Impaired Driving

The basic definition of impaired driving is, operating a motor vehicle while impaired by the influence of drugs or alcohol. In typical cases, an officer will pull a vehicle over after observing signs that the driver may be impaired. Irregular or unsafe behavior such as erratic lane changes, abrupt stopping, and swerving can all be grounds for a stop. There is no requirement that a car be in motion, it can sometimes be enough that the impaired person is sitting in the driver’s seat. Additionally, if an officer reasonably suspects that a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and that the person was driving at some point within the past three hours, the officer can require further testing to determine whether a person is impaired.

During a stop for impaired driving, the suspect will be tested for drugs and alcohol through field sobriety or physical coordination tests and in the case of alcohol, breath sampling. Unlike the charge of over 80, impaired driving does not require that the accused have a certain amount of alcohol in his or her system, any amount of alcohol or drugs that affects a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle is against the law. After the initial evaluation, if the officer suspects drug or alcohol use, further tests of saliva, urine or blood are often used to determine the presence or absence of intoxicating substances. If a person refuses to comply with an officer’s demand for testing, the individual can be charged with refusing to comply which carries similar penalties to impaired driving or over 80.

In court, the Crown will have to prove that the driving ability was actually impaired. The police officer and perhaps other witnesses will testify regarding their observations. These observations can be of the driving behavior such as disregarding the rules of the road, or of the accused individual such as smelling of alcohol or having bloodshot eyes.

If you have been charged with impaired driving, it may seem easier to just plead guilty and put the whole thing behind you. However, a guilty plea on an impaired driving charge is a very serious matter and the consequences can be severe. In addition to possible prison sentences, there is a mandatory prohibition on driving and you will see a high increase in your insurance rates. A lawyer can explain possible outcomes and the respective consequences in detail and help you make a fully informed decision regarding whether to accept a deal or go to trial.


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