Impaired Driving Lawyers in Saskatchewan
What is Impaired Driving?
Impaired driving is one of several criminal driving charges that can be filed against drivers in Saskatchewan. While impaired driving is the term used in Canada, you may also hear this offence referred to as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). An impaired driving charge is laid when the police believe that you have operated a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol to such a degree that it affected your ability to drive safely.
Though impaired driving has not increased in recent years, the number of impaired driving incidents remains high. In 2019 there were 6,328 incidents of impaired driving in Saskatchewan. The Regina and Saskatoon Police Service, in partnership with the RCMP and groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada) are staunchly committed to reducing these numbers. Recently “smashed car campaigns” have being introduced in Prince Albert, Regina and Estevan to deter people and provide a clear visual of the repercussions of impaired driving.
The provisions for operation while impaired in the Criminal Code of Canada (the “Code”) are:
Operation while impaired
320.14 (1) Everyone commits an offence who
(a) operates a conveyance while the person’s ability to operate it is impaired to any degree by alcohol or a drug or by a combination of alcohol and a drug;
(b) subject to subsection (5), has, within two hours after ceasing to operate a conveyance, a blood alcohol concentration that is equal to or exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood;
(c) subject to subsection (6), has, within two hours after ceasing to operate a conveyance, a blood drug concentration that is equal to or exceeds the blood drug concentration for the drug that is prescribed by regulation; or
(d) subject to subsection (7), has, within two hours after ceasing to operate a conveyance, a blood alcohol concentration and a blood drug concentration that is equal to or exceeds the blood alcohol concentration and the blood drug concentration for the drug that are prescribed by regulation for instances where alcohol and that drug are combined.
In order to convict you of impaired driving, the Crown must prove the following elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You operated a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment; and
- You were voluntarily impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination thereof.
It is important to bear in mind that the vehicle does not need to be in motion for you to be charged with impaired driving. If you are found to be in care and control of the vehicle to the degree that you could easily set it into motion or if you have blood alcohol and/or blood drug concentration that is equal to or exceeds the legal limit within two hours of operating your vehicle, you can be convicted.
Similarly, you do not need to be behind the wheel of a car to be convicted. The vast majority of the cases we deal with involve a motor vehicle, but this charge can include boats, snowmobiles, electric scooters, bicycles, canoes, and even hoverboards.
If serious harm is caused by drug or alcohol-related driving, the charges may be upgraded, and the consequences made more severe. For example, an impaired driving charge may be upgraded to impaired driving causing bodily harm or impaired driving causing death.
Investigation of Impaired Driving Charges in Saskatchewan
An impaired driving investigation is usually initiated:
- At a routine police stop;
- At the scene of an accident;
- At a check-stop;
- After a driver is pulled over or pursued by the police; or
- Following a report or complaint from an alleged witness.
In Saskatchewan, some police officers have been equipped with In-Car Digital Video (ICDV) and body-worn cameras. Most RCMP vehicles are outfitted with the WatchGuard In-Car Video System. These cameras are commonly used to record someone’s driving. The video footage serves as evidence of impairment, or lack thereof, and can prompt or help defend impaired driving charges. It is therefore critical to secure a competent defence lawyer who will request and review this evidence, before deciding how to proceed.
If an officer has a reasonable suspicion that you have a high blood alcohol concentration and are driving impaired, you may be asked to perform a physical sobriety test at the roadside. This will likely also include taking a mandatory alcohol screening device test where you blow into a roadside breathalyzer device. Such tests are mandatory in Canada for all drivers regardless of why you were initially stopped.
The officer will ask you to provide this breath sample by blowing it into a handheld breathalyzer. If you refuse this request, you are likely to be charged under section 320.15 of the Code, failure or refusal to comply with a breath demand. If you blow over or refuse to blow, you will be arrested and taken to an RCMP detachment or municipal police cells for processing. Once at the detachment, if you failed the roadside breathalyzer test, you will be required to provide two further samples in a breathalyzer that measures your exact blood alcohol concentration. If this machine registers a number equal to or over 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood, you will also be charged with blowing “over 80” (section 320.14(1)(b) of the Code).
If the officer has a reasonable suspicion that you have a high drug blood concentration, a Drug Recognition Evaluator will be called in to determine if you are impaired, and if so, by which type of drug.
The evaluator will conduct a 12-step test to assess drug impairment, including:
- Measuring the driver’s blood pressure;
- Pupil size;
- Body temperature;
- The reaction of the eye to light;
- Horizontal Gaze Nystamus (HGN) test;
- Vertical Gaze Nystamus (VGN) test; and
- Divided attention tests.
Recently, the Regina and Saskatoon Police Service have begun utilizing SoToxa as an oral fluid machine that can test the concentration of drugs in the blood. However, if you have been detained by rural RCMP or outside of Regina or Saskatoon, you will be required to provide bodily fluid samples (blood or urine) that will be sent to a lab in order to determine the concentration of drugs in the blood. If the results of the lab test, or the SoToxa analyzer, confirm the suspicions of law enforcement officers, charges will be laid.
It is important to remember that while in police custody, what you say can be used against you.
There have been many cases where the accused would have likely had their charges dropped had they not made statements to the police such as:
- “I know I made a mistake; I shouldn’t have been driving.”
- “What’s the point of giving breath samples? I know I will blow over.”
The Regina Police Service, Saskatoon Police Service, and RCMP take all impaired driving offences seriously. Despite an officer’s friendly appearance and chatty nature, what you say in between requests for breath samples, during the drive to the station, or at the detachment can and will be used against you.
Bail Process and Conditions for Impaired Driving Charges in Saskatchewan
How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for impaired driving charges in Saskatchewan?
For impaired driving charges it is not unusual for police to release you at the scene. Police will provide you with an Appearance Notice document outlining your charges, and any appearances you must make.
If the police feel that your circumstances require more onerous conditions they may require you to sign an Undertaking.
This document will outline your charges and include any specific conditions you must follow, including being prohibited from:
- Leaving the province; and/or
- Alcohol consumption.
If this is your second or subsequent impaired driving offence, or if there are other accompanying charges, the police may choose to keep you in custody and require a formal bail hearing to secure your release.
In the event that a bail hearing is necessary, you will likely be transferred to a provincial correctional facility to wait for your bail hearing. If you are a male, you will be transferred to the nearest of the following: the Regina Provincial Correctional Centre, the Prince Albert Provincial Correctional Centre, or the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre. If you are a female, you will be transferred to the Pine Grove Correctional Centre in Prince Albert. In some cases, you may be held at the local RCMP detachment or municipal police cells.
The bail hearing can be held within as little as 24 hours, a period of time that starts from the moment of arrest or detention. However, the Crown can request up to three days to prepare for your bail hearing and may ask the court for longer. An effective defence lawyer will ensure that your bail hearing occurs as soon as possible so that you are not in custody for any longer than necessary.
The Regina Provincial Correctional Centre address is:
Regina Provincial Correctional Centre
4040E 9th Avenue North
Regina, SK S4P 3A6
Tel: (306) 924-9000
The Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre address is:
Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre
910 60 Street East
Saskatoon, SK S7K 2H6
Tel: (306) 956-8800
The Prince Albert Correctional Centre address is
Prince Albert Correctional Centre
3021 1 Avenue West
Prince Albert, SK S6V 6G1
Tel: (306) 953-3000
In Prince Albert, the Pine Grove Correctional Centre address is:
Pine Grove Correctional Centre
1700 7 Avenue North-East
Spruce Home, SK S0J 2N0
Tel: (306) 953-3100
Loved ones are not able to contact you while you are detained. Unless the detained person is a minor, the police will not release any information to friends or family due to privacy laws. Your lawyer is the only person allowed to contact you. Once the police have verified your lawyer’s details, they will pass on information about your whereabouts, if requested.
Given these difficulties, while you are held in custody, it is best to appoint a competent defence lawyer as soon as possible to manage the legal process and communicate with loved ones. After an arrest, the police must provide you with the opportunity to call a lawyer in private. If you choose to exercise this right, the police must stop questioning you until you have had the opportunity to do so.
Once you retain one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers, we will begin working to secure your release on bail.
We will immediately do the following:
- Call into the correctional centre where you are being held and speak to you.
- Contact the prosecutor assigned to the bail hearing to start negotiating your release.
- Order and secure a copy of the police information package that details the allegations against you in advance of the bail hearing. This allows the lawyer to make meaningful representations to the court about why you should be released on bail.
- Conduct either an in-person or teleconference bail hearing to secure your release.
When you attend your bail hearing, the judge will consider the following factors:
- Is detention necessary to secure your attendance in court?
- Is detention necessary to protect the public from a substantial risk of re-offending?
- Is detention necessary in all the circumstances to maintain confidence in the administration of justice?
Although it is unlikely that you will be denied bail for an impaired driving charge, tight restrictions may nevertheless be applied to your release. Rest assured, we will work to not only secure your release but also ensure the least restrictive set of bail conditions (including the minimum cash deposit) possible.
In order for our lawyers to secure less stringent conditions, the judge will need to be satisfied that you will attend court as required and that you pose no significant risk of harm to the public.
Our lawyers are often successful at persuading the Crown Prosecutor in charge of bail to let our clients out. If we can’t convince the prosecutor, we can conduct a formal bail hearing and work to convince the court. Even if you are ultimately detained, we can appeal that decision on very short notice through a bail review. Such reviews are conducted at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Saskatchewan.
Where can I pay for bail for impaired driving charges in Saskatchewan?
If you or a loved one are charged with impaired driving in Saskatchewan and granted bail, you may be required to provide a cash deposit to secure release. The mode by which you pay the cash deposit will depend on the courthouse at which your bail hearing is held. Your defence lawyer will advise you on the procedures specific to your location and will be able to explain the options for payment to you, or to a loved one who is making the payment on your behalf.
How do I change my release conditions for impaired driving charges in Saskatchewan?
Release on bail with impaired driving charges may require either a surety, cash or no-cash deposit.
Beyond that, you may face tight restrictions, including conditions to refrain from:
- Being behind the wheel of a motor vehicle;
- Using drugs or alcohol;
- Staying out beyond a certain time (i.e. curfew);
- Breaking any laws;
- Possessing weapons;
- Visiting certain places; and/or
The judge may also impose additional conditions such as:
- Residing where approved;
- Reporting to probation;
- Attending counselling; and/or
- Maintaining or seeking employment.
A variety of factors will be considered when determining your precise restrictions, including:
- Your criminal history;
- Your history of drug/alcohol usage;
- Your physical and mental condition;
- The nature of the alleged offence; and
- The likelihood that you will flee.
If you have already been released, at least for the short term, it is critical that you follow your conditions until they can be changed. Breaching the terms of your release can result in further charges or revocation of your bail, as well as a forfeiture of any cash paid to secure your release. It is important to take these conditions seriously.
Once the matter is in court, we can work with the prosecutor to alter your conditions. This includes either adding exceptions to some of the conditions or eliminating them altogether.
If your court date is far away and you cannot wait until then, we can arrange to have the matter dealt with sooner. Our first priority is always to stabilize your release conditions. That way, you will not feel pressured to plead guilty because of the restrictive terms of your release. Once the conditions are manageable and minimally intrusive to your daily routine, we can focus 100% of our attention on defending the case.
Penalties for Impaired Driving Charges in Saskatchewan
Impaired driving and impaired driving causing bodily harm are both hybrid offences, meaning that the Crown can elect to proceed by summary or indictment. This decision impacts the punishments that are available to you, with summary being less severe and indictment being more severe. If you are charged with impaired driving causing death, the Crown must proceed by indictment.
The maximum punishments for impaired driving include:
- Impaired driving: Up to 2 years’ less a day imprisonment;
- Impaired driving causing bodily harm: Up to 2 years’ less a day imprisonment.
- Impaired driving: Up to 10 years’ imprisonment;
- Impaired driving causing bodily harm: Up to 14 years’ imprisonment;
- Impaired driving causing death: Up to life imprisonment.
Regardless of how the Crown proceeds, all impaired driving charges have mandatory minimum punishments:
- First offence: $1,000 fine;
- Second offence: 30 days’ imprisonment; and
- Third offence: 120 days’ imprisonment.
The punishments that you will have to endure for impaired driving increase where:
- More than one person was injured/killed by your impaired driving;
- Your blood alcohol concentration was excessively high;
- You were participating in a street race;
- You had a passenger with you under the age of 16;
- You were being paid for operating the vehicle;
- You were operating a large motor vehicle; and
- You were not permitted to be operating the vehicle.
You will also face an immediate roadside suspension that, although not criminal, will significantly impede your freedom.
Pursuant to the TSA, a peace officer will issue you a suspension if:
- They believe you were impaired by drugs and/or alcohol;
- You are tested and are found to be over your legal limit of drugs and/or alcohol; or
- You failed to comply with a demand to test your sobriety.
Penalties associated with an immediate roadside suspension include:
- Licence suspension;
- Participation in the Ignition Interlock Program;
- Participation in mandatory education courses; and
- Fines and towing bills.
A conviction for impaired driving can have many negative consequences on your future. You may experience difficulties securing employment in the field of your choice, especially in roles that require driving. The lifelong criminal record that results from a conviction can also hinder immigration and travel. You will almost certainly face higher insurance premiums as well.
Therefore, even if you intend to accept responsibility for the offence, it is worthwhile to explore your options and consider all the potential penalties. Even if the evidence is stacked against you, it may be possible to negotiate a resolution to avoid a lengthy jail sentence. Furthermore, a community-based sentence may be obtained even where the Crown is seeking jail time.
Rest assured, our lawyers will work hard to defend you so that you are not saddled with the consequences that stem from a conviction. In fact, we can canvass a range of sentencing options with the prosecutors that will either leave you with no criminal record or impose minimal restrictions on your liberty after sentencing. To learn more about potential non-criminal resolutions, please visit our resolutions page, or read our FAQ on resolutions and other sentencing options.
Defending Impaired Driving Charges in Saskatchewan
What are the best defences to impaired driving charges in Saskatchewan?
The defences that are available for impaired driving charges depend on the facts of your particular case.
However, some effective defences to impaired driving charges include:
- Violation of Constitutional Rights: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) sets out your rights before and after your arrest. If the police fail to abide by these rights, it can aid your defence.
- Involuntary Intoxication: If you did not voluntarily consume alcohol or drugs, this could help challenge the mental element of the offence. For example, if you were drugged without your knowledge.
- Defence of Necessity: If you or one of your passengers was at immediate risk of harm, and you drove for no longer than was necessary to escape that harm, you may have a defence to impaired driving.
- You Consumed Drugs/Alcohol after Driving: According to section 320.14 (5), (6), and (7) of the Code, you cannot be found guilty of impaired operation where you consumed the substance in question after you stopped operating the vehicle. For example, this would help you defend against section 320.14 (1) (b)(c) & (d) which state that if your blood alcohol concentration, blood drug concentration, or a combination thereof exceeds the legal limit, within two hours after ceasing to operate a motor vehicle, you can be convicted.
We will carefully review the entire police file, which may include expert reports from a traffic reconstructionist, witness statements, medical evidence, collision reports, photographs, video footage, and other documents pertaining to your case. Our lawyers will explore every possible defence that could raise a reasonable doubt about the prosecution’s evidence and/or your Charter rights being upheld.
Even if the charges proceed and you are found guilty, a good defence lawyer can greatly reduce the severity of the consequences for you.
Our lawyers are experienced with impaired driving cases and have achieved acquittals for our clients in even the most hopeless situations. Our high success rate speaks for itself; it is beneficial to have one of our dedicated impaired driving lawyers in your corner.
How can I help defend impaired driving charges in Saskatchewan?
If you have been charged with impaired driving, the following actions can help your lawyer build a strong defence:
- Take detailed notes about your version of events to provide to your lawyer;
- Have passengers write down their observations of what happened;
- Collect and maintain all documents and records about the event;
- Gather any photographic evidence that you may have; and
- Log any relevant texts, emails or phone calls.
As soon as you are released, start gathering any information that may be of use to your lawyer. What information is relevant will depend on the facts in your case. If you are uncertain what information may be relevant, you should contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action for gathering information.
To be truly proactive about the matter, consider doing the following:
- Secure proof of employment;
- Secure reference letters;
- Enroll in counselling (e.g. alcohol or drug rehabilitation);
- Secure a record of prescriptions; and
- Secure a record of any mental health conditions you suffer from.
These steps can be very helpful in building an effective defence (or convincing the prosecutor to drop the charges altogether).
What can a lawyer do to help me defend against impaired driving charges in Saskatchewan?
As we start preparing your defence by examining police actions and the evidence against you, there are certain defence strategies that can be used to aid your cause, including:
- Assembling documents, photographs, texts, etc. that contradict the allegation and support your defence;
- Gathering evidence from witnesses that support your version of events;
- Identifying mistakes in the actions of the police, such as Charter breaches;
- Uncovering administrative/systemic errors, such as “Jordan delay,” non-disclosure, lost or destroyed evidence, etc.; and
- Finding weaknesses or “holes” in the Crown’s case that may make it difficult or impossible for them to establish the elements of the offence.
Below are a few notable cases dealing with various aspects of impaired driving charges:
In R v Robertson, 2019 SKQB 330 the Crown appealed a previous decision made by the trial judge to acquit the accused of impaired driving. The accused was observed driving on the wrong side of the highway, after crossing a raised median. When RCMP pulled over the accused, the officers observed that he had glassy eyes and difficulty retrieving his registration. Further, officers noted smelling an odour of alcohol. After being arrested for impaired driving, the accused completed a breath test which indicated he was two and a half times over the legal limit. At trial, the judge acquitted the accused on the basis that there was insufficient evidence of the accused being impaired at the time of the arrest. However, on appeal, it was determined there were several factors that indicated impairment and when taken as a whole, these formed a sufficient basis for the arresting officers to have a reasonable belief that the accused was impaired. Overturning the trial judge’s acquittal, the appellate court found the accused guilty of impaired driving,
In R v Beattie, 2014 SKPC 138 the accused was charged with impaired driving. At issue was whether the Crown had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was in fact impaired while operating a motor vehicle. Considering the testimony of both the accused and the arresting officer, the trial judge found that most of the evidence that was put forward to show impairment could have other reasonable explanations. For example, although the officer indicated that the accused weaved slightly in his lane while driving, it was determined that the road he was driving on was in poor condition and many people swerve to avoid the potholes and cracks. After considering all of the evidence, the trial judge determined that the Crown had not satisfied the burden of proof. The accused was acquitted of impaired driving.
Most of the information above relates to simple impaired driving cases, which can become increasingly complex and fact-specific depending on the circumstances of your case.
We have tried our best to provide a general outline of what you can expect if you find yourself in this situation, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To learn more about how we can help, please contact our team of impaired driving lawyers. We will conduct a thorough review of your situation and tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful defence.
Impaired Driving FAQs
- What is the penalty if I plead guilty or I am found guilty of a DUI?
- How will my DUI charge affect my licence in Alberta?
- Can I be charged with a DUI even if I wasn’t driving or the vehicle wasn’t moving (care or control)?
- How can I avoid a criminal record if I am guilty of a DUI?
- Can I go to the US if I am found guilty of a DUI?
- Can I get charged with a DUI if I am driving while I am high on drugs?
- How is the new impaired driving law in Canada different from before?
- How to beat a DUI or Impaired Driving Charge
- How much do DUI lawyers cost?
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