R. v. Hickey, 2023 CanLII 33990
The Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Case of R v Hickey concerned an offender who was sentenced to sixty days of conditional imprisonment, a $1,500 fine, an eighteen-month driving prohibition and twelve months of probation for the offences of impaired driving, dangerous driving and resisting arrest. After being pulled over by the police for driving at twice the speed limit, the police searched the offender and discovered a crack pipe. Urine testing revealed that the offender was under the influence of cocaine at the time.
There were two relevant considerations when the judge decided on the appropriate sentence. The first was that the offender had been diagnosed with a severe mental health disorder and drug addiction issues. While not immediately relevant to the sentence, it provided important context regarding the offender’s personal circumstance. Secondly, this was the offender’s second impaired driving offence. Even considering these facts, the judge noted that the offender had a decent chance of rehabilitation and had begun that process on his own. However, that did not outweigh the dangerous acts the offender had committed, and the judge imposed the sentence accordingly. They noted at paragraph 67, “In addition, no distinction between impaired driving as a result of alcohol as compared to drugs should be made. Both are equally dangerous.”
R. v. Pankovcin, 2020 ONCJ 142
The Ontario Court of Justice case of R. v. Pankovcin dealt with an offender convicted of having a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit within two hours of driving under s. 320.14(1)(b) of the Code. The facts of the case revolved around a collision between the offender’s vehicle and two parked cars that resulted in the blocking of a live traffic lane. It is also important to note that the accused tried to start the vehicle and leave the scene after the accident.
The main issue of the case was whether the offender had care and control over the vehicle while they were impaired, which is the act required to commit an impaired driving offence. Care and control is a broad term that is used when an individual has the ability and potential to drive a vehicle. Under Canadian law, it can be proven in two ways. Either the police can legally assume that anyone in the driver’s seat is a driver, unless that person can prove driving would be impossible; or, as in this case, care and control can be made out if the accused is impaired, they have taken a course of action involving a vehicle, and the offender poses a realistic risk to other people and property. In this case, the accused was clearly impaired and had attempted to start the vehicle following the collision. Given that their vehicle was also blocking live traffic, there was a considerable risk to other people, which was enough to determine the accused had care and control and had therefore committed an impaired driving offence.
R. v. Febbo, 2023 ONCJ 162
The Ontario Court of Justice case of R. v. Febbo dealt with an offender convicted of impaired driving and failing to remain at the scene of an accident. The two charges came from two collisions that happened minutes apart. He was sentenced to thirty-three months imprisonment and received a three-year driving prohibition.
Several factors, known as aggravating and mitigating factors, worked both against and in favour of a lighter punishment respectively. These factors are specific to each individual offender and case and are always considered along with the principles of sentencing. These principles include: the sentence acting as a tool for the government to denounce and take a strong stance against criminal behaviour, the sentence deterring others from behaving similarly, the sentence allowing the victim to feel a sense of justice, and the sentence giving the offender a chance to take responsibility for their actions and begin rehabilitation.
In this circumstance, the charges represented the offender’s first offence, and he had a decent chance at rehabilitation given that he had already begun the process to manage substance abuse issues. However, the seriousness of the conduct in deciding to continue driving impaired after a first collision and injuring someone as a result were overwhelming indicators of the need for a strong sentence like the one imposed. As part of the Canadian legal systems view on the seriousness of impaired driving, the judge determined, “These offences lean more heavily towards the denunciation and deterrence side of the ledger than other offences…” [at para 32]