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Drinking and Driving – RIDE Programs

In recent days, there have been videos of lawyers going through RIDE programs (or DUI checkpoints) making their way through youtube and shared through social media. The videos show a lawyer slip a freezer bag on a string through their window to police officers. The bag contains their driver’s license, their insurance, and a flyer that advises “I remain silent; No Searches; I want my lawyer” 

This method of dealing with an impaired driving checkpoint may be valid in various states in the USA, but not in Ontario. The Ontario Highway Traffic Act permits impaired driving checkpoints. RIDE programs, which are designed to take drunk drivers off the streets, are allowed. They are not a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as they have been found to be in the public interest.

Police in Ontario determine a driver’s sobriety in  a brief interaction through the vehicle window. They are looking for “the usual” signs of impairment. These can be any of the following: odour of an alcoholic beverage on your breath, glossy or glassy eyes, bloodshot eyes, flushed cheeks, slurred speech, slow deliberate movements, or shaky hands. This list is not exhaustive, but can give you an idea what the police are looking for. There are other indicators as well that may be less obvious: chewing gum, a freshly lit cigarette, driving in cold weather with your window down or empty/open bottles or cans of alcohol in the vehicle. If you admit to police­­ that you have consumed alcohol, this may also create reasonable grounds to believe you are impaired.

If you show one or more of these signs, police may have reasonable grounds to believe that you are impaired and get you to participate in a brief roadside sobriety test. If the police have reasonable grounds to suspect you of having consumed alcohol, you must provide a sample into the roadside device. You will either register a pass, a fail, a warning or an error. 

A pass will have you on your way relatively quickly.

A warning will register if you blow between 50-100MG of alcohol in 100ML of blood. A warning results in a 72- hour impoundment of your vehicle, and a 120- hour suspension of your driver’s license. There is little you can do if you fall within this range. The police are granted the power to impound your vehicle and suspend your license without any finding of guilt in court. Some consider this a violation of their rights, while others simply consider it getting away with drinking and driving.

 If you do not provide a breath sample, you will be charged with refusing to provide a sample. Upon a conviction of this offence, the penalty is the same as if you were found to have over 80MG of alcohol/100ML of blood in your system. Typically, you will be allowed a second opportunity to provide a sample. If for any reason you are physically unable to provide a sample, it is important that you inform the officers performing the test. 

A fail means you have blown over 100MG of alcohol in 100ML of blood. Once this is confirmed, you will be arrested, charged under S.253(1) of the Criminal Code, and read your rights to counsel and caution. You will also be read a formal breath demand, and be brought to the police station to give two samples of breath into a more advanced device called an Intoxilyzer. If you are charged with impaired driving, it is important that you speak with a criminal lawyer. 

David Dubinsky has over 20 years of trial experience in these types of matters. Drinking and driving laws are complex; having a knowledgeable lawyer assisting you could mean the difference between having a criminal record and not. Contact us today


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