Whether you are out partying, celebrating success with friends or coworkers, or enjoying the summer sun with drinks, your safety on the road should always be your main priority when choosing to drive. While many Ontarians are aware of this, some are still stopped by police due to suspected impaired driving or driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance. In this article, What The Law explores five reasons why people across Ontario are being charged with impaired driving and the consequences they carry.
As the main reason behind many impaired driving offences, drinking alcohol and then choosing to drive can be a very dangerous decision. Even when consumed at a low volume, alcohol can quickly interrupt your thinking, slow your alertness, and cause reckless behaviour on the road. Unfortunately, some people might not notice how alcohol affects them and presume they are safe to drive because they ‘feel fine’. Sadly, these cases tend to cause the most damage because the driver is completely unaware of how intoxicated they are while driving.
If an officer suspects you are driving impaired, they will stop and test you using a breathalyzer which measures how much alcohol is your body. If you blood alcohol level is over the legal threshold, you will be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. To avoid this, it is always better to ask a sober friend or family member for a ride or pay for a taxi home.
Although legal in Canada and consumed safely by many across Ontario, cannabis still poses a risk to public safety on roads. Cannabis acts both a stimulant and a depressant, meaning it can impair your ability to react on time when driving. If impaired, you might be too slow to brake at stop signs and traffic lights, or you might make errors when it comes to turning or reversing. Cannabis can also have hallucinogenic effects which can affect how well you see while driving. Officers can easily detect your poor driving and are much more likely to stop and test you if they suspect cannabis or stronger drugs are responsible.
For this reason, it is always a good idea to arrange a safe ride home or take alternative transportation than driving if you have recently consumed cannabis products or drugs.
Can a drunk or intoxicated person be charged without actually driving their car? It turns out, yes, you can be given a DUI charge. In fact, there have been multiple incidences of Canadians being charged while sitting in their cars while over the limit, even if they had no intention of driving it. This is because you have ‘care and control’ over your vehicle, meaning you are occupying a position of a vehicle which allows you to operate it (e.g. the driver’s seat).
Although this might appear unfair, the purpose behind this is to deter people from taking their vehicles onto the road while impaired. Even if you are waiting for someone to collect you and choose to wait in the driver’s seat of your car, an officer might be concerned that you could change your mind while waiting and drive anyway. This is because intoxication affects our ability to make decisions and our judgement skills, making simple errors much more likely.
Many of us assume impaired driving comes about recreationally and is associated with drinking alcohol and taking drugs for fun. However, this is not always the case. Prescription medications have been known to impair drivers, sometimes significantly if they are taken with even a small bit of alcohol.
Why is this? Well, medicines are chemical products that deliberately interfere with our bodies with the aim of treating us, whether that’s antidepressants, painkillers, or antihistamines. These drugs typically do not cause any strong side effects on their own. But if they are combined in a certain order or if the dosage is particularly high, you might experience poor vision, lowered alertness, and increased drowsiness. These are all reasons to suggest that you might not be safe operating vehicles for your own well-being, as well as others on the road. If the officer is suspicious of your driving and you have not consumed any alcohol or cannabis, they may ask about your medical history. For this reason, it is always good to read medication manuals and ask your doctor or family physician if you’re safe to drive while taking certain medicines.
If you are ever asked to be breathalyzed by an officer, it is likely because they can detect obvious signs such as having the smell of alcohol in your breath or observing you cannot communicate clearly. It is important to note that officers cannot demand a test for no other reason than to confirm their suspicion, it should never be personal or simply because they do not like you.
While you might presume that you have the right to refuse any testing, doing so will automatically render you guilty of the charge and you will be penalized. If you refuse to test, you will likely face penalties such as:
If this is a repeated offence, your licence might be suspended even further or potentially on a permanent basis. You may also be required to attend compulsory safe driving classes and have an ignition interlock device fitted to your vehicle.
If you are concerned about an impaired driving charge or feel you were wrongly accused, get in touch with What The Law today! Our team of professional and experienced criminal defence lawyers have successfully defended clients across the Greater Toronto Area. Impaired driving charges are difficult to defend without the right legal experience and knowledge but remember you do not have to face them alone, we are here to fight for you.