Each province has its own laws and penalties for drunk driving in Canada, but when it comes time for sentencing, it’s the judge you have to answer to. The judge is who will decide exactly what penalties they will impose upon you, and as long as they stay within the letter of the law, penalties can be as lenient or as harsh as they deem fit.
But just like everyone else, judges do make mistakes, and after one recent case in Ontario the Ontario Court of Appeal may be keeping a closer eye on sentences for people charged with drunk driving in Canada.
That case that was overturned began with David Clouthier making the decision to drive drunk one night in 2013. He rear-ended one car while speeding through a residential neighbourhood, and instead of sticking around, he left the scene. A few minutes later he crashed into another car, but fled again. Instead of slowing him down, he sped off and crashed into another vehicle, this time head on. The passenger in the vehicle he hit was seriously injured, but he decided to climb out the window of his truck and run away. Thankfully witnesses grabbed him and kept him at the scene.
He pleaded guilty to impaired driving and dangerous driving causing bodily harm. Although he was a first time offender, the seriousness of the offense and the fact that someone was injured should have been enough to warrant harsh penalties. That’s not exactly what happened when the case came in front of Ontario Court Justice Ann Alder.
Court Justice Alder sentenced Clouthier to 5 months in prison, but she offered him his choice of serving it all at one time or only on weekends. She choose that type of sentence because Clouthier was a first time offender, he has a noted alcohol problem, and he had completed rehab prior to his sentencing. He had also found a full time job.
Upon reviewing the case the Ontario Court of Appeal found that the sentence was too short. They felt that Court Justice Alder should have tripled the length of his jail time from 5 months to 15 months, and he was required to forgo weekends in prison and surrender immediately to serve what was left of his jail time. He’ll also be on probation for a year and lose his driver’s license for 5 years.
The penalties for drunk driving in Canada are there so anyone who makes the choice to drink and drive won’t feel tempted to do it again, and now that this offender is serving 15 months instead of 5, the punishment finally fits the crime.