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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 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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The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that excessive speeding can amount to dangerous driving, even if the speeding is for a short period of time. 

Is Excessive Speeding A Criminal Offence?

When it comes to dangerous driving, the question courts have struggled with is how bad does someone’s driving have to be before it attracts criminal sanction and consequences as opposed to purely civil consequences? This is a question of degree.  We all make mistakes and do dangerous things when we drive.  We speed, sometimes excessively, and make bad decisions, like speeding up instead of slowing down when the light turns yellow. Every time we change lanes without doing a shoulder check it’s potentially dangerous to other drivers.   But not all of us are charged with or convicted of dangerous driving under the Criminal Code of Canada when we engage in these behaviours.  Normally we are issued a motor vehicle violation ticket which can be challenged in traffic court.  For good reason, the courts have been concerned not to cast the net of criminal dangerous driving too wide.  Not all of our bad, or even dangerous driving behaviour, should result criminal sanctions.  However, the recent case from the Supreme Court of Canada in R v. Chung 2020 SCC 8 signals that the net of driving behaviours captured by the offence of criminal dangerous driving is indeed wider than previously believed.  

Related: BC Driving Prohibition FAQ

On the morning of Saturday, November 14, 2015, Mr. Chung drove his vehicle at almost three times the speed limit towards the intersection of Oak Street and West 41st Avenue in Vancouver and crashed into a left-turning vehicle. It was not raining, but the road was wet. Traffic was light around the intersection at the time, but other cars were present. The speed limit for both streets is 50 km/h, but the court heard evidence that drivers generally go above that speed limit. Both roads are wide and straight and have dedicated left turning lanes. A dashboard camera video from another vehicle captured 4.9 seconds of the event. Over the span of a block, Mr. Chung had moved into the curbside lane, passed at least one car on the right, and accelerated from 50 km/h to 140 km/h before entering the intersection. The trial judge found that Mr. Chung was not inattentive nor was he engaged in any dangerous conduct prior to this one block span. Mr. Chung was driving a powerful vehicle that could accelerate quickly. As Mr. Chung approached the intersection going north along Oak Street, there was a Toyota in front of him making a right turn. As the Toyota was turning right, the other driver started to make his left turn from going southbound on Oak Street to eastbound on West 41st Avenue. At this point, Mr. Chung started braking, narrowly missed hitting the Toyota, and collided with the victim’s car at a speed of 119 km/h. The driver of the left-turning vehicle died at the scene. Mr. Chung was charged with dangerous driving causing death.

Criminal Speeding In Canada: How Dangerous Driving is Determined

Generally speaking, all crimes are composed of two elements: a “guilty act” (referred to in Latin as the “actus reus“) and a “guilty mind” (referred to in Latin as the “mens rea“).  To be guilty of a crime, a person must do something that is against the (criminal) law. This is the “guilty act” (“actus reus”). But something has to make the person criminally (as opposed to civilly) responsible for what they’ve done. This is called the “guilty mind” or “mens rea” in Latin.

For some crimes, like dangerous driving, a person can be responsible even if they don’t mean to do anything wrong. Instead, the Judge will look at what an ordinary, sensible person (a “reasonable person”) would have done. If the manner of driving of the accused person and the “reasonable person” are very different, this is considered a “marked departure”. In a case involving a charge of dangerous driving, in assessing a driver’s guilty mind the courts consider whether the manner of driving constitutes a “marked departure” from the manner of driving of an ordinary reasonable person. Driving in a manner that is “marked departure” from that of a reasonable person is the guilty mind for crimes like dangerous driving. The actus reus for this crime is driving in a way that is dangerous to the public. 

What constitutes a “marked departure” from the manner of driving of an ordinary reasonable person is a question of degree.  Judges in Canada have struggled to apply this test. That’s because dangerous driving attracts criminal as opposed to purely civil consequences.  The question courts have struggled with is how bad does someone’s driving have to be before it attracts criminal sanction and consequences.  For good reason, the courts have been concerned not to cast the net of criminal dangerous driving too wide.  People drive badly every day.  People speed, often excessively, and driver’s make poor decisions that result in crashes. But not everyone who speeds, even excessively, or makes a poor decision that results in a crash is charged with or convicted of dangerous driving.  If it did, our courts would be inundated with dangerous driving cases, and too many Canadians would have criminal records.  Consequently, not all bad driving or even dangerous driving (excessively speeding for example) means the person should be convicted of dangerous driving.  The driving behaviour must also constitute a “marked departure” from that of an ordinary reasonable person.  

Criminal Speeding Offences In Canada: R v. Chung Explained

The experienced trial judge said Mr. Chung’s extreme speeding over a short distance met the requirement for the guilty act but he didn’t think Mr. Chung had the “guilty mind” or mens rea. He said even though tragic consequences ensued, the brief period of speeding, on its own, wasn’t enough to establish the “marked departure” required for the offence of dangerous driving.  

The Crown appealed. The British Columbia Court of Appeal said the trial judge made an error by concluding that speeding over a short period of time wasn’t enough to show a “marked departure” from that of a reasonable person. The BC Court of Appeal concluded: “In this case, I cannot understand how one could possibly describe the accused’s conduct in driving at almost three times the speed limit into a major urban intersection as anything but a marked departure from the standard expected of a reasonable driver”. The Court of Appeal replaced the “not guilty” finding with a “guilty” finding. Mr. Chung appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The majority of judges at the Supreme Court of Canada agreed that the trial judge erred. They said the trial judge focused on the fact that Mr. Chung’s speeding was for a short period of time but this wasn’t the right thing to focus on. The trial judge should have looked at whether a reasonable person would have foreseen a danger to the public and what the reasonable person would have done in the situation. The trial judge should have compared this to what Mr. Chung did, and then decided if his conduct was a “marked departure” from that of the reasonable driver.  The majority said that Mr. Chung’s conduct was a “marked departure.” Like the BC Court of Appeal, the majority judges at the Supreme Court of Canada said a reasonable person would have foreseen that quickly accelerating toward a major intersection at a high speed would create a risk, almost immediately, of hurting someone. The majority of judges said that a reasonable person understands that driving, by nature, is risky. They said the faster someone drives, the harder they accelerate, and the more aggressively they deal with traffic, the more risky it becomes. They said that even careful driving can have tragic results. But some conduct, like the driving in this case, is dangerous enough that it deserves criminal punishment.  The majority confirmed that Mr. Chung was guilty of dangerous driving causing death. It is important to note that the “marked departure from the ordinary reasonable driver” was the conduct of approaching a major intersection at three times the speed limit and not the fact that a crash ensued or that the other driver was killed. 

The problem with this approach is that from a practical perspective, a charge and conviction for dangerous driving is entirely consequence-driven, even though neither the guilty act nor the guilty mind elements of the test for dangerous driving even consider the fact that there was a crash.  The reality is that if Mr. Chung had driven excessively through a major intersection and there was no crash, he would have been issued a ticket for excessive speeding and his vehicle would have been impounded for 7 days. The conviction would have been recorded on his driving record only and he would not have incurred a criminal record. In those circumstances, Mr. Chung would not have been charged, let alone convicted, of dangerous driving.  This is the case, even though both the “guilty act” and “guilty mind” elements of the offence are the same regardless of whether there is a crash. The guilty act is approaching a major intersection at three times the speed limit.  The guilty mind is that this behaviour constitutes a marked departure from the conduct of an ordinary reasonable driver. Note that neither element relies on the consequence of a crash.  Yet those that do crash will be charged with dangerous driving and those that do not will not.  

Charged With A Criminal Driving Offence In BC? Call Filkow Law

Everyone charged with such a serious offence should contact a lawyer well versed in driving offences and driving law in order to receive proper legal advice and representation. Filkow Law has extensive experience with driving offences, such as criminal speeding in Canada. Contact us if you need assistance. 

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