driving offences

Ontario Announces Zero Tolerance to Prevent Drug-Impaired Driving

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

We’ve previously blogged about drug-impaired driving, and are now revisiting the topic in light of a recent announcement by the provincial Liberals.

On September 28, 2017, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that commercial truckers, drivers 21 and under, and novice motorists will face stiff penalties if caught behind the wheel after using cannabis or alcohol.

This announcement was made in advance of the federal government’s plan to legalize recreational cannabis by July 2018.

WHAT IS ZERO TOLERANCE LEGISLATION?

Ontario is the first province or territory to publicize an extensive plan to regulate federally legalized cannabis. These new measures will be in addition to the penalties found under the Criminal Code of Canada for impaired driving convictions (ie. loss of licence, additional fines or incarceration).

Ontario’s zero tolerance legislation will include tougher laws against drug-impaired driving for young drivers aged 21 and under; novice drivers (G1, G2, M1 and M2 licence holders); and all commercial drivers.

Zero tolerance means that drivers should not get behind the wheel if they have any measurable presence of drugs or alcohol in their system as detected by an oral fluid screening device.. The federal government has promised to introduce a screening device and set thresholds for detecting the presence of cannabis in the near future.

PENALTIES, LICENCE SUSPENSIONS, AND OTHER CONSEQUENCES

Ontario’s new legislation will increase monetary penalties for drivers who fail or refuse to perform a sobriety test. It has been proposed that, for a first offence, young drivers and all G1, G2, M1 and M2 licence holders will face a three day suspension and a $250 fine.

For a second offence, these offenders will be subject to a week-long suspension and a $350 fine with all subsequent occurrences facing a 30-day suspension and a $450 fine.

Commercial drivers will also be subject to a zero tolerance policy and could face a three day suspension any time they are caught and fined up to $450.

All other drivers in Ontario who are found to be within the “warn range” with blood alcohol concentration between .05 and .08 or drug impaired and fail a roadside standardized field sobriety test could face up to 30 days licence suspension and up to $450 fines with subsequent occurrences.

Those drivers with blood-alcohol concentrate levels above .08, drug-impaired or who fail or refuse to submit to tests could face a 90-day suspension and $550 fines.

ADDITIONAL PENALTIES ANNOUNCED TO IMPROVE ROAD SAFETY 

Legislation will be introduced this fall in Ontario to improve road safety and deter careless and distracted driving.

A new offence will be added to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act for careless driving causing death or bodily harm. This conviction would lead to a licence suspension of up to five years, fines of between $2,000 and $50,000, up to two years of incarceration and six demerit points.

Drivers who don’t yield to pedestrians would also see increased fines up to a maximum of $1,000.

In addition, fines for distracted driving (ie. using a cellphone while operating a vehicle) would increase from a maximum of $1,000 to up to $2,000 on a second conviction and up to $3,000 for third or subsequent incidents, as well as six demerit points for multiple offences. The first offence would also result in a three day licence suspension and if convicted for a third time would result in a 30 day licence suspension.

Drivers with a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence who are convicted of three or more distracted driving offences would have their licence cancelled.

These new penalties will be the toughest consequences for repeated distracted driving offences across Canada.

If you have been charged with a driving offence, please call 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.

Back to School- Bicycle Safety and Criminal Law

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

As the long summer days get shorter and shorter, across Canada millions of students are returning to school. Returning students means the return of school buses, increased pedestrian traffic around school zones and children riding their bikes to school.

Bicycles Under the Highway Traffic Act

Under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA), a bicycle is a “vehicle”, just like a car or truck. As such, cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers and must obey all traffic laws.

Cyclists must stay as close to the right edge of the road whenever possible, especially when travelling slower than other traffic, which will be the case in most instances.  Cyclists who do not obey the HTA may be charged with an offence of careless driving, defined as driving “without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway” and may face a fine of $400 to $2,000 and/or potentially up to six months of jail time.

Best Practices for Parents

Parents should remind their children to ride in a single file, complete a shoulder check for vehicles, know how to use hand signals, and watch for cars backing out of driveways and/or pulling onto roads.

By law, every cyclist under the age of 16 must wear an approved helmet.  In fact, according to the Highway Traffic Act, it is a parent or guardian’s duty not to authorize or permit a person to ride a bicycle under the age of sixteen unless he/she is wearing a bicycle helmet.

For adults over 18, while it is not compulsory to wear helmets, wearing one can greatly reduce the risk of permanent injury or death, and can set a positive example to your children.

Requirements for Cyclists

By law, every bicycle in Ontario must be equipped with:

  • A bell or horn in good working order;
  • At least one braking system on the rear wheel capable of skidding that wheel on dry, level pavement;
  • A white front light (visible from a distance of at least 150 metres);
  • A red rear light or red rear reflector;
  • Two strips of white reflective tape on front forks (each strip to be 125mm by 25mm);
  • Two strips of red reflective tape on rear forks.

These requirements are mandatory if you are riding between half an hour before sunset and half an hour after sunrise, or anytime visibility has been reduced to the point where you cannot see 150m ahead.  Failure to comply with these requirements can result in a fine.

If you are stopped by a police officer, cyclists are required by the HTA to provide their name and address or proper identification.  A police officer may arrest an individual who does not comply with providing proper identification.

Rules vary in different communities regarding whether it is lawful to cycle on the sidewalk depending upon a municipality’s bylaws. Toronto is preparing to adopt a cycling bylaw which stipulates that “no person age 14 and older may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk”.  Persons found cycling on a sidewalk 14 or over may be charged a fine.  Riding on a sidewalk puts pedestrians at risk and motorists crossing intersections or driveways do not usually look for cyclists on the sidewalk.

Drivers must be very cautious of bicycles and may be subject to penalties should they not follow the law.  For example, a driver may be subject to a fine for failure to leave a minimum of one metre distance when passing a cyclist.

Another form of protection for cyclists codified in the HTA pertains to the improper opening of a vehicle door (for driver or passenger).  Everyone is required to take precaution to ensure that the act of opening a vehicle door will not interfere with the movement of or endanger any other person or vehicle.  Anyone who is found guilty of this offence is liable to a fine of not less than $300.00 and not more than $1,000.00.

Operating a Bicycle While Intoxicated

There are laws in place in Ontario where you can be charged with driving under the influence while operating a bicycle.  Although there appear to be gaps in the HTA regarding impaired riding of a bicycle, you can be charged under the Liquor License Act (LLA).

The LLA states that it is against the law to be “in a place to which the general public is invited or permitted access” while in an intoxicated condition. Public intoxication is a criminal offence in Ontario and comes with harsh consequences such as a fine or in most severe cases, jail time.  If you are swerving in and out of lanes, biking erratically and not paying attention to your surroundings, a police officer will have cause to stop you and you may be asked to perform a sobriety test.

To speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We maintain a 24-hour call service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Teens Dressed as Creepy Clowns in Oshawa Face Charges  

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The “creepy clown” trend that first emerged in the U.S has moved north of the border and is affecting cities and towns across Ontario. Police in Durham region have responded to more than 30 calls involving “creepy clowns” in less than three weeks.

Recently, three Oshawa teens were charged with causing a nuisance after pulling up to pedestrians in a grey vehicle while dressed as clowns, opening the doors, and trying to scare other drivers. One of the teens was additionally charged with reckless driving.

While the “creepy clown” trend may seem like a harmless prank, or a funny way to bring yourself some fleeting Internet fame, there can be some serious civil and criminal repercussions.

Reckless Driving and Other Driving Offences

Negligence and reckless driving are both civil, not criminal charges. However, if the actions of these three Oshawa pranksters were more serious, and caused bodily harm, for instance, they could potentially have faced more serious criminal charges of criminal negligence or dangerous driving.

We’ve previously blogged about driving offences and their potentially significant consequences. Not only do these offences carry significant financial penalties and substantial implications on car insurance, they can also come with potential jail terms (up to 5 years, or 10-14 years for dangerous driving depending on whether it caused bodily harm). Needless to say, pranking someone while operating a motor vehicle (whether or not you’re dressed as a clown) is not advisable, and can have serious implications.

Other Potential Criminal Implications of “Creepy Clowning”

After receiving more than a dozen calls about creepy clown sightings in the area, police in Kitchener-Waterloo had to issue warnings to the public stating that while it is not illegal to dress like a clown, it is a crime to intimidate, threaten or harass people, even if it done just as a prank.

A Waterloo Region police spokesperson stated that police become concerned and potential criminal charges are possible where people dressed as clowns “…start to chase young children, start to try to scare young adults, or, in some cases carry replica weapons and try to intimidate individuals”.

There were multiple such incidents in the Kitchener-Waterloo area recently. In one case a clown was seen carrying an imitation sword and a plastic gun. In another, two clowns chased a pair of girls, and in yet another three clowns (one carrying a large stick) followed a pedestrian. Nobody was physically injured in any of these cases, but this does not mean that criminal charges would not have been laid had police found the pranksters. The perpetrators may have, for instance, faced assault charges.

Section 265(1) of the Criminal Code provides that a person commits an assault where he/she “attempts or threatens, by an act or gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect [his/her] purposes.”

It is not difficult to see how someone dressed as a clown and acting menacingly/chasing someone down the street could be viewed as threatening to apply force to another person through their act or gesture, therefore facing possible assault charges.

Such charges would be even more likely where the person dressed as a clown was carrying a “weapon”, even if it was plastic given that under s. 265(1), it is also assault to “accost or impede another person” while “openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof.”

What Does This Mean?

As funny as it may seem to terrify someone while dressed as a clown, it is noteworthy that any such actions could lead to criminal charges, particularly as communities, schools, and parents have become very sensitive to such actions in recent weeks.

Lessons to learn from all of this? Be smart this Halloween.

The lawyers at Affleck & Barrison are extremely knowledgeable and are experienced at fighting a wide range of assault offences. Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation. We offer 24-hour phone service for your convenience, and a variety of payment options, including Legal Aid. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help.

Truck Driver Faces Criminal Negligence Charges After Four Fatalities in Hwy 400 Crash

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Three generations of women from one family, as well as a college student nearing graduation were killed in a violent twelve vehicle pile-up on Highway 400 this past June. Three of the twelve vehicles involved were transport trucks.  A 35-year-old truck driver from Winnipeg, Manitoba has since been charged with four counts of criminal negligence causing death, as well as one count of negligence causing bodily harm. These are serious charges with significant consequences.

What is Criminal Negligence?

Criminal negligence is a broadly defined offence under the Criminal Code, but is most commonly applied to driving incidents.

An individual is criminally negligent who in doing or omitting to do anything that is his/her duty to do by law shows “wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons”. Examples of criminally negligent behaviour causing death or bodily harm include street racing, and impaired driving (“operating while impaired” is also a separate offence under the Code).

What are the Potential Consequences of Criminal Negligence Charges?

Anyone convicted of criminal negligence will have a criminal record, and will also lose their Ontario driver’s license for at least one year. Most people found guilty of criminal negligence while operating a motor vehicle receive a jail sentence, whether their actions result in bodily harm or whether they result in death. Sentences will vary depending on the severity of the injury. For criminal negligence causing bodily harm sentences can be up to 10-14 years in prison. For criminal negligence offences causing death sentencing can include a minimum of 3 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

An Example of a Serious Sentence for Criminal Negligence

No details have been provided about the June 2016 crash on Hwy 400, and it is unclear what the truck driver may have been doing to contribute to or cause the incident. It may, however, be instructive to discuss another instance of criminal negligence causing death to get an idea of potential consequences he may face.

Nicholas Piovesan made headlines in 2010 after the death of three Sudbury, Ontario teens in a drunk driving incident. Piovesan, who was driving home from a bar while intoxicated, ran into the teens on the side of the road, after which he continued to drive until he ran into a building further down the road. He was convicted of three counts of criminal negligence causing death and sentenced to seven years in prison. He also faced a 10 year driving ban upon his release. To date, this is one of the harshest sentences ever given in Canada for criminal negligence causing death. In handing down the sentence, Justice Nadeau stated that Piovesan had showed a “high level of disregard for public safety”.

Piovesan was released in May 2015, and is serving the remainder of his sentence in the community. The Parole Board imposed a number of conditions upon his release. Piovesan must now abstain from alcohol and must refrain from entering any establishment where alcohol is the primary source of revenue (this includes bars, taverns, as well as beer and liquor stores). The 10 year driving ban began on the day of his release.

While it is unclear whether alcohol was a factor in the June 2016 Hwy 400 crash, the above illustrates the serious consequences that may come with charges of criminal negligence.

If you have been charged with a driving offence, call Affleck Barrison at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Trust our experienced lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy, and expertise.