When we think of impaired driving, we obviously picture someone who’s had a few too many drinks driving their car down a street or highway; that is, actually driving the car. However, as reported here, the recent conviction of a man in Quebec City makes it clear that while “driving” is in the name of the offence, you don’t have to be driving to be convicted. In this particular case, he was simply alone in the presence of a running vehicle while intoxicated. Though he told authorities had no intention of driving, his 11 prior impaired driving convictions certainly played a role when the Crown sentenced him. His case, while unique, is not entirely unprecedented – the Crown has convicted impaired people behind the wheel of running vehicles who aren’t driving because they were deemed to be in “care and control” of the vehicle.
“Care and Control” of a Vehicle is Enough to be Charged With Impaired Driving
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, “impaired driving” entails operating a vehicle of any kind while under the influence of alcohol or drugs – a serious criminal offence that the Crown will vigorously prosecute. Impaired driving involves consuming enough alcohol or drugs to slow down your reflexes and blur your vision, making you unable to respond quickly to the rapidly changing conditions on the road. However, as demonstrated by the foregoing case, you don’t actually need to be driving your vehicle to be charged: simply having “care or control” – which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you were present near a vehicle with the intention to drive it – can land you the same steep penalties that accompany regular impaired driving convictions.
The courts have found three categories of risk posed by an impaired driver’s interaction with a vehicle: 1) the risk that the vehicle will be unintentionally set in motion; 2) the risk that through negligence, a stationary or inoperable vehicle may endanger others; and 3) the risk that an individual who has decided not to drive will change his or her mind. In order to be successful in defending a care and control case, an accused must convince the judge that these categories of risk did not exist at the time of the offence. Given the nuances of impaired driving laws, it is important to obtain the assistance of an experienced defence lawyer familiar with these issues.
An Impaired Driving Conviction Can Be Costly
It’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid the keys to a vehicle altogether if you’re intoxicated, as the ongoing consequences are costly and can have a devastating impact on your future. In addition to fines and jail time, and the inability to get certain jobs, other consequences can include a conviction that can remain on your driving record for a decade, a mandatory alcohol education and treatment program; and an interlock system installed on your car that will not allow you to start your own vehicle when intoxicated.
To give you the best chance of avoiding the severe costs that can accompany an impaired driving conviction, you should consult with an experienced criminal defence lawyer at the earliest opportunity if you’ve been charged with impaired driving – whether you were behind the wheel or not.