fined up to $1,000 with a three-day licence suspension, and three demerit points.

Motorists facing a second conviction of distracted driving will face a fine of up to $2,000, a seven-day licence suspension, and six demerit points.

Drivers who have been convicted of driving distracted more than two times will be required to pay a fine of up to $3,000, will lose their licence for 30 days, and six demerit points.

Novice drivers with a graduated licence (G1, G2, M1 or M2) will face even tougher penalties. These drivers will face the same fines as more experienced drivers, in addition to:

  • 30-day licence suspensions for a first conviction;
  • 90-day licence suspensions for a second conviction; and
  • licence revocations and removal from the Graduated Licensing System for a third conviction.

In addition to the stiffer fines and greater penalties, those convicted of distracted driving can expect their insurance rates to increase.

The only exceptions to the distracted driving rules are when calling 911 in an emergency or when the driver is lawfully parked or safely pulled off of the roadway.

CARELESS AND DANGEROUS DRIVING OFFENCES

If you have endangered other people due to any type of distraction (using a hand-held or hands-free device) while driving, you may be charged with careless driving.

A driver convicted of careless driving faces fines of up to $2,000, six demerit points, and/or a jail term of six months, and a licence suspension of up to two years.

If you are charged with the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle upon consideration of the nature, condition, use of the vehicle, and the amount of traffic at the time, you may face a jail term of up to 10 years for causing bodily harm or up to 14 years for causing death.

TORONTO POLICE DISTRACTED DRIVING BLITZ

Toronto Police launched a two-week-long traffic blitz aimed at distracted drivers, which runs until January 20, 2019.

Officers will be using all types of vehicles to look for distracted drivers, including patrol cars, unmarked vehicles, bicycles, and on foot. Police officers will also be riding TTC buses and streetcars to observe drivers from above.

SIMPLE TIPS TO AVOID DISTRACTED DRIVING

Cell phones are a driver’s biggest distraction when they are behind the wheel. It is strongly recommended that drivers only use hands-free devices while driving to make short phone calls. Even drivers who are using hands-free devices become distracted by a telephone conversation while navigating through traffic.

It is also recommended that drivers turn off their phone or switch it to silent mode before getting into their vehicle. Placing one’s cell phone in the glove compartment or in a bag on the back seat will also help to avoid the temptation to use the phone while driving.

It is also suggested that drivers pre-program any GPS tools or music devices before starting their vehicle. If the need to make a call or return a text arises while driving, find somewhere safe to pull over and park your vehicle.

Drivers should also ensure that their children are comfortable, properly seat belted, and have everything they need prior to starting their vehicles.

If you are facing a distracted driving charge or another driving offence, please call the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. We offer a free consultation, and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Harsher Drinking and Driving Laws In Effect Next Week

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In Canada, impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury. Police report that in 2016, there were more than 70,000 impaired driving incidents, including almost 3,000 drug-impaired driving incidents.

On December 18, 2018, Part 2 of Canada’s new impaired driving legislation will come into force. These reforms to the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code include mandatory alcohol screening, facilitating the proof of blood alcohol concentration, eliminating and limiting defenses that reward risk-taking behaviour, and clarifying Crown disclosure obligations.

MANDATORY ALCOHOL SCREENING

The new reforms will implement mandatory alcohol screening in Canada. According to Canada’s Department of Justice website, research shows that up to 50% of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit are not detected at roadside check stops. Furthermore, other jurisdictions have found a significant decrease in fatal road accidents where mandatory alcohol screening was enacted.

With these changes, police officers will have an approved screening device on hand to test a breath sample of any driver they lawfully stop, even without reasonable suspicion that the driver has alcohol in their body. Under the current law, police officers must have reasonable suspicion that a driver has alcohol in their body before doing any roadside testing. Drivers who refuse to provide a breath sample could be subject to a criminal offence.

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, stated:

Giving law enforcement the ability to demand a breath sample from anyone following a lawful stop will make it easier to detect impaired drivers and get these drivers off of our roads. Those who get behind the wheel after using alcohol, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, will face serious legal consequences. Do your part in keeping yourself and loved ones safe and don’t mix alcohol or drugs with driving.

PENALTIES FOR IMPAIRED DRIVERS

Starting December 18, 2018, although mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment have not changed, there will be new mandatory minimum penalties including fines, and some higher maximum fines.

The new legislation for first time offenders with high blood alcohol concentrations that have not caused bodily harm or death is as follows:

  • With blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) of 80 to 119 mg of alcohol per 100 mL of blood, first time offenders are subject to a mandatory fine of $1,000;
  • With BAC of 120 to 159 mg of alcohol per 100 mL of blood, first time offenders are subject to a mandatory fine of $1,500;
  • With BAC of 160 mg or over of alcohol per 100 mL of blood, first time offenders are subject to a mandatory fine of $2,000; and
  • A first time offender who refuses to comply with a lawful demand for a breath sample is subject to a $2,000 minimum fine.

For alcohol-impaired driving that does not cause bodily harm or death, the new mandatory minimum penalties for a second offence include a mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment, and for third and subsequent offences a mandatory minimum penalty of 120 days imprisonment.

Drivers will also face the maximum penalty of life imprisonment for those convicted of dangerous driving causing death, which is a stiffer penalty than the current laws of a maximum of 14 years in jail.

DURHAM REGIONAL POLICE RELEASE NAMES OF ACCUSED IMPAIRED DRIVERS

Beginning November 15, 2018, Durham Regional Police launched their Festive R.I.D.E. program. Police officers have been conducting R.I.D.E. checks in Ajax, Pickering, Whitby, Oshawa, and Clarington.

Since commencing this campaign, Durham Police have been releasing the names of those charged with impaired driving every Monday under “Hot Topics” on their website. Those drivers that have been charged are identified by their name, age, gender, city, and the specific charges laid against them.

Earlier this month, York Regional Police also reported that they have adopted a “name-and-shame” campaign to keep impaired drivers off of the roads. York Regional Police will now release the names of those charged with impaired driving every Monday for the foreseeable future.

Durham Regional Police reported that its fourth week of the Festive R.I.D.E. program has led to 20 drivers being charged with drinking and driving offences after stopping more than 4,100 vehicles. In total, Durham Police has charged 63 drivers with drinking and driving offences during the four weeks of the R.I.D.E. program (down from 72 drivers charged at the same time last year). They also report that 51 motorists registered a WARN on a roadside screening device and had their driver’s licence suspended for 3 days.

If you have been charged with a driving offence of any kind or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced and knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Convicted Drunk Driver Marco Muzzo Could Receive Parole Next Month

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Marco Muzzo (“Muzzo”), an Ontario man convicted of impaired driving in a 2015 accident that killed three children and their grandfather, is scheduled to appear for a parole hearing on November 7, 2018.

Muzzo is seeking day parole and is eligible to apply for full parole in May 2019 and statutory release on June 18, 2022.

The children’s parents, Jennifer Neville-Lake and Ed Lake, plan to attend the parole hearing at the Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On September 27, 2015, Muzzo had returned home on a private jet from his bachelor party in Miami and picked up his Jeep SUV from the airport parking lot. He was speeding when he drove through a stop sign and plowed into the driver’s side of a minivan transporting the Neville-Lake family.

Muzzo was driving at least 120 km/h on a 60 km/h road at the time of the accident. Muzzo’s blood-alcohol content ranged from 0.19 to 0.25 per cent at the time of the crash, which is more than twice the legal limit in Ontario. Police officers at the scene reported that Muzzo smelled of alcohol, his eyes were glassy, he used the car to keep his balance, he was unable to understand instructions from the officers, and he urinated on himself.

Muzzo pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm for the crash that killed nine-year-old Daniel Neville-Lake, his five-year-old brother Harrison, his two-year-old sister Milly, and the children’s 65-year-old Grandfather, Gary Neville.

Neriza Neville, the children’s grandmother, and Josefina Frias, the children’s great-grandmother, were also injured in the accident, but survived the crash.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Michelle Fuerst sentenced Muzzo to 10-years in prison and banned him from driving for 12 years after he gets out of prison. This was the harshest sentence in Canadian history for an impaired driver without a prior record.

Justice Fuerst intended for her sentence to send a message to deter others from committing the same crime. She considered the aggravating factors of Muzzo choosing to drive drunk and that his prior speeding convictions reflected an “irresponsible attitude toward the privilege of driving”.

WHAT IS PAROLE?

According to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, all offenders must be considered for some form of conditional release during their sentence. However, although an offender may be eligible for release does not mean that the release will be granted. The Parole Board of Canada must assess an offender’s risk to determine if a conditional release is warranted.

Parole is a conditional release from jail for offenders to serve the remainder of their sentence outside of the confines of the institution. The goal of parole programs is to provide a gradual, controlled, and supervised path between jail and freedom.

Day parole permits offenders to participate in community-based activities in preparation for full parole or statutory release. Day parole requires the offender to return each night to a community-based residence, otherwise known as a halfway house.

The Parole Board does not automatically grant parole, each individual case must be reviewed to determine suitability for release. The Parole Board will consider the following factors in determining whether an offender should be granted parole:

  • The offender’s criminal record;
  • The seriousness and nature of the offence;
  • The offender’s behaviour while in prison;
  • The offender’s release plan; and
  • The remorse he/she has expressed for the crime, and in Muzzo’s case, his guilty plea.

Victims are also allowed to provide written victim information to the Parole Board detailing any continuing impact the crime has on their life and any concerns they have for their own safety or the safety of their family.

The Parole Board can impose conditions to the day parole release in order to lessen the risk of re-offending, such as ordering abstinence or counselling. Offenders must also obey the law and report regularly to a parole officer.

Jennifer Neville-Lake, the mother of the three children killed in this devastating accident, has posted a plea on Facebook asking supporters to write to the Parole Board of Canada to oppose Muzzo’s conditional release. She has also posted a petition on Facebook requesting that Muzzo remain in prison for the remainder of his ten year sentence. She is attempting to make an example of Muzzo in an effort to prevent future drinking and driving accidents.  Over 9,100 people have signed the petition to date, with a goal of 10,000 signatures.

We will continue to follow the Muzzo case and will report any developments on this blog.

In the meantime, if you or a loved one have been charged with an impaired driving offence or any other driving offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced and knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times. Contact our office online or at 905-404-1947.

Woman Asleep in Her Vehicle Convicted of Impaired Driving

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

An Ontario Court judge has convicted Erin Medakovic (“Medakovic”) of impaired driving when she was found asleep in a parked vehicle with the engine running and the driver’s door open.

Justice Vanessa Christie ruled that the Crown prosecutor had demonstrated “there was a realistic risk that Ms. Medakovic, who admittedly was impaired behind the wheel, may unintentionally set the vehicle in motion”.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On April 24, 2017, in the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin, the police were contacted by a man returning from working the night shift who noticed a car driver’s door open, the engine running and a woman in the driver’s seat. Officers attended at 1:50 a.m. and found a woman in a deep sleep in the reclined driver’s seat, with the door open and the engine running. The woman woke up after the officers tapped on the car window for 30 seconds. She sat up, had slow, slurred and laboured speech.

Inside the car, the officers found an LCBO bag with six empty cans and inside a purse they found Medakovic’s identification.

The officers administered a breath sample test which showed readings of 195 and 193, which were double the legal allowable level.

Medakovic told the officers she had eight beers and had been drinking since 2 p.m. She informed the officers that her last drink was at 11 p.m. and she had been asleep in her car for an hour. Medakovic told officers she thought it was ridiculous that she could not remain in her car and “sleep it off”.

At trial, Medakovic gave evidence that she had driven to Little Current from Sudbury on April 22 and was visiting friends. She parked in her male friend’s driveway, but her friend needed access to his driveway so he moved her car to the grass shoulder in front of his home. She told her male friend that she was trying to stay the night with a couple of friends and if that did not work out, she would sleep in her car. Medakovic gave evidence that her plans did not work out, so she decided to sleep in her car and turned the vehicle on to keep her warm. She could not comment on how or why the driver’s door was ajar.

Medakovic was charged with impaired driving and having more than the legal allowable level of alcohol in her system while driving.

CARE OR CONTROL OF A MOTOR VEHICLE

Medakovic was charged and convicted under Section 253 of the Criminal Code (“CC”), which reads as follows:

253(1) Every one commits an offence who operates a motor vehicle or vessel or operates or assists in the operation of an aircraft or of railway equipment or has the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railways equipment, whether it is in motion or not,

 (a)  while the person’s ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or drug; or

(b)  having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person’s blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred mililitres of blood.

In her judgment, Justice Christie relied upon the Supreme Court of Canada decision of R. v. Boudreault, which outlined the essential elements of “care or control” as it applies to section 253(1) of the CC. The elements are as follows:

  • an intentional course of conduct associated with a motor vehicle;
  • by a person whose ability to drive is impaired, or whose blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit;
  • in circumstances that create a realistic risk of danger to persons or property.

Justice Christie applied the facts of the case and found that Medakovic did not have an intention to drive that evening after she had consumed alcohol. She also found that the evidence at trial established that the stationary vehicle was positioned in a way that would not cause any safety concern and therefore not a realistic risk of danger. However, Justice Christie did find that the Crown had proven, based upon the evidence, that there was a realistic risk that Medakovic may unintentionally set the vehicle in motion.

Justice Christie found that Medakovic had care or control of a vehicle while impaired based upon the following facts that came out of the trial:

  • Medakovic was seated in the driver’s seat;
  • Medakovic locked the doors of the vehicle after she got in;
  • Medakovic became cold after she entered the vehicle and put the key in the ignition, turned the car on and put the heat on high;
  • Medakovic admitted she was impaired while in the driver’s seat and she was confused when she was awakened by the officers;
  • The officers testified that it took longer than usual to wake Medakovic up and she was initially disoriented and confused;
  • Medakovic’s feet were approximately one foot away from the car pedals;
  • Medakovic admitted she thrashes in her sleep and does not know what she is doing;
  • Medakovic admitted she is a deep sleeper and has slept walked in the past;
  • Medakovic admitted she has done things in her sleep that she is not aware of;
  • Medakovic admitted she could easily sit up and grip the steering wheel;
  • Medakovic had no explanation as to how the driver’s door became open and did not recall opening it; and
  • The vehicle was parked on a residential street, which could cause an immediate safety hazard.

Based on this evidence, Justice Christie found that the Crown had established that there was a realistic risk that Medakovic may unintentionally set the vehicle in motion while she was impaired and therefore Medakovic had the care and control of the vehicle contrary to section 253(1)(a) of the CC.

If you have been charged with a driving offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.

Fatal Accidents Increase Significantly after 4/20 Celebrations

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

April 20 has become an international holiday where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis. These mass marijuana festivities usually begin at 4:20 p.m. and continue well into the night.

A recent study has revealed that there was a slight increase in fatal U.S. car accidents on April 20 following an analysis of 25 years worth of data. Studies such as this one provide important information to the Federal and Provincial governments in deterring marijuana impaired driving in anticipation of the legalization of marijuana this summer in Canada.

WHAT DID THE STUDY ESTABLISH REGARDING THE USE OF MARIJUANA AND DRIVING ON APRIL 20?

Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto compared driver deaths on April 20 with deaths occurring on a day of the week before and the week after during the 25 year study of U.S. data. The study confirmed that fatal car crashes were increased by 12% (142 driver deaths) on the evening of April 20. The study also found that the risk of fatal accidents among young drivers (under the age of 21) increased by 38% in the evening of April 20.

Dr. John Staples, lead author and an internist and researcher at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, stated,

The simplest explanation is that some drivers are impaired by cannabis use, and these drivers are contributing to fatal crashes. There should be very clear messaging to the public: don’t drive high.

Although the study lacks evidence on whether marijuana was involved in any of the April 20th fatalities (as there was no police data on drug testing to confirm that marijuana was involved), researchers believe that the drug was responsible for some of the crashes.

DOES MARIJUANA USE AFFECT DRIVING?

Although marijuana has the reputation of being a relatively harmless drug, it can have short-term affects on reaction time, motor co-ordination, divided attention, short-term memory and decision-making skills.

Marijuana affects each individual differently based upon factors such as the person’s tolerance, and the strain and potency of the marijuana being used. Some who use marijuana experience a sense of relaxation, while others may experience panic, fear, anxiety or psychosis.

Following alcohol, cannabis is the substance most commonly associated with “driving under the influence”.

In Colorado (one of the first states to legalize marijuana in the U.S.), the number of deaths caused by auto-related accidents involving marijuana increased by 145% from 2013 to 2016. By 2016, 20% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents involved marijuana (in comparison to 10% in 2013).

ONTARIO’S PLAN TO KEEP OUR ROADS SAFE FOLLOWING LEGALIZATION

As we have previously blogged about, Ontario has implemented new measures to keep our roads safe by implementing tougher drug-impaired driving laws.

Ontario has enacted zero tolerance rules prohibiting young (age 21 and under) and novice (G1, G2, M1, M2) drivers from having the presence of a drug in their system. For a first offence, young and novice drivers will face a three-day suspension and a $250 fine. A second offence will result in a seven-day suspension and a $350 fine and all subsequent transgressions will result in a thirty-day suspension and a $450 fine.

Commercial drivers will also be subject to zero tolerance rules prohibiting them from having any alcohol and drugs in their system. For any offence, a commercial driver will face a three-day suspension and a $250 to $450 fine.

Ontario has also introduced escalating monetary penalties to all impaired driving offences starting at $250 for a first offence and increasing up to $450 for third and subsequent occurrences.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As we prepare for the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada this summer, we should consider ways to avoid driving while impaired and being a passenger with an impaired driver.

We should all be reminded to:

  • Always have a designated driver; or
  • Call a friend or loved one to pick you up; or
  • Call a cab or a ridesharing service; or
  • Stay overnight and sleep it off.

It is also strongly recommended that we have an open dialogue with our children and reinforce the dangers of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. It is also recommended that parents model safe driving behaviour by never driving any vehicle while impaired.

If you have been charged with a driving offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Two Ontario Cases Fall Apart As a Result of Police Failure to Immediately Inform of Right to Counsel

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Ontario Court of Justice has recently excluded significant evidence in two criminal cases involving impaired driving after ruling that police had violated the accuseds’ Charter rights by failing to immediately inform them of their right to counsel.

In the first case, Justice Craig Parry excluded breath samples from the driver’s trial due to a Charter breach, which resulted in a charge of driving with a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit to be dismissed.

In another case earlier this month, a man was found not guilty of having care or control of a vehicle while impaired by a drug when Justice Scott Latimer threw out the evidence after ruling that police had violated his Charter rights.

RIGHT TO COUNSEL

The right to counsel is a fundamental right included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”).

10.  Everyone has the right on arrest or detention:

b.  to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right;

Under the Charter, the detainee must be informed of the right to retain and instruct counsel “without delay”, which has been interpreted to mean “immediately”. The Supreme Court of Canada has made it clear in the case of R. v. Suberu that avoiding delay helps to protect against the risk of self-incrimination and interference with an individual’s liberty. This obligation also requires police to abstain from obtaining incriminatory evidence from the detainee until he/she has had a reasonable chance to contact a lawyer, or the detainee has unequivocally waived the right to do so.

The police have both an informational duty and an implementational duty upon arrest or detention. The police must both inform the accused of the right to retain counsel and must provide the detainee with a reasonable opportunity to retain and instruct counsel. Justice Abella, speaking for the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of R. v. Taylor, stated:

The duty to inform a detained person of his or her right to counsel arises ”immediately” upon arrest or detention (Suberu, at paras 41-42) and the duty to facilitate access to a lawyer, in turn, arises immediately upon the detainee’s request to speak to counsel. The arresting officer is therefore under a constitutional obligation to facilitate the requested access to counsel at the first reasonably available opportunity. The burden is on the Crown to show that a given delay was reasonable in the circumstances.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CASE OF COLIN MITCHELL?

On October 9, 2016, a report was received by police of a possible impaired driver exiting Highway 401 at Highway 8. Constable Karen Marquis received the dispatch and pulled over the vehicle that Colin Mitchell (“Mitchell”) was driving. Mitchell failed a breathalyzer test and was then arrested. The officer waited 11 minutes after the arrest to read Mitchell his rights to counsel. In the back of the police cruiser Mitchell told the officer that he wanted to call a lawyer. He was not allowed to make the call until he arrived at the police station. Mitchell was finally given the chance to make a phone call to duty counsel 51 minutes after being placed under arrest.

On February 22, 2018, Justice Parry found that the officer breached her obligation to inform Mitchell of his right to counsel without delay and breached her implementational duty to facilitate access to counsel at the first reasonable opportunity. Justice Parry concluded that the evidence gathered in this case (the breath samples) was evidence that was attained in a manner that infringed the accused’s right to counsel. Justice Parry stated,

Exclusion of the evidence is the only remedy that can, in these circumstances, prevent bringing the administration of justice into further disrepute. To do otherwise would be to condone a perpetual indifference to the knowledge of the basic obligations created by one of the most important Charter rights.

Justice Parry, therefore, excluded the results of the breathalyzer test due to the delay in informing Mitchell of his right to counsel. The charge of driving with more than the legal limit of alcohol in his blood was dismissed.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CASE OF ANDREW DAVIS?

On July 17, 2016, a civilian reported a case of bad driving to the Waterloo Regional Police. Constable Tyler Shipp located the vehicle in question in a parking lot in Waterloo and Andrew Davis (“Davis”) was found in the driver’s seat. The officer spoke to Davis through an open window. Davis had sunglasses on, no shirt and was slightly dishevelled. Davis’ speech was described by the officer as garbled. The officer directed Davis to remove his sunglasses and observed Davis’ eyes to be “swollen, half open, very drowsy”.  Another officer, Constable McKenna, arrived on scene to administer a Standard Field Sobriety Test.

Following the sobriety test, Davis was arrested, handcuffed and placed in the back of the police cruiser. Drug paraphernalia, prescription drugs and what the officer thought was a meth pipe were located inside Davis’ vehicle. Eight minutes after his arrest, Davis was read his rights to counsel by police. These rights should have been read immediately following his arrest.

On March 6, 2018, Justice Latimer held that a violation of section 10(b) of the Charter occurred as a result of the police failure to provide Davis with his rights to counsel without delay upon arrest. Due to the Charter violation, Justice Latimer excluded important evidence, including all of the items seized from Davis’ vehicle and his post-arrest statement made to the police. Justice Latimer concluded that the Crown had failed to prove that Davis was impaired by a drug at the time of his care or control of his motor vehicle.

If you have been charged with impaired driving or any other driving offence, contact one of the experienced Oshawa criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP for a free consultation. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience. Contact our office online or at 905-404-1947.