Penalties of Impaired Driving and DUI Charges in Newfoundland and Labrador

Drinking and driving is one of the most common offences in Newfoundland and Labrador and at the same time is one of the offences that can have the most devastating long term effects.

The penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) can include fines, jail terms, license suspensions, costs for the interlock system, victim fine surcharges, mandatory education programs, increase in insurance premiums and in some cases vehicle impoundment. Being convicted of this offence can cost offenders over ten thousand dollars in the first year and at least half that amount per year for the next five. In addition, independent of the justice system, the provincial department of motor vehicles will also suspend your license for up to three months as soon as you are charged and before you are convicted. Consequently, it is imperative that you seek legal advice if you are charged with this offence as it can severely impact all aspects of your life.

Being charged with impaired driving is not the end of the world as there are many defences available to an accused. Moreover, like in every criminal matter, the Crown has the burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s also worth noting that drinking and driving cases are complicated and often times proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt is difficult for the Crown as the failure to prove one element of many can result in acquittal.

Due to the complicated nature of this offence, the government has created numerous shortcuts to help the police charge and the Crown convict offenders. Nonetheless, in doing so they have also unintentionally created numerous defences to the offence as each shortcut has basic requirements that must be met in order to be relied upon. If the Crown cannot prove that all the requirements have been complied with then it will not be allowed to rely on the shortcut. This is typically where the defence will arise. For example, the Crown must prove that the police had reasonable grounds to believe that you were driving your vehicle within the previous three hours to demand you take the breathalyzer.

There are other ways to defend an impaired driving offence as well, including Charter of Rights defences under section 8 (illegal search), section 9 (arbitrary detention) and section 10(b) (right to counsel). It is also possible, albeit difficult, to challenge the accuracy of the breathalyzer. An experienced DUI lawyer with good knowledge of this area of the law will often be able to utilize a defence based on the weaknesses in the case against you that can have a reasonable chance of success.

It is vital that you contact an experienced lawyer for more information on DUI charges. Simply pleading guilty to just get it over with and save some money is an extremely dangerous choice. If, for example, you are convicted for the same offence for a second or third time, the result will be a minimum jail term of 30 days or 120 days respectively, a three year or lifetime driving prohibition, a lengthy Interlock ignition condition and increased fines. There is no second chance once you have been convicted of impaired driving.

If you have any questions about impaired driving or any other criminal offences please don’t hesitate to contact me or another lawyer at Gittens & Associates in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

– Stephen Orr

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