The 17-Minute Mistake

By Sriram Rangan – Licensed Paralegal

Canada takes charges related to drinking and driving very seriously. Being convicted of any driving infraction involving alcohol can result in life-altering changes in the way you can legally live your life. For that reason, it is advisable to always fight such charges in court with a competent legal advisor at your side.

Even if you feel that the charges brought against you were probably legitimate, the fact that such charges can seriously impact your ability to make a living – your driver’s license will be suspended for an entire year – or if you stand a chance of getting that new dream job with such a conviction on your record.  Beyond that, the laws in this country are written to make certain that law enforcement officials do their jobs accurately and in a lawful way.

We offer this example to show you that sometimes even ‘slam-dunk’ cases are not what they appear to be.

In Ontario Justice Court, COURT FILE No.: Toronto 4817 998 14-75002803, we learn that a man and his wife, after drinking “a few beers” have an argument. The man rushes out of the house with a beer in his hand, gets into his truck, puts on his seatbelt, turns on vehicle and the radio, then promptly passes out.

The man is so unconscious, in fact, that police are called to deal with the matter, and they cannot rouse him. With the help of the man’s wife, they rock the car, they shout, but to no effect. At one point the man does awaken slightly, smile at the frantic people outside his closed window, rev the engine and falls back into unconsciousness. Eventually, the wife rouses the man and convinces him to open his window.

The man is placed under arrest, of course, but the wife pleads with the police officers not to impound the vehicle because the son needs it to go to his job in the morning. The police officers politely consider this request for a period of 17 minutes. (The officers determine that the truck must be impounded after all.)

The man in question is processed and his blood alcohol content is tested, resulting in a charge of ‘Over 80.’ His blood alcohol concentration was 180 mg per 100 ml of blood, making him officially impaired.

Had this man gone to court without legal counsel, chances are he would have been convicted on the spot. However, in the course of discussing the events of that night with his legal representative, the law essentially exonerated him.

Canada’s Criminal Code requires that the breath demand be made “as soon as practicable.” Because the level of alcohol in the bloodstream can go up or down depending upon the amount of time elapsed between the accused’s last drink and the testing, it is important that the test be taken at once. Additionally, the notification of the accused of his right to legal counsel must also be made in a timely manner. In this case, because the officers and the wife were discussing whether or not the truck should be impounded, there was a 17-minute delay in the process. The court was ultimately forced to exclude the BAC evidence, and dismiss the charge because the test was not done “as soon as practicable.”

The law is written to protect the rights of everyone who is touched by a crime. Careful attention to details and the protection of evidence is critical in order to make a charge ‘stick.’ In this case, that discussion over the truck’s dispensation – a request that probably should have been dismissed out of hand – allowed the accused to walk free. We can only hope that he recognizes his good fortune, and avoids such circumstances in the future.

The fact is anybody can find themselves victims of their own lapses in judgment. Some of The 17-Minute Mistakethese lapses could easily result in huge consequences that can follow you for the rest of your life. Make your first call to Vagans Legal Service….just as soon as it is practicable.

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