Impaired driving charges: police wrestle with 'exacting steps'

A provincial police officer says proving impaired driving cases is increasingly difficult and time-consuming.

Quarter of all cases in northeastern Ontario last year were dismissed, acquitted, stayed or withdrawn

Provincial police say proving cases of impaired driving is so tough that some cases are withdrawn on technicalities. (Shutterstock)

A provincial police officer says proving impaired driving cases is increasingly difficult and time-consuming.

“There are twelve specific steps we must prove before we can even lay a charge in impaired ... and each one must be proved perfectly,” said OPP Inspector Mark Andrews.

“Unfortunately, because of this, the court procedure has become more a test of process than an actual test of whether that person's impaired or not.”

OPP Inspector Mark Andrews. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)
Andrews said officers must fulfill exacting steps in helping to build the case for the prosecution — and weakness at any stage could mean a case is withdrawn.

According to information from the provincial ministry of the attorney general, about a quarter of all cases in northeastern Ontario last year were dismissed, acquitted, stayed or withdrawn.

The recent case against the driver who killed 18-year-old DJ Hancock in Sudbury was one of about 850 impaired driving cases in the northeast last year.

The accused pleaded guilty, sparing the family a trial.

But Andrews noted having to prove similar cases is complicated and exhausting.

“Our processes in law enforcement must be flawless; we must be perfect, in our application of the law. We owe that to the families of the victims.”

Any procedural error could end the case, regardless of guilt, he added.

To address these issues, two crown prosecutors in Sudbury were recently assigned to focus solely on impaired driving cases.


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