Jail and stiff fines are the usual punishment for this kind of offence in Ontario. However, given that the offender was an employer, the judge took an enlightened approach:
- Intermittent Jail Sentence. Mr. Brisebois will be able to serve his 60-day jail sentence on weekends, so that his business keeps going and his employees do not lose their jobs.
- Ignition Interlock. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. This allows a motorist to get on with life – work, get treatment, raise a family – while protecting society from the dangers of drunk motorists.
These terms run counter to the type of recommendations that one often hears when people react to news about drunk driving. Usually there are calls to put the drivers in jail or take away their driving privileges for years (or forever).
The problem with this all-or-nothing approach:
- Jail does take away a driver’s ability to do harm to others. But it doesn’t ensure responsible behaviour afterwards. If there was an alcohol problem, it needs to be dealt with. Imprisonment also shatters people’s lives and makes it difficult to pick up the pieces, even if the motivation is there.
- Revoking licences does not work well. People tend to drive even when their driving privileges have been suspended. And since one can’t insure one’s vehicle while suspended, the result is to put other drivers and pedestrians at risk.
An ignition interlock addresses the problem directly, by preventing a driver from getting behind the wheel when impaired. The judge added an intermittent sentence, so the offender can still drive, work, seek treatment, and – crucial in this case – employ people.
No solution is perfect, but one judge in Ontario has taken a wise approach, keeping a drunk driver from re-offending while limiting the harm that punishment does to those around the offender.