Impaired Driving and DUI
This may come as a surprise, but impaired driving law takes up more pages in the Criminal Code of Canada than any other category of offence. It is extremely complicated, highly technical, and constantly changing. If a lawyer doesn’t remain on the lookout for the changes in the law – whether they come through the Courts or from Parliament – that lawyer will not be able to protect your interests. That is not the lawyer you want.
Make no mistake, impaired driving (or driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, or failing/refusing to provide a breath sample, and all of the other associated impaired driving offences) is a criminal offence, and a conviction, as with all criminal convictions, can (and often will) have a serious impact on all aspects of your life.
To give you an idea of just how complex this stuff is, consider this.
Just because you have blown over the legal limit doesn’t mean you will be, or even should be, convicted. The police cannot simply demand you provide a breath sample because they think you are/were driving drunk. The police need to have very specific evidence, and meet very specific legal prerequisites, before they can arrest you and demand a breath sample, which needs to be taken in a very specific way, at very specific times.
Even before those samples are taken, you have very specific rights that need to be respected. You need to be told what the police are investigating. You need to be told what you are being arrested for. And you need to be given an opportunity to speak to a lawyer before any evidence that could be used for a conviction can be gathered by the police.
The police are limited in how and when they can ask (“demand”) a roadside breath sample (a sample generally only capable of showing if your blood alcohol level appears high enough to merit further investigation), and an evidentiary sample (the sample used to prove the specific amount of alcohol in your blood).
That said, depending on the results of the roadside sample, the police now have the option of proceeding with charges under the Criminal Code OR proceeding with charges under the Traffic Safety Act. Regardless of how the police choose to proceed, many of the consequences are the same: a fine, a driving prohibition, and the attendant collateral consequences (for example, a requirement that certain remedial courses be taken, and increased insurance rates).
The police cannot arrest you for impaired driving if they don’t reasonably believe your ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired (which typically requires evidence of a driving pattern) specifically by alcohol or a drug. They cannot denigrate your lawyer in an attempt to make you talk to them (although they can lie to you about what evidence they do or do not have), and they cannot hold you in custody for a long time just to teach you a lesson.