When people charged with drinking and driving (D&D) offences in Ontario contact our Toronto-area law offices for help, their first questions typically revolve around whether the charges can be beat. This makes perfect sense because DUI (driving under the influence) is a criminal offence that results in severe penalties with a finding of guilty. No one wants to have a permanent criminal record or be subject to extensive fines, loss of driving privileges, mandatory educational or treatment programs, and a host of other possible expensive and inconvenient repercussions.
That’s why people facing DUI charges in Ontario seek the legal expertise of practiced criminal trial lawyers to help successfully defend against the charges. DUI case law tends to be exceptionally complicated and there are numerous separate DUI charges one can be charged with, including:
Impaired driving — based on physical evidence and observations by police that one’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle was impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Over 80-plus mgs — Based on an official breathalyzer reading that shows alcohol blood-level concentrations exceeding 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.
Refusing to provide a breath sample — with the same outcome from a guilty finding in other DUI charges, based on a suspect’s refusal to provide a roadside or breathalyser sample, or when a suspect’s sample fails to provide a reading.
Care and control — based on police determination that even though the suspect was not witnessed actually driving while impaired, the suspect was in a position within a vehicle in which they could have driven it while impaired.
Underage impaired driving — based on zero tolerance for any level of potential impairment by a teenage driver, whether as witnessed by police or proven by breath sample.
In many cases, police will charge suspected drivers with more than one of the impaired offences, such as by combining impaired driving charges with refusing to provide a breath sample. DUI can also be combined with other offences, such as DUI and hit and run charges. Naturally, the burden of mounting a successful defence against multiple charges becomes harder to surmount.
Whatever the DUI charge(s), skilled criminal trial lawyers—such as those at Mass Tsang—carefully examine all elements of the case to determine how to beat the charges or achieve the most favorable outcome possible. Successfully getting DUI charges dropped in Canada before trial is rare, but skilled lawyers can strategize effective defence efforts that can result in acquittals, withdrawn charges, reduced charges, mitigated penalties, or dismissal. Strategies for beating DUI charges in Ontario follow.
Plea Bargain Negotiations for Reduced Charges
Defense lawyers can use any potential flaws they find in a case — whether procedural or evidentiary — as leverage to encourage Crown prosecutors to negotiate a plea bargain that allows the defendant to plead guilty to reduced charges of careless driving in exchange for the withdrawal of the DUI charges. While the defendant will still face a fine and negative points on the driving record, the outcome is far more favorable than a guilty finding for DUI.
Of course, if the Crown’s evidence is blatantly flawed, or police procedures resulted in clear violations of the defendant’s Charter Rights, the defence attorney might reject pursuit of reduced charges, even if the Crown is seeking the plea bargain.
Charter Rights Violations and Other Procedural Mistakes
Canadian courts consider protection of a suspect’s Charter Rights highly important as they ensure fair and just application of the law. In fact, Charter Rights are so important that judges will readily exclude relevant evidence connected to such violations and often dismiss charges based solely on Charter Rights violations. Among Charter Rights breaches that can serve to exclude evidence and/or nullify charges:
Failing to provide timely and clear explanation of why the suspect is being detained and/or charged.
Failing to allow a suspect reasonable opportunity to consult with their chosen lawyer or failing to allow such consultation in private.
Failing to provide competent interpretation services in the face of language barriers.
Leaving suspects in a state of indefinite uncertainty about the reasons for detainment/unreasonable delays in making a roadside screening demand.
Failing to notify a defendant about their Charter Rights.
Failing to provide suspects with certification when they take the breathalyser.
Lack of probable cause warranting the demand for a breath sample.
Failing to provide defendants their right to a speedy trial.
Excessive detainment after arrest.
Other procedural mistakes, even if not a clear-cut Charter Rights violation, can lead judges to exclude evidence from the case. This could include an arresting officer’s apparent unfamiliarity with an approved roadside screening device or untimely delays in the administration of a breathalyser (a delay of more than two hours between the traffic stop and administration of the breathalyser is often challenged).
All this to say that procedures taken by police and the Crown during the course of a DUI arrest and trial are exceptionally important. So, if you are arrested for DUI, try to keep track of everything that happens during the course of your ordeal.
The Raising of Reasonable Doubt
As with all criminal court proceedings, the concept of “beyond a reasonable doubt” is crucial in establishing a finding of guilt in DUI cases. Thus, skilled DUI lawyers will always question any element of a Crown’s case that can raise doubts about the evidence. For example, when questioning arresting officers and any other witnesses about the apparent impairment of the defendant, doubt can be raised when testimony differs. If one officer says the defendant was slurring his words, but another officer and the breathalyser technician testify that the defendant was not, the issue of reasonable doubt has been raised. While this alone might not lead to an acquittal, the more such doubts that can be raised, the weaker the Crown’s case becomes.
Effective lawyers can also raise reasonable doubt in other ways. Testimony from an Expert toxicologists might diverge from what the police testified. Doubts about the accuracy of breathalyser machines might be raised if the lawyer can find evidence that it may not have been properly maintained or operated. “Care and Control” charges are often disputed by attempting to raise doubts about the defendant’s intent to drive and/or ease at which they actually could take control of the vehicle. Bottom line is that the less clear-cut the Crown’s case is, the more reasonable doubts a skilled lawyer can raise to beat the DUI charges.
Consult with Mass Tsang for your Ontario DUI Defence Needs
With detailed attention focused on all elements of every DUI case in the Toronto area, the criminal trial lawyers at Mass Tsang are dedicated to seeking the most favorable outcome possible for those charged with DUI in Ontario. Mass Tsang lawyers have successfully defended thousands of Toronto-area DUI cases and have a solid record of securing favorable outcomes for their clients.
If you or someone you know is facing DUI charges in the greater Toronto area, contact the expert lawyers at Mass Tsang today for a free consultation.