Youth Drunk Driving Laws

Noting that drunk driving causes more deaths and serious injuries than any other crime, the Supreme Court of Canada gave greater discretion to trial judges in sentencing young people with no criminal record who are convicted of drunk driving. This is particularly the case for people who are convicted of drunk driving causing death. Now trial judges (Court of Queens’ Bench in Alberta if it is drunk driving causing death), will have greater discretion in imposing tough sentences which reflects the community’s outrage with drunk drivers.

The Supreme Court of Canada noted that although youth is an important mitigating factor to consider. However the problem when it comes to drunk driving is that young people are affected the most by motor-vehicle accidents which are caused by impaired driving. Thus, a message must be sent to the community of young people that drunk driving is unacceptable. In the case before the Supreme Court of Canada, there was evidence that young people in Quebec tend to trivialize the crime of drunk driving.

In the decision where there were two dissenting judges, Justice Clement Gascon and Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who stressed the principle of restraint. The principle of restraint argues for the “lightest possible sanction in the circumstances” in sentencing. Further, the dissenting judges said a person cannot be made to suffer a disproportionate punishment simply to send a message to discourage others from offending.

Our firm would argue that this ignores one of the two principles of criminal sentencing:  to deter the individual and general deterrence. Drunk driving certainly needs a general deterrence especially when young people in Quebec trivialize it.

Therefore, the majority decision of the court, in our view, is correct and is a welcome decision from the Supreme Court of Canada. This will allow trial judges across the country to exercise discretion based upon the individual facts before them to impose a harsher sentence for the outrageous conduct of drunk driving causing death or serious injury.

Handel Law Firm is Alberta’s serious personal injury and fatal accident law firm serving the cities and areas of Red Deer, Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.