Thursday, August 31, 2006

Impaired Driving Charge and Driving Prohibtion

It’s Monday morning. Across the street a flag atop a neighboring office tower rolls languidly in the breeze. I log into our phone system.

The first caller is “Bob,” and it seems he got into a “situation” over the weekend. He went out to the local pub with a few buddies Saturday for a few brews. After last call, they decided that since he drank the least of all of them, he should be the one to drive everybody home.

This plan was working well until they got about three blocks from the pub. Long story short, he got pulled over by the police, and was taken to the station for a breathalyzer test. His readings were 0.12 and 0.14. The officer gave him a 90 day administrative driving prohibition and a Promise to Appear in court about one month from now.

He is mainly concerned about losing his license. His job doesn’t involve driving, but he lives in a small town area with no bus service, so it’s very awkward not to have a license. He’s not sure if he can afford a lawyer or if he stands a chance anyway. Can he get a prohibition that would still allow him to drive to and from work? What kind of penalty is he looking at if he pleads guilty? He has a clean driving record and no criminal convictions.

I inform him that the minimum penalty in B.C. is a $600 fine and a one-year driving prohibition. Unfortunately for him, there is no way to get any exceptions to the driving prohibition, whether for work or other purposes. If he is sentenced while the administrative prohibition is still in effect, the two prohibitions will overlap.

What are his chances of beating the charge? That’s not a question we can answer through this phone service. He would need to meet with a lawyer, review the fact with him or her, and inquire about fees. Only then can he do a cost / risk analysis. He can shop around a bit, as fees do vary. Since there is no realistic chance that he is facing going to jail, he would not qualify for having a lawyer paid for by Legal Aid, even if he did qualify financially.

If he doesn’t have a lawyer by the time of the court date, he should have Duty Counsel help him. Duty Counsel are lawyers who hired by Legal Aid to attend court to help people who don’t have their own lawyers. They can’t do trials for you, but they can appear with you at procedural appearances, review your case with you, give general advice, and arrange guilty pleas and appear with you on a sentencing.

As for the administrative prohibition, he is aware that he can apply for a review and possibly get it set aside. He must make his application within seven days from the date that the prohibition was issued. The grounds for review are very limited. For further details, I direct him to a fact sheet published on the website of the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. Some lawyers handle these reviews for a fixed fee.

Bob thanks me, somewhat glumly, and we say good-bye.

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