People in Canada are often amazed to find that they can be arrested for drunk driving even if they haven’t been driving. Recently an Ontario man had it happen to him.
It’s called ‘care and control,’ a legal concept that comes into play when intoxicated people are near or in their vehicles, and possess the keys, even if they are not driving and don’t intend to.
Often it happens when someone has a drunken snooze in a car. In the Ontario case a man who had been drinking went to sleep in his car because he’d been locked out of the Oakville house he had been planning to stay at. When he was arrested he was sleeping, with the engine running and the car lights on. His blood alcohol concentration was twice the legal limit, and his impairment obvious to the arresting officer.
To be guilty of ‘care and control’ you need to
- Do something intentional regarding a motor vehicle
- Be a person whose driving ability is impaired, or whose blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit
- Be in a circumstance that posts a real danger to people or property
According to the concept of ‘care and control,’ the man, whose first name was Ryan, would have been liable for a DUI arrest. Though he wasn’t driving, Ryan had ‘care and control’ of the vehicle – he was in a position where he could have started driving and posed a danger to other people. The penalties could include licence suspension, a fine, imprisonment, and possibly an ignition interlock requirement.
However, what appeared to be a clear case wasn’t at all. As it turns out, earlier that evening Ryan had arrived at his friend’s house sober. He then took a taxi with friends to a bar in Burlington, where they all drank a good amount. One of the group, the one who lived at the house where the arrest happened, went home early.
Ryan was dropped back at his friend’s house, but no one answered the door – the occupant had apparently passed out. So Ryan decided to sleep in his car, with the engine was on to provide heat.
The judge ruled that the defendant had no intention of driving. While care and control cases don’t usually take intentions into consideration, it was clear by Ryan’s actions all evening – taking taxis, planning to sleep at a friend’s house – that he was determined not to drink and drive.
What’s the lesson learned? Ryan did everything right: used public transportation, arranged a place to sleep over, and acted responsibly while drinking. His Achilles’ heel was relying on his friend to answer the door. So if you are planning to stay over at a drunk friend’s house, make sure you have a key or another way in.
There’s one other lesson here: Ryan and his friends had clearly gotten the message about drinking and driving, as many people have nowadays. No doubt Ryan has also acquired a working knowledge of Ontario’s care and control laws as well.