Impaired Driving Charges
Impaired driving charges – Is there really no chance?
The holidays are quickly approaching. Every year there are advertisements telling you not to drink and drive but each year some try their luck and some will get caught with impaired driving charges.
Drinking and driving is regulated by the Criminal Code as well as the Highway Safety Code. The consequences of impaired driving charges are serious, not only when you are stopped, or at trial, but also for most of your life. A criminal record may affect the jobs you may want, or may limit your travel across the border.
Interception by the police:
At first, you will be stopped for one reason or another, maybe a roadblock, most often when the police just stop you. Even if you are simply sitting in your vehicle, you may still be stopped. it is important to keep calm. The policeman will question you. He will ask you for your name and you will have to answer when he asks for your identity, following this, he will then begin to question you. The policeman will inform you that he smells alcohol on your breath and may ask you to take a roadside breathalyzer test. In any event, whether you are tested or not, if the policeman believes you are impaired, you will be taken to the police station where a test will be taken. A refusal to blow will not help you at all since a refusal is also a criminal offense.
At the same time, the policeman will test you to determine if your faculties have been effected by other substances. A second policeman might suddenly ask you a question to determine if you can follow a conversation. There will be also a coordination test. Do not believe that it is impossible to determine if you have consumed drugs since they have seen others before you and they know the signs.
Co-operate always and be polite. When the policeman says that you are under arrest and reads you your rights, do not say anything before having contacted your lawyer. You may ask to call your lawyer and you should do so. The lawyer will tell you not to say anything or sign a declaration about the events concerning your drinking or usage of drugs. The police will understand if you tell them that “on advice of my lawyer I should not say anything further”.
Failure of the breathalyzer test: more than 80 mg by 100 ml of blood
Under the Highway Code, from the moment when a ticket is given to you, your licence may be suspended for a period of 90 days and your vehicle seized for a period of 30 days. This happens when you have a previous record of impairment in the last 10 years, or if you are apparently severely impaired. After the 90 days following the suspension of your licence, you can petition the SAAQ to restore your licence, but you must convince the SAAQ that your use of alcohol does not establish a bar to your permit to drive.
Under the Criminal Code, if you plead, or are found guilty, your driver’s licence is automatically suspended at once. The judge will ask you for your licence during the pronouncement of the sentence.
If this is a first conviction, the minimum fine will be a fine of at least $1,000.00 and your driver’s license will be suspended for a period of 1 to 3 years. There is also a risk of prison, but this will only happen when your impairment caused or may have caused a serious accident. The second conviction involves imprisonment of at least 30 days as well as a ban on driving for a period of 2 to 5 years. Three or more offenses result in imprisonment for at least 120 days and a permit suspension of 3 years or more.
The penalties are much more severe if there are resulting injuries due to your impairment. Also you should note that your driving can be considered impaired even if you do not exceed the 0.08 limit
Failure of the breathalyzer test: more than 160 mg by 100 ml of blood
If you are more than double the limit, which constitutes aggravating circumstances, the penalties are more severe.
To reinstate your licence, you must follow a SAAQ program for the evaluation and reduction of the risk of driving while impaired. There will be an evaluation to see if you understand the risks. The chances of passing the test the first time are rare, but if you should succeed, your permit will be given back to you after the 90-day period, even before the date of your trial has been set. If you should fail, you will have to follow a complete evaluation that will last almost 9 months.
Following your criminal conviction and after 90 days into the driving ban period, you can apply for a restricted driving permit to a judge of the Quebec Court who will set strict conditions. The restricted license includes the installation of a device at a cost of more than $1000.00 which will not allow you to drive if you have consumed any alcohol. To be able to obtain this kind of licence, you must explain to the judge why you absolutely need to drive your vehicle. In general, this kind of licence allows you to drive for work only. If a policeman intercepts you, you will have to justify your presence on the road. If you are outside your conditions, you will then be cited for an additional infraction. You should note that even if a judge should grant you your restricted licence, you will need someone to drive you to the SAAQ to install the alcohol ignition interlock system in your vehicle.
Recovering your licence
One year before the end of your sentence, you will receive a letter from the SAAQ informing you that you must undergo an evaluation. The procedure will be the same as that mentioned in the section ‘’more than 160 mg by 100 ml of blood’’.
If you succeed, you will have to follow the Alcofrein program at a cost of $ 150.00. If you fail, you will have to follow a course concerning the reduced risk that will cost approximately $ 700.00 plus the cost of the alcohol ignition interlock system.
You should note that you have a period of 60 days to contest the decision of the SAAQ.
Contestation of impaired driving charges:
There are often reasons to defend yourself before the courts. For example, you can attack the accuracy of the breathalyzer machine, or demonstrate that your impairment was out of your control (maybe someone laced a cupcake you ate without knowing it). So, it is important that you see a lawyer who will explore all the possible reasons with you. Every situation is a special case. When the policeman says that you are under arrest and reads you your rights, it is wise to not say anything before having contacted your lawyer.
For more information on the legal help we provide, visit the criminal lawyers in Montreal page of our website or call 514-659-3930 immediately.