Death no matter how it occurs, is sad, heart wrenching and terrible. Death at any age is the same. About ten years ago, I watched my father die as he was taken off life support after a serious stroke that left him without any faculties other than his heart beating because of the oxygen being pumped into his lungs.
But, we all find that premature death caused by some accident which could have been prevented, often more heart wrenching.
In 2010, Alex Zolpis was killed in an accident that involved alcohol. At the time, John Tobin, the son of the former Premier of the Province of Newfoundland, was operating a motor vehicle while impaired and ended up killing Mr. Zolpis. Zolpis was a friend of John Tobin’s.
Recently, in an Ottawa, Canada courtroom, Tobin plead guilty to Impaired Driving Causing Death. Tobin, who is only 24 years old, faces substantial jail time when he is sentenced on August 4, 2011.
Tobin claimed he had only one drink, but when a breathalyzer test was performed on him by Ottawa Police, he blew over twice the legal limit.
Anyone that drinks, that is. Unless you are very aware of how much you’ve drank, and have planned ahead, if you drink, you might drive impaired.
A former President of a MADD Chapter has been charged with a DUI. Deborah Oberlin, 48 years old and formerly the president of the now non-existent Gainsville, Florida chapter of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) blew .234 and .239 recently after being arrested by the Gainsville Police.
Before she was pulled over on February 18, 2011, she was apparently swerving in her vehicle and crossing over the lines in the road.
One of the biggest myths about impaired driving is that one is guilty as soon as they are charged, because of the readings of a breathalyzer machine. Many people think that breathalyzer machines – and the police officers that use them – are free from mistakes and error. However, this is not true.
Further, in Canada there is a vital principle and right upon which our Justice system is based, and is supposedly guaranteed in the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms:
“Any person charged with an offence has the right:
d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.”
~ Section 11
One of the problems with the charge of Impaired Driving or a DUI is the fact that this is quite a “technical” charge against an accused. Often, each individual charge can take a great deal of time to research and find a defense to the charge. Therefore, it costs quite a bit of money, and the way our present system is set up, where previous defenses have been removed by legislative act, even a strong defense and the presence of some doubt on the charge can still result in a conviction.
However, if you have been charged with an alcohol related driving offense, you should see a lawyer! Even if you decide to plead guilty, a lawyer can help you with many issues that may come up in court, including sentencing.
I’m not suggesting that impaired driving or a DUI is not a serious charge. It is, and we all should take drinking and driving seriously. However, with the recent changes in the law in BC, interesting information has come out about the accuracy of the roadside screening devices that are used by the RCMP and municipal police forces. It should give you cause to wonder about the legislation that practically presumes you are guilty based on what a machine’s reading is.
In an article in the Vancouver Sun last month, reporter Larry Pynn writes that:
“B.C. police forces announced Friday they are recalling a total of 2,200 roadside breathalyzer devices to have them adjusted after learning there is a chance they could lead to invalid roadside suspensions. “
So, after a number of drivers have suffered the consequences and have been penalized prior to a trial, we now discover that it’s official: These screening devices are not as reliable as some would have us believe.
Some of course may respond that it’s not that serious – the article goes on to suggest that they may only be out by .01 mg/100 ml blood. But that does not matter in my opinion – these are serious consequences that are applied before an accused has the right to challenge the machine’s accuracy. Of course, challenging the accuracy is already difficult enough as it is.
Impaired driving is a serious offense and even Provincial Regulations which are not Criminal carry serious consequences. For that reason, and the reasons of our standards of “innocent until proven guilty” in a court, we ought to be questioning the severity and the presumptions that go with charges that are laid as the result of a reading of a machine.
Will we ever see a day when getting behind the wheel while fatigued is socially unacceptable, and where steep fines and even jail sentences might result? Most of us know the social disgrace of drinking and driving (especially if you’re caught), and millions of dollars spent each year on drinking and driving with enforcement, commercials and advertisements. When was the last time you saw a group raising funds to combat fatigued driving?
Yet the facts suggest that fatigued driving is as dangerous as getting behind the wheel after too much booze, and that the problem is growing. According to a study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, almost 17% of all fatal accidents could be caused by driver fatigue.
Not only that, 41% of the drivers that were surveyed admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel at least once in their lives. Twenty-seven percent of the drivers admitted that in the past month, they had driven at least once while being so tired they had problems keeping their eyes open.
I can relate to this – having been a shift worker years ago, and working over a midnight shift after an afternoon doing some overtime and being honked at after stopping at a stop sign and falling asleep. Or long journeys when I just had to get home with my kids in the car – it seemed safer and better to try to get home rather than pull over on a cold winter’s night in the middle of nowhere on the highway.
Perhaps if this is about road safety (and it should be), and if the statistics are borne out, more people will become aware of the dangers of sleepy driving. Perhaps we’ll be seeing ads suggesting “Friends don’t let friends drive tired.”
The community of Levis, Quebec is talking about the news of their Police Chief being charged with Impaired Driving. Police Chief Jean-Francois Roy, who is 55 years old, was arrested in Quebec City, PQ. He was behind the wheel of an unmarked police cruiser at the time of his alleged impaired driving on Wednesday, September 29, 2010, just after 11PM.
The Mayor of Levis has suspended Roy from his police chief duties as well as demanding he turn over his service weapon. Roy’s deputy chief will be replacing him at this time.
It is alleged that Roy had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood after he was arrested and was administered an alcohol breath test.
The community of Levis is located across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City.
Full story at Montreal Gazette.
A 26 year old woman of North York, Ontario escaped injury after the vehicle she was driving hit a police car occupied by two police officers in Oshawa during the early morning of August 28, 2010.
Maria Voltsinis rear ended the police cruiser in the area of William Street and Ritson Road. None of the police officers were injured in the accident.
The driver faces several charges including Impaired Driving, Careless Driving, and Operating A Vehicle While Exceeding Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08. Voltsinis now faces dui penalties that include a minimum $1,000.00 fine, a year of licence suspension, court costs, and significant insurance premiums as a result of the DUI charge. After getting her license reinstated upon successful completion of Ontario’s “Back On Track” remedial program, she will have to pay to have a Guardian ignition interlock installed in her vehicle and pay for the costs to lease and maintain it.
Maria might have known she should not drive if she owned and used her own personal breathalyzer.
Previously, we reported that Edmonton Oilers’ goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin was charged with an “extreme DUI” in the State of Arizona.
On Friday, the judge in his case handed down a guilty verdict in three of the four counts the professional NHL player faced. Khabibulin apparently had a blood alcohol content of 0.164 and was traveling at a speed of 70 mph in a 45 mph zone when he was pulled over, driving his Ferrari.
The sentencing date for the goalie is unknown at this time but he faces a minimum of 30 days in jail.
More on Arizona DUI penalties.
Would Khabibulin still have driven if he had one of these?
About ten days after my conviction for Impaired Driving in Ontario, I received one registered letter and and another letter that arrived by regular post from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation. Both letters were dated three days after the conviction.
The registered letter was an official “Notice of Suspension of Driver’s Licence.” In big capital block letters, I was told that my licence is suspended under Section 41 and 43 of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act for a period of 1 year. If I had an “Enhanced Driver’s Licence,” that would be affected. At this time, I have no idea what an Enhanced Driver’s Licence is and I’m pretty sure I don’t have one of those.
The letter also states that there is a $150.00 fee “or penalty” to obtain a licence after the suspension ends.
The second letter that arrived advised me that I was eligible to apply for the Reduced Suspension Program that has now come into affect in Ontario. If I apply by the date of the third month after my conviction date, I could have my licence back by that date. The letter states:
“To enter the Reduced Suspension Program, you must:
1. Be reinstated from other licence suspension (e.g. unpaid fines, medical, etc.);
2. Pay any outstanding fees or administrative monetary penalties;
3. Complete the assessment part of the Remedial Measures Program; and,
4. Arrange to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle;
To exit the Reduced Suspension Program and have the ignition interlock condition removed from your licence:
1. You must complete the full Remedial Measures Program;
2. Near the end of your ignition interlock installation period, you must provide an acceptable final ignition interlock report with no performance failures in the last three months including alcohol breath test failures or failure to provide a breath sample when the vehicle is running. Performance failures will extend your ignition interlock installation period by a further three months.”
I have once again registered for the “Back on Track” program on-line which costs $575.00. Adding up all these fees, including fines, restitution, administrative fees, lawyer’s fees, and all the other costs associated with my accident and Impaired Driving charge – I’ll be working for the government, the lawyer, and a few other people as well as the Insurance company for a number of years.
Of course, I could have avoided all of this if I had owned and used one of these.
When I was sentenced and my conviction for impaired driving was registered, I was advised by my lawyer that I should apply immediately (that very day) for Ontario’s “Back On Track” program – the program that all convicted drivers of a DUI in Ontario must complete before they can apply for their license reinstatement.
You may have read that in Ontario, the Province recently instituted a new program where Ontario drivers who plead guilty within 90 days of Impaired Driving can apply for an early reinstatement of their license after just three months instead of having to wait an entire year. This came into effect on August 3, 2010. Neither the Judge or the Crown opposed me having the opportunity to make application for the early reinstatement of my license.
As soon as I returned home from Court, I applied on line for the Back On Track program, providing them my Visa number for the almost $600 program fee. However the next day, I received an email advising I needed to contact the Back On Track office to speak with a representative directly. When I called, I was advised that due to the new changes in the Ontario’s administration of Impaired Driving convictions, there was a “computer glitch” and there was no record of my conviction. Therefore, the Back On Track office could not process my application and I was told to wait another 10 days before applying again.
It was a bit disappointing as I had wanted to make sure I was in the system and get my “evaluation” done as soon as possible. The first part of the Back On Track program is an “evaluation” of one’s use of alcohol. After the evaluation, the program decides whether the convicted person needs either “alcohol education” and/or “alcohol treatment.”
Hopefully, I can get into this evaluation as soon as possible and start making the necessary adjustments including substantially increasing my income in order to pay for the much higher insurance premiums I will be facing if I can get my license reinstated in three months.
Of course, I will also have to have the “Ignition Interlock” installed in any vehicle I drive before I can get my license reinstated in Ontario, as well.
Do you enjoy the odd social drink and think you are ok to drive? Perhaps you should read this about my experience with a DUI.