Drunk driving: should you hire a lawyer?

Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after having consumed alcohol could prove to be dangerous for you, your passengers and other drivers on the road.

Despite the numerous public awareness campaigns regarding the risks of driving with your faculties impaired under the influence of alcohol, there are still numerous violations. Did you know that, according to the SAAQ, in 2018, there were 11,054 violations of the Criminal Code related to driving under the influence of alcohol?

In recent months, on average, there have been of 30 arrests per day in Quebec for driving under the influence.

Definition of drunk driving

You may think that you’ll only run the risk being accused of driving under the influence of alcohol if you’re driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit of 80 milligrams of alcohol per hundred milliliters of blood. But this isn’t necessarily true! In fact, there are other circumstances that could lead to charges of violating the Criminal Code, including the following:

  • Your ability to drive is impaired by the effects of alcohol, even if your blood alcohol level is below the legal limit. The Criminal Code penalizes “operating a conveyance while impaired by alcohol or a drug or a combination of alcohol and a drug.” Therefore, a police officer can arrest you and inform you that you were observed, for example, weaving from one lane to another or driving erratically, that you seem to have difficulty expressing yourself, that your eyes are red, that there’s a strong smell of alcohol on your breath, etc. One or more of these symptoms can give the officer reasonable grounds to believe that your faculties are impaired.
  • You refuse or fail to take a breathalyzer test or field sobriety test.
  • You’re in an intoxicated state, but aren’t driving, for example, if you’re seated behind the wheel, stretched out in the back or near the trunk of a parked vehicle. You should be aware that the law defines driving a vehicle with your faculties impaired not only as operating a vehicle, but also being in possession or control of a vehicle.

Possible defenses with an attorney

Whether you intend to contest the charge of drunk driving or plead guilty to it, things will go better for you if you’re accompanied by a criminal lawyer. Since the modification of the Criminal Code in 2020, a number of offenders are choosing to plead guilty in hopes of being able to continue driving by installing a breath alcohol ignition interlock device in their vehicle. But that’s not always the best means of defense.

By engaging an attorney who specializes in criminal law to represent you in your drunk-driving case, you’ll increase your chances of being acquitted or negotiating a better sentence. You’ll also minimize the stress of having to go through each step of the process on your own, especially if you’re not familiar with it.

Bear in mind that the penalties for drunk driving will depend on your blood alcohol level, the number of previous offenses, your cooperation and any aggravating or mitigating circumstances. As a general rule, you’ll incur a fine of $1,000 to $2,000 and, in some cases, imprisonment of up to 10 years, in addition to having your driving privileges suspended or revoked and having a criminal record.

A criminal lawyer knows the current laws, the requirements for indictment, etc. An attorney can therefore defend you by studying your case in order to discover any possible errors or objections (for example, the reliability and proper use of the breathalyzer test, violations of your protections under the bill of rights, etc.). Are you worried about the cost of being represented by an attorney? You should be aware that the price will vary depending, in particular, on the complexity of the case. Your attorney will be able to inform you of the price after examining your file.

Have you been arrested for drunk driving?

Contact Martine Thibodeau, a lawyer specializing in criminal and penal law in Valleyfield and Vaudreuil-Dorion, to defend you.

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