Impaired Driving Lawyer Calgary
Impaired Driving is also known as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). The term Impaired Driving is Canadian, while the other two versions are American terminology. Impaired Driving is also typically used to refer to a number of driving alcohol-related offences such as Driving Over the Legal Limit (also known as Over 80 or Over .08), Refusal to Provide a Breath Sample, Failure to Provide a Breath Sample, or Care and Control While Impaired.
If serious injuries have resulted as a consequence of alcohol-related driving, the charges may be upgraded, in the case of Impaired Driving for example, to Impaired Driving Causing Bodily Harm or Impaired Driving Causing Death.
Approximately 1500 people are charged with one or more of these offences each year in Calgary. Not all people charged are convicted. Impaired Driving, for example, is very subjective. There are many reasons why someone may appear impaired, including stress, sickness, momentary inattention, etc. It is important to analyze the evidence objectively and discern what is or is not really evidence of impairment by alcohol.
Impaired Driving and similar offences are very technical. Police have to follow a number of procedures to comply with their own training and to comply with your Constitutional Rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Moreover, they have to ensure that the devices they use to obtain evidence against you are functioning properly, and are operated properly.
Impaired Driving Charge
This charge is separate, but related to the charge of “driving over .08”. It is often charged alongside a charge of over .08. The prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, several elements of this charge:
- That you operated or had the care or control of, a motor vehicle
- That your ability to operate that motor vehicle was impaired
- That alcohol was the cause of your impairment
The Crown need only prove that your ability to drive was slightly impaired.
In deciding whether or not the Crown has proven its case on this charge, Judges can consider a wide variety of evidence. Judges will frequently consider the following types of evidence:
- Your physical appearance (red/bloodshot/glassy eyes, drooling)
- The smell of alcohol on your breath
- Your driving pattern /performance (were you swerving? Speeding? Signalling? Obeying all traffic signs and lights?)
- Your pattern of speech (i.e. was it slurred?)
- Your balance while walking
- Your hand/eye coordination (did you have difficulty retrieving your license, insurance, registration or documents when you were pulled over? The police will often request these documents for the purpose of assessing your sobriety)
- Any admissions you made to the police (either in transport, in between giving breath samples at the police station, or before you were released after samples)
Since you own words can be used against you, it is critical that you say no more than necessary at all times when in police custody. We have unfortunately seen cases where the accused would have beat the charge had he not made statements to the police such as:
- “I know I made a mistake; I shouldn’t have been driving”
- “What’s the point of giving breath samples? I know I will blow over”.
Conversely, the police may appear friendly and chatty during the drive to the station or in between you giving breath samples. This is a ruse on their part to encourage you to talk about your alcohol consumption and admit that you were too drunk to drive.
Bail Conditions for Impaired Driving Charge
The most significant condition that you will experience as a result of being charged is your license suspension. This suspension lasts until your court case is finished; this can take from 3 months to one year! Our knowledgeable impaired driving defence lawyers can pursue an appeal of your suspension if you come to us well in advance of the 30-day appeal period.
If you have recent related conviction, the Crown will have a compelling argument to convince a judge that you should be kept in custody until your charges are dealt with. Our lawyers can neutralize that argument by providing the judge a release plan that will show you are not a danger to re-offend if released.
Defending Impaired Driving Charges
We can help neutralize the power imbalance that exists when you are alone in police custody and a demand is made for you to give breath samples.
We will review your case inside and out for any defences or breaches of your constitutional rights that may result in the charges getting dismissed. We will explore the following key issues:
- Are there alternative explanations for any poor driving pattern?
- Are the Crown’s eyewitnesses reliable enough to prove you guilty?
- Is there sufficient evidence that you drank alcohol in a large enough amount to impair your ability to drive?
- Did the police violate any of your constitutional rights in the process of gathering evidence against you?
The punishments for impaired driving are high. You can get up to 5 years in jail.
In addition, there are mandatory minimum punishments for impaired driving:
- First offence: minimum $1000 fine; driving suspension of at least 1 year
- Second offence: minimum 30 days in jail; driving suspension of at least 2 years
- Third offence: minimum 120 days in jail; driving suspension of at least 3 years
There is an exception to the mandatory fines and jail time laid out above, called a “curative discharge”. If you are able to convince the court that you have an addiction to alcohol that requires medical treatment, the Court may decide to place you on probation and require you to take treatment instead of sending you to jail.
Because it is an exceptional sentence reserved for only the most deserving offenders, a curative discharge application requires the competent and persuasive presentation of medical evidence, and a compelling legal argument. The groundwork must be laid immediately after the charge if the court is to be satisfied that you are genuinely motivated to cure your addiction.
Our defence lawyers will explore the curative discharge option with you at your free initial consultation, and, if you wish to pursue it, will start work immediately on creating and collecting the complex and detailed medical evidence required to make the best argument.
Recent Important Changes to Impaired Driving in Alberta
As of July 1, 2012, the Alberta Government implemented legislation that results in the immediate license suspension of anyone charged with most alcohol related driving offences, such as Impaired Driving, Over 80, Refusal, Care or Control, etc. Typically, the suspension continues indefinitely until the charges are resolved. Recently, in May of 2017 criminal defence lawyers in Alberta (including our office) challenged and successfully overturned this legislation. Unfortunately, the Alberta Court of Appeal left the legislation in place for 1 year from the date of invalidity.
There is nevertheless a mechanism for challenging such a suspension, and you should contact me directly to determine whether your case meets the criteria for an effective challenge. Please be aware driving during this suspension period may result in further charges.
Impaired Driving FAQs
- How do I find the best lawyer for my DUI charge?
- Can I be charged with a DUI even if I wasn’t driving or the vehicle wasn’t moving (Care or Control?)
- What is the penalty if I plead guilty or I am found guilty of a DUI?
- How will my DUI charge affect my license in Alberta?
- How can I avoid a criminal record if I am guilty of a DUI?
- Can I go to the US if I am found guilty of a DUI?
- Can I get charged with a DUI if I am driving while I am high on drugs?
- A criminal defence lawyer’s top 5 tips for fighting an impaired driving charge