driving offences

driving offences

driving-offences

In 2020, 1,200 motor vehicle accidents in the Lower Mainland involved pedestrians. 24 of those accidents involved the pedestrian passing away as a result of their injuries. Common contributing factors include speeding, distraction, or impairment. However, not all accidents involve active wrongdoing on the part of the driver. Often, accidents are simply just that, an accident. A common example involves a driver that does not see the pedestrian as a result of heavy rain and darkness in the winter months. However, this does not mean that the driver is not responsible. In these circumstances, the Court has made it clear that while there is no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the driver, wrongdoing could be proven under the Motor Vehicle Act for driving without due care and attention.

Fatal Pedestrian Vehicle Accidents: Legal Implications

The provision for driving without due care and attention can be found under section 144(1)(a) of the Motor Vehicle Act. Although this offence is not criminal in nature it is dealt with in criminal court. This offence is proven when a driver – while attentive to the mechanics of driving – is inadvertently negligent by failing to direct his or her mind to matters (other than driving) which ought to have been directed. For example, Filkow Law commonly represents drivers who are making a legal left turn but strike a pedestrian that is legally crossing the street. The Court has stated that an accident of this kind is not criminal however, the driver should have turned his or her mind to the fact that a pedestrian may have been in the crosswalk prior to making the left turn and if the driver is found not to have turned their mind, they were inadvertently negligent and responsible for driving without due care and attention.

The law of pedestrian fatalities is complex. There is a fine line between being inattentive and being inadvertent.

The potential consequences for being found guilty of driving without due care and attention include a fine, a driving prohibition and, in some cases, a jail sentence.

If you were involved in a motor vehicle-pedestrian accident, call the lawyers at Filkow Law for knowledgeable and experienced advice.

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On December 18, 2018, Parliament made significant changes to drinking and driving laws. Filkow Law’s Anthony Robinson wrote and presented a paper explaining these changes to the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia on September 24, 2021. This is the fifth instalment of this paper, outlining evidentiary issues for drinking and driving case law examples in BC.

The following is an excerpt regarding evidentiary issues surrounding samples, statements and disclosure:

Admissibility of Result of Analysis s. 320.31(7)

Subsection 320.31(7) states that voluntarily providing a sample of breath, blood, urine, sweat or other bodily substances may be used as evidence against the individual without notice. The individual need not be warned that they did not need to give the sample, or that the sample may be used as evidence against the individual. This provision has yet to be constitutionally challenged.

Admissibility of Statement s. 320.31(9)

Subsection 320.31(9) provides that a statement compelled by law is admissible for the purpose of justifying a demand for breath or other bodily samples. The section states:

(9) A statement made by a person to a peace officer, including a statement compelled under a provincial Act, is admissible in evidence for the purpose of justifying a demand made under section 320.27 or 320.28.

This provision was constitutionality challenged in R v Korduner, 2021 ABPC 83 an Alberta lower court decision. In Korduner, the accused was involved in a motor vehicle accident. On the way to the hospital after the accident, the accused made statements to a police officer in the ambulance. Those statements were compelled under the Traffic Safety Act and were used as evidence against the accused on a charge of impaired operation and refusing a breath demand.

The accused argued that section 320.31(9) of the Code violated sections 7, 8, 9 and 10(b) of the Charter. The accused relied on the “use immunity” principle to argue a conveyance operator involved in an accident is protected by the principle against self-incrimination. Following the precedents in R v White, [1999] 2 SCR 417, R v Powers, 2006 BCCA 454, R v Soules, 2011 ONCA 429, and R v Porter, 2015 ABCA 279 the court in Kroduner concluded s. 320.31(9) violated section 7 of the Charter. The court stated:

[50] Section 7 of the Charter provides protection for individuals who are required to report an accident. I have already found in Voir Dire #2, that the Accused/Applicant’s statements to the officer were statements compelled by section 71 TSA and that the Accused/Applicant had an honest and reasonable belief that she was statutorily compelled to answer his questions, and thus the principles of White were engaged and those statements provided are protected from any use in subsequent criminal proceedings. Per the reasoning of Powers, Soules, and Porter, use of the compelled answers are not admissible in a criminal proceeding for any purpose, including to establish reasonable grounds for a breath sample demand.

[51] Section 320.31(9) specifically allows for such a compelled statement to be used to justify a breath demand. The portion of section 320.31(9) dealing with a statement “compelled under a provincial Act” goes directly against the reasoning in White, Powers, Soules, and Porter. It is clear that the Accused/Applicant’s section 7 Charter rights are engaged. I find the above cited authority is determinative of the issue: that allowing a compelled statement under a Provincial Act, including a compelled statement under the TSA, would infringe the Accused/Applicant’s section 7 rights against self-incrimination in a manner not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. The Accused/Applicant has demonstrated that section 320.31(9) both engages section 7 of the Charter and that the impugned provision is causally connected to the prejudice arising from the infringement of the principle against self-incrimination.9

However, since the Alberta Provincial Court lacks jurisdiction to declare legislation unconstitutional, the court limited the unconstitutional finding to the accused. Further, the court clarified that the finding was contingent on a section 1 Charter hearing, which to date has not been heard.

Disclosure

The Crown’s disclosure obligations with respect to the proper functioning of the Approved Instrument have now been codified in s. 320.34(1). The prosecutor must disclose information about any breath samples provided pursuant to subsection 320.28 including:

(a) the results of the system blank tests;

(b) the results of the system calibration checks;

(c) any error or exception messages produced by the approved instrument at the time the samples were taken;

(d) the results of the analysis of the accused’s breath samples; and

(e) a certificate of an analyst stating that the sample of an alcohol standard that is identified in the certificate is suitable for use with an approved instrument.

Pursuant to s. 320.34(2) the accused may apply to the court for a hearing to determine whether further materials should be disclosed regarding the proper functioning of the Approved Instrument. The application must be in writing and set out detailed particulars of the information the accused seeks to have disclosed and the likely relevance of that information to determining whether the Approved Instrument was in proper working order (see s. 320.34(3)). The disclosure application hearing must be held at least 30 days before trial.

If you exceeded the blood alcohol limit while driving and need legal assistance, the lawyers at Filkow Law have over 50 years of experience dealing with all types of criminal law and driving law cases. Please feel free to give us a call.

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On December 18, 2018, Parliament made significant changes to drinking and driving laws. Filkow Law’s Anthony Robinson wrote and presented a paper explaining these changes to the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia on September 24, 2021. This is the fourth instalment of this paper, explaining the increased penalties for drinking and driving, including dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.

Increased Penalties for Drinking and Driving

The following is an excerpt regarding some of the increased penalties for a conviction of a criminal driving offence:

Mandatory minimum sentences now apply to dangerous operation causing bodily harm and causing death as well as fleeing the scene of an accident causing bodily harm and death.

There are now tiered fines for having a BAC over certain thresholds. A first conviction for having a BAC equal to or exceeding 120mgs% but less than 160mgs% will result in a minimum fine of $1500. If the BAC is greater than 160mgs%, the minimum fine is $2000. The minimum fine for a first offence for refusing to provide a breath sample is doubled to $2000.

The maximum jail sentence for impaired driving and refusal to provide a sample increased from 5 years to 10 years if prosecuted by indictment. This will result in automatic deportation for convicted foreign nationals or permanent residents.

Driving prohibitions under the Code for impaired driving, over .08 and refusal are:

  • For the first offence, a minimum of 1 year to a maximum of 3 years (plus any period of imprisonment).
  • For the second offence, a minimum of 2 years to a maximum of 10 years (plus any period of imprisonment).
  • For each subsequent offence, a minimum of 3 years with no maximum (plus any period of imprisonment).

There are also mandatory prohibitions under the British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act for Criminal Code driving convictions.

Section 320.22 sets out aggravating features that the court must consider on sentencing. The factors are:

(a) the commission of the offence resulted in bodily harm to, or the death of, more than one person;

(b) the offender was operating a motor vehicle in a race with at least one other motor vehicle or in a contest of speed, on a street, road or highway or in another public place;

(c) a person under the age of 16 years was a passenger in the conveyance operated by the offender;

(d) the offender was being remunerated for operating the conveyance;

(e) the offender’s blood alcohol concentration at the time of committing the offence was equal to or exceeded 120 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood;

(f)  the offender was operating a large motor vehicle;[1] and

(g) the offender was not permitted, under a federal or provincial Act, to operate the conveyance.

This list of aggravating factors is not exhaustive.

A first offence for over .08 with a BAC below 120 mgs% is $1000. A first offence with a BAC in excess of 120mgs% carries a mandatory increased fine ($1500 if the readings are between 120 and 160 mgs% and $2000 if more than 160 mgs%). Therefore, for first offenders, the aggravating feature of having a BAC in excess of 120mgs% is already accounted for by the mandatory minimum sentence. However, this aggravating feature is not accounted for for subsequent offences or if bodily harm or death is involved.

[1] Cases that have considered whether a vehicle is a large motor vehicle include: R v Hillier, 2020 CanLII 85560 (NLPC) at paras 33-34 (Silverado truck); R v Sivakumaran, 2021 ONCJ 307 at paras 37-38 (Ford pickup truck); R v Caines, 2019 ONCJ 348, at para 26 (Dodge Ram pickup truck); R v Saxby, 2006 ABPC 201 at para 2, (Kenworth tractor); R v Dhadwal, 2012 ABPC 349 at paras 5, 25 (unspecified truck); R v Fairchild, 2017 ONCJ 658 at paras 1, 30 (Ford Escape SUV); R v Burger, 2015 ABPC 224 at paras 1, 68 (Semi-truck); R v Hallock, 2014 ABPC 232 at para 22 (Ford F150); and R v Bagri, 2016 BCCA 272 at paras 7, 17 (2003 Volvo tractor truck weighing 8575kg).

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On December 18, 2018, Parliament made significant changes to drinking and driving laws. Filkow Law’s Anthony Robinson wrote and presented a paper explaining these changes to the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia on September 24, 2021. This is the second instalment of this paper, explaining the new legal blood alcohol limit in BC, and timing of the blood alcohol reading.

Legal Blood Alcohol Limit is Now 79 mgs%

The following is an excerpt regarding a change in the legal blood alcohol limit:

Under the previous regime, it was an offence to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in excess of 80mgs% (80 mgs of alcohol in 100ml of blood). It is now unlawful to have a BAC “equal to or exceeding” 80 mgs%. The new formulation was a response caused by rounding down BAC results to the nearest 10th mg%.[1]

Time of the Blood Alcohol Reading

The following is an excerpt outlining how the scope of the offence has expanded from the time of driving to within two hours of the time of driving, and how two defences have been eliminated:

One of the most significant changes to the legislation is that a driver’s BAC no longer needs to be in excess of the legal limit at the time the driver had care and control of the conveyance. It is now an offence to be in excess of the legal limit within two hours of operating a motor vehicle. The predecessor legislation made it an offence to have a BAC in excess of the legal limit at the time of driving. This meant there had to be a temporal overlap between a BAC in excess of the legal limit and the time of driving. That overlap no longer applies.

Section 320.14(1)(b) states:

Everyone commits an offence who

(b) subject to subsection (5), has, within two hours after ceasing to operate a conveyance, a blood alcohol concentration that is equal to or exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood;

The curious impact of this change is that the elements of the offence of being in excess of the legal BAC limit no longer has to overlap in time with the element of care and control. Without subsection (5), this amendment would allow someone to be convicted of an over .08 offence because their BAC was in excess of the legal limit within 2 hours of driving, even though their BAC was below the legal limit at the time of driving. Thankfully the definition is subject to the limitations prescribed in subsection 320.14(5) which states:

(5) No person commits an offence under paragraph (1)(b) if

(a) they consumed alcohol after ceasing to operate the conveyance;

(b) after ceasing to operate the conveyance, they had no reasonable expectation that they would be required to provide a sample of breath or blood; and

(c) their alcohol consumption is consistent with their blood alcohol concentration as determined in accordance with subsection 320.31(1) or (2) and with their having had, at the time when they were operating the conveyance, a blood alcohol concentration that was less than 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood.

This new definition defeats two defences: bolus drinking; and the intervening drinking defence.

Bolus drinking refers to situations where a driver claims they consumed alcohol just before or during driving, but they were not over the legal limit at the time of driving because the alcohol was not fully absorbed in their blood until the time of testing. Because the bolus drinker did not consume alcohol after ceasing to operate the conveyance, they can not avail themselves of the exception prescribed in subsection 320.14(5)(a).

The intervening drinking defence is usually advanced when there has been a motor vehicle accident. The defence refers to situations where the driver claims they consumed alcohol after an accident such that they were over the legal limit after the accident but not at the time of driving. This defence is eliminated under the new definition by the operation of subsection 5(b), which provides that it is not an offence to be in excess of the legal limit within 2 hours of driving if the driver had a reasonable expectation they would be required to provide a sample of breath or blood.

It is difficult to conceive of all the circumstances in which a driver would reasonably be expected to provide a sample of breath or blood. However, being involved in a motor accident can be one of them.

This is reflected in R v Mair, [2019] OJ No 2215. In that case, the police received a report that a vehicle drove into a tree then left the scene. The police followed a trail of radiator fluid from the scene to a driveway. When the police questioned the accused, he confessed to driving the vehicle. The accused was arrested and taken to the police detachment and provided a sample in excess of the legal limit.

The accused gave a defence of intervening drinking. He testified at trial that he consumed two pints of beer at a pub prior to the accident. After the accident, he returned home and drank 60-70% of a bottle of whiskey. The accused said he was shaken from the accident, so he drank that amount in about 25 minutes.

This case pre-dated the 2018 amendments as the offence was alleged to have occurred in 2017. However, the court commented in obiter about whether under the new provisions the accused would have had a reasonable expectation to provide a breath sample in the circumstances. The court conclude that a driver who got into an accident would have difficulty establishing they did not have a reasonable expectation to provide a sample. At para. 38 the court stated:

I would note the recent amendments to the Criminal Code which provide new specific rules governing post-driving alcohol consumption. Under the new s. 320.14(5), Mr. Mair would have been required, in order to succeed in his defence, to establish that he had no reasonable expectation that he would be required to provide a sample of his breath. Given the fact that he had just been involved in an accident, Mr. Mair would have considerable difficulty establishing that. He would also have had to provide toxicological evidence to establish a BAC consistent with post-driving consumption.

Similarly, in Madadi-Farsijani, 2021 ONCJ 196 the accused put forward a defence of intervening drinking. The accused drank one beer with a friend then drove home. On the way home, the accused rear-ended a vehicle. He testified the collision caused him to have a flashback to a prior traumatic driving experience in Iran. Upset by the flashback, the accused grabbed one of the bottles of whiskey he purchased earlier in the day and drank about 10 ounces prior to exiting the vehicle. He left the opened bottle on the front passenger seat while the other unopened bottle remained on the rear floor of the vehicle.

The court concluded that an intervening drinking defence could not succeed because in the circumstances of this accident it was reasonable to expect the accused would be required to provide a sample.[2] At paras. 28 and 29 the court stated:

Mr. Madadi-Farsijani testified that after causing a collision on a major highway, he consumed a tremendous amount of alcohol. There was visible damage to his own vehicle. The other driver quickly confirmed to the defendant that the police would be called as an obvious consequence. On any standard, I find it was only reasonable to expect that a breath test was required in the circumstances.

[1] Backgrounder for former Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, p 23.

[2] In Madadi-Farsijani, the accused also filed a constitutional challenge to the Over .08 provision on the basis the section violates ss. 7 and 11(d) of the Charter. The court deferred dealing with the constitutional challenge until it determined the accused’s guilt under the existing provisions. To date, the Charter application has yet to be heard. In R v Kaur, 2020 ONCJ 538 the accused filed a Charter application regarding ss. 320.14(1)(b) and 320.31(1). Due to a scheduling conflict, the Charter challenge was deferred to the end of trial. The challenge has yet to be heard.

If you exceeded the blood alcohol limit while driving and need legal assistance, the lawyers at Filkow Law have over 50 years of experience dealing with all types of criminal law and driving law cases. Please feel free to give us a call.

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