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EDITORIAL: Are impaired drivers wriggling off the hook?


Published on July 18, 2017

Drunk drivers shouldn’t be on the road and police officers should have clear rules to stop them if they are.

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Here’s a thought: does anyone really think that police officers with years of experience are so inept as to make as many as four separate violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a single drunk-driving arrest?

Or is it time for lawmakers to review how drinking and driving convictions are obtained, and clearly spell out the process, especially when courts are taxed for time, and lengthy and detailed court cases are being thrown out for taking too long to come to court?

If you review any province’s court case for drunk driving, you notice one thing pretty quickly: defence lawyers throw up any Charter objection they can to the arrest of their clients and each one has to be argued.

Two June cases in Ontario make the point clearly, where two different drivers made four Charter violation claims apiece.

In R. vs. Nicolas Rossi, the accused wanted the case stopped because of:

• A breach of section 10(b) of the Charter as a result of an eight-minute delay between the applicant’s arrest and the provision of the rights to counsel.

• A breach of the applicant’s right to counsel of choice pursuant to section 10(b) of the Charter due to the officer’s failure to allow the applicant to retrieve his cellphone to access the contact information for his counsel of choice.

• A breach of section 9 of the Charter on the basis that the applicant was detained in the absence of reasonable grounds to believe that if he was released from custody he would fail to attend court as required by section 498(1.1)(b) of the Criminal Code.

• A breach of section 10(b) of the Charter due to the failure of the police to give the applicant a further opportunity to speak with counsel following the decision to detain him for a show cause hearing.

None of the Charter arguments were accepted by the judge.

Then, there’s R. vs. Warren Taylor — “Counsel for the defendant brought an Application initially alleging a section 8 Charter breach and, subsequently, during the hearing, an application alleging additional section 9, 10(a) and 10(b) Charter rights breaches.”

The Taylor case shows why lawyers make every Charter claim they can: the judge found one of the charter breaches was legitimate and tossed the breathalyzer results as evidence. The accused successfully argued that he hadn’t been properly informed about what he was being charged with.

You can argue that the defendants are only exercising their rights and that’s true.

At the same time, the law should be clear enough to establish what the rights of people being arrested are, and what the responsibilities of the police officers are.

Drunk drivers shouldn’t be on the road and police officers should have clear rules to stop them if they are.