It’s no secret that drinking and driving is a serious situation both socially and legally. Operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol has the potential to destroy not only your life, but the lives of others who may cross your path at the wrong time.
Of course, it isn’t illegal for an adult with a valid driver’s license to have a drink or two and then drive. Many times, a drinking and driving charge results from your blood alcohol level being just a point or two over the legal limit, even though you may still feel fine.
If you are stopped after you’ve been drinking, and the officer suspects you may be under the influence, you do have options.
Refuse the Breathalyzer
While refusing to submit to a roadside breath screening test or a Breathalyzer test at the police station is technically an option, it isn’t one that you want to explore. In Ontario, refusing these tests carries with it the exact same penalties as a conviction for impaired driving. Even if you feel that you might be over the limit, refusing the test is not something that you want to do.
Exercise Your Rights
While refusing the breath tests is incredibly unwise, you do have rights. You have the right to refuse a ‘walk the line’ type of sobriety test at the scene. You also have the right to know why you’re being detained if the officer wants you to go back to the station for an official Breathalyzer test.
You always have the basic right not to incriminate yourself. This means you aren’t obligated to share the details of your evening with the officer. Don’t tell him when you started drinking, when you stopped, or how much you had before you got into the vehicle.
If you blow over .08 on the Breathalyzer test, you do have the option to plead guilty to the charge. Some people feel that a guilty plea will speed up the inevitable and get them back on the road sooner.
Before you decide to plead guilty to drinking and driving, it’s important you keep a few things in mind. If you plead guilty and are convicted of impaired driving:
- You will have a criminal record
- Your license is suspended for one year
- You must have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle
- You will face jail time and a 3-year license suspension if convicted again in the future
- You will have to face any job-related consequences of not having a driver’s license
Contact a Lawyer
As part of your basic rights, the officer who detained you must inform you that you have the right to speak with an attorney. Criminal lawyers who specialize in impaired driving cases are your absolute best bet at this stage of the game. Just because things don’t look too bright doesn’t mean there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel.
Criminal lawyers who deal with impaired driving on a regular basis are experts. They see cases like yours all the time, and they know precisely where to look to build the strongest defence.
- Did the police stop you for a valid reason?
- How did the officer ask you to use the roadside screening device?
- Was the device approved and calibrated properly?
- Did the police speak to you in a language you could easily understand?
- Were you given a real chance to consult with a lawyer in private while at the police station?
- Do you have evidence to show the results of any breath test were wrong?
Being stopped for drinking and driving can be a frightening situation for many people. Don’t refuse the mandatory breath tests and take advantage of your right to call a lawyer.