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Attorney General says lesser charges necessary to ease court backlog

A court backlog caused by the pandemic means some impaired drivers in Ontario won’t be facing criminal charges.

A new directive recommended by the Ministry of Attorney General allows prosecutors to settle for a guilty plea to a lesser charge of careless driving if the impaired case has no aggravating factors. 

Attorney General Doug Downey says that it’s only a temporary measure, and the circumstances must allow for it.

“We’ve consulted with both the Association of Chiefs of Police and MADD and other organizations and we collectively decided that we wanted to give Crown prosecutors, who have the discretion to do this in any event, a consistency across the Province.”

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With a high backlog of cases due to the pandemic, Downey says this allows them to not lose many “punishments”. 

He adds that this is not a permanent situation, and only a temporary one to help deal with the volume.

“There has to be no mitigative factors like property damage or if someone’s been hurt. If that happened, this isn’t applicable to [the case]. The Crown prosecutors have discretion when it is and when it isn’t. There’s a lot of constraints on this. We were very careful.” finished Downey.

According to the government’s website, an accused is ineligible for the resolution if any of the following deemed aggravating factors under the Criminal Code and other factors are present:

  • bodily harm or death resulted
  • the accused’s blood alcohol concentration is equal to or more than 120 mg within two hours after operating a vehicle
  • the accused has a prior criminal or HTA record for similar offences
  • the accused is prohibited or suspended from driving under a federal or provincial act
  • a collision or significant bad driving was reported
  • the accused has a prior HTA ‘warn’ or ‘ADLS’ licence suspension
  • the accused was being paid for driving at the time
  • a person under the age of 16 years was a passenger in the vehicle
  • the accused refused to provide a breath or blood sample
  • the accused was driving a large motor vehicle
  • the impairment was caused by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol
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