Car not moving? You can still be charged for driving drunk

Not only are you not allowed to drive while impaired but just sitting behind the wheel while intoxicated can see you charged with a criminal offence.
Not only are you not allowed to drive while impaired but just sitting behind the wheel while intoxicated can see you charged with a criminal offence. Photo:iStock.

Think that you can only be charged for impaired driving if the police catch you while you’re driving? Well, think again.

Not only can you be charged with operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs, but also if you had “care or control of a motor vehicle” while impaired, as per section 253(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada. To be found in “care and control” it can be enough to be sitting in the driver’s seat.

In the Ontario Superior Court of Justice case R. v. Stacey that was the issue: whether Marion Stacey had care and control of her vehicle while being intoxicated, even though she wasn’t driving at the time.

A North Bay, Ont. city employee had seen Stacey parked in her car on February 25, 2015. The car was running, but not moving. The employee became concerned and tried to gain her attention to see whether she was alright. Stacey didn’t respond, so he called the police.

When the police arrived a few minutes later, Stacey had abandoned her vehicle and was walking towards her home. Once police spoke to her, they decided to arrest her for impaired care and control of a vehicle because they detected an odour of alcohol on her, as well as slurred speech and red eyes. The police later took two breath samples that showed she was above the legal allowable blood alcohol limit and charged her.

Stacey had appealed the trial judge’s conviction for impaired care and control, claiming that the trial judge entered a conviction as of the time of her arrest, when she was walking home.

However, Judge M. Gregory Ellies rejected her argument. Rather, he found that the trial judge convicted her of the charge as of the time she was observed by the city employee.

Ellies upheld Stacey’s conviction by using the reasoning in the leading case R. v. Boudreault issued by the Supreme Court of Canada (a case that is used for reference in other court cases). In this case, one of the questions that pertained to establishing “impaired care and control” is whether circumstances created a realistic risk of danger to persons or property.

Accordingly, Ellies agreed with the trial judge, who found that there was a risk, because Stacey’s keys were in the ignition and the vehicle was running, so there was a realistic chance she could have been driving.

So, there you have it folks. Not only are you not allowed to drive while in an impaired state, but just sitting behind the wheel of the car while intoxicated can see you charged with a criminal offence.

Find a Lawyer