‘Reasonable Suspicion’ at the roadside? It’s the totality of the circumstances

drunk-drivingIn a way, you gotta feel kind of bad for Rhys Mitchell. In a way.

Charged with drive over .08 in early 2009 , he’s now seen his case go through every level of Manitoba’s courts.

The provincial court convicted him. The Court of Queen’s Bench acquitted.

Now, after many months of deliberations, the Court of Appeal has ruled to re-instate his conviction, setting up a potential Supreme Court battle.

His case is one that affects all Manitoba motorists stopped by police who then enter into an impaired driving investigation.

Mitchell’s case focused on whether the RCMP officer who appeared at his window after pulling him over on Roblin Boulevard early one January morning had grounds to form a “reasonable suspicion” Mitchell may be impaired may have alcohol in his body (see below) and request he blow into a roadside testing/screening device [not a breathalyzer, but an ASD].

 

The overall tension this case presents is clear: On one hand, police can’t, — if they’re to uphold the Charter — just randomly stop and ‘search’ drivers with their ASD test demands.

On the other, they can’t enforce the law and try to keep streets safer if the legal requirements to test people at the roadside are just too onerous.

As Justice Michel Monnin’s 21-page decision to overturn Mitchell’s acquittal shows, the lower courts spent a lot of time fretting over Mitchell’s comments to the officer, namely that he’d had a “couple of beers at a friend’s house” earlier and how that figured into “reasonable suspicion.”

Both those courts also found his Charter rights against unreasonable search and seizure had been breached, but only the QB found the remedy for the breach should be to toss the ASD result.

In the end, Monnin comes to the — in my view — common sense conclusion that it’s the overall circumstances of the stop and totality of the officer’s observations which leads to getting past the “reasonable suspicion” hurdle — that Mitchell’s rights weren’t breached.

From the decision:

I am not prepared to go as far as saying that a simple admission of alcohol consumption by a driver is, in and of itself, sufficient to provide reasonable grounds on which to base an ASD demand, as each case must be considered on its own facts. From a common sense perspective, however, it would be rare, if ever, that there would be an admission of alcohol consumption with nothing else – i.e., evidence as to why the vehicle was stopped, when (especially the time of the day and of the year) and where it was stopped, what was the driver’s condition, how did he or she react to the police, what were the driver’s exact words and how were they spoken, etc. These are all important factors to take into account. It is important to remember that it is the totality of the circumstances known to the officer,viewed together, that must be considered in determining whether there was a reasonable basis for his or her suspicion.

In this case, the trial judge might have found the manner in which the officer conducted his investigation to be wanting, but the facts remain that the accused was driving at night, on a busy thoroughfare, without lights, that there was an odour of alcohol emanating from the car and the accused, inanswer to a legitimate question in the circumstances, acknowledged that hehad consumed alcohol. I find the accused’s answer in this case to be similar to that under consideration by Marceau J. in Kimmel and I find his comments, to which I have previously referred, applicable in this case. Both the trial judge and the appeal judge erred by focussing on the words of the accused’s admission without considering them in the context of all of the evidence known to the officer. In so doing, each misapplied the applicable legal principles, thereby committing an error of law. In my view, after considering all of the evidence known to the officer, he had reasonable grounds to make the ASD demand when he did. It was an error in law by the trial judge to find otherwise.

It’s a fascinating case. Do give it a read:

‘In Camera’

It’s always sad — and immediately curious — when you see a pregnant woman in the prisoner’s dock in court decked out in the dull grey uniform of Remand Centre inmates. ***(see note at bottom)

Such was the case today with Laura Lee Monias, 34.

Monias, a mother of an 18-month-old and just a few weeks shy of having her second child, appeared today to deal with several charges, many of them for failing to appear in court.

She was picked up recently after months on the lam from a bail plan that sent her to live at an unlocked treatment centre, something often reserved as a last-ditch plan for people with serious issues.

She walked away from it after a week or two. She says she simply got another bed at a different facility. Who knows.

She also pleaded guilty today to her fourth impaired-driving related conviction since 1998.

Monias is at the point where mandatory minimums apply due to her record of getting behind the wheel while drunk.

I was conflicted. I felt sorrow for her and her predicament, but at the same time glad that she faced a guaranteed period of jail time given the risk to the public she posed.

After her recent arrest she was bail denied, likely prompting her desire to plead guilty and get the punishment over with.

On Jan. 29, 2009, Monias crashed on the Trans-Canada highway (it was minor, no injuries) while speeding, according to witnesses. Another car also wound up in the snowy roadside ditch.

Police who rushed to the scene suspected she was drunk after she admitted to  drinking at a cousin’s home in Winnipeg a few hours earlier.

In the car she was driving — she somehow had a learner’s permit despite three prior drive over .08s — was a beer cap and some open liquor.

She was also with her so-called driving supervisor who was also suspected to be drunk. Charges were dropped against him last year.

Her efforts to blow a sample in an ASD for the cops failed miserably — she alleged the act of providing a breath sample reminded her of being abused as a child in some way. I won’t get into it.

By my math, she was a few months pregnant at the time with her first-born.

What followed was a series of catch and release arrests as she repeatedly failed to deal with the charge, leading to her most recent detention and guilty plea.

Judge Careena Roller called her behaviour “selfish and dangerous.” The judge spoke of the lost trust between Monias and society because of her scofflaw attitude.

“That behaviour gets jail sentences. It’s just that simple,” Roller said.

But the judge, likely feeling conflicted as well, offered Monias a big break by sentencing her to the mandatory minimum of 120 days in jail (23 left to serve after credit for dead time is factored in).

But she also offered the soft-spoken mom concurrent time on three fail to attend courts and a bail breach from the absconding from the treatment centre — something she said she doesn’t normally do, and isn’t required to by law.

She’ll likely be out in time to celebrate the birth of her newborn in the absence of correctional officers. I’m glad for that. Mostly for the baby.

It’s just my opinion, I know, but while sitting and listening to her case, my mind drifted to what kind of life her kids would have if she doesn’t get it together, and  quick.

Monias’ isn’t some big story, certainly not one I’d expect to see written up in the newspaper.

But my reading of the public’s interest prevents me from simply disregarding her case — another that references a major problem society has, but not major enough to warrant real ink.

Regardless of what I may feel about it.

Booze rears its head once again.

Just pointing it out.

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***

Hers was yet another case I’ve come across recently where it didn’t appear on the official docket the media gets every day. Showing up at these hearings draws stares from the lawyers.

The Crime Scene’s first-ever Golden Crown award

(The Golden Crown)

In homage to my Twitter pal @Tombrodbeck of the Winnipeg Sun, I give my faithful followers the first-ever installment of what will be now be known as “the Golden Crown award” — handed out to some of the best examples of Manitoba Prosecutors trying to deter and denounce unlawful conduct.

This illustrious award’s first recipient comes after a court hearing today where a Winnipeg mom of nine was spared jail after she drunkenly crashed her car and abandoned her five-year-old daughter inside, only to be arrested minutes later in her home, passed out on the couch and with another child screaming at the top of its lungs in the background.

Two hours after the crash, the woman — who has no prior record — blew a breathalyzer reading of .17 — more than twice the legal limit — and was charged with child abandonment and impaired driving (there were no injuries serious enough to bump it up to impaired causing bodily harm). The charge was referred to today in court as “Impaired Driving Simplicitor” — a charge that somehow nets everybody a fine upon a first conviction for it, at least according to one top Manitoba judge.

And here’s why Manitoba Crown attorney Lisa Cupples is this illustrious award’s first recipient.

She asked Judge Ray Wyant to send the woman to jail for the crime. She didn’t say how long, just that she be locked up to send her — and others — a message.

She even presented case law to back up why she should be locked up as a way to denounce not only her conduct — but deter others from drinking and driving. They’re two of the main sentencing principles enunciated by Parliament.

And what’s more, former Provincial Court Chief Judge Ray Wyant almost did send her to the clink — but ultimately ruled that it wouldn’t be in society’s (or the offender’s) interest to do so, for various reasons (see below).

But without a doubt, Cupples’s request clearly had Wyant thinking — and thinking out loud at that. He told her in his experience, no prosecutor had ever proposed such a thing.

Here’s his comments to her on her argument for jail, verbatim, from today’s hearing:

I have to say it’s the first time that I can recall — not necessarily a bad thing — but the first time I’ve heard a Crown attorney, at least in my experience, ask for jail on an impaired simplicitor where there were no injuries at least that justified the laying or the proceeding of impaired causing bodily harm.

I have to say I’ve seen countless cases — far too many sadly — of people driving at high rates of speed and blitzed, hitting cars and smashing whatever and — I appreciate you don’t speak for others — but I don’t think I ever recall anything but the Crown saying, ‘well take into account the seriousness of this, but because it’s a first offence, she should receive a fine.”

[Snip … to later in his reasons]

I commend the Crown for bringing that factor to the court’s attention. Often times we may get into the situation where we just have standard sentences for certain offences. ‘First time impaired simplicitor? — gotta be a fine.’

And a range of fine perhaps dependent on the existence or lack of aggravating circumstances: ‘what was the (breathalyzer) reading?,’ ‘Was there property damage?,’ ‘Was there a high rate of speed?,’ ‘Was there the potential for injuries?’ — That kind of thing, where the person has no record — and I think the Crown’s position reflects the fact that each individual case has to be looked at seriously, and that just because it’s an impaired simplicitor and just because the person has no prior record that doesn’t automatically mean that they get a fine.

And it shouldn’t mean that.

[Snip …]

Drinking and driving is rampant and it doesn’t appear that we’ve been able to abate the carnage on our highways in spite of the education and in spite of the increased penalties.

I think we all know that if the police were probably given more resources to go out and nab impaired drivers, we’d see a lot more in here and that’s sadly something I think we all see too often.

Wyant then went on to give his rationale for why jail in this case was inappropriate (mom had just gotten all her kids back, was 1 year sober, had been actively participating in rehab and AA etc.).

But he complemented Cupples for raising jail as an option.

As we all should.

Ms. Cupples, keep up the good work. People notice.

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The non-story that’s really a story

“How can this possibly be a story?”

This, a question asked of me this week by a Crown attorney regarding my presence at a recent court hearing involving a suspected drunk driver.

The case dated back to 2006. In the end, Judge Sid Lerner chose to acquit the 47-year-old man (now of Calgary) of driving while impaired. There were no injuries in the case.

Lerner’s reasons were simple. The Crown’s evidence in terms of identification of the suspect were themselves suspect and “tainted” by the arresting officers.

There was a crash in the North End, and a suspect fled the scene.

Police caught up with him behind his own home and brought witnesses to the scene where they identified the man as the driver.

At the time he was identified by them, he was sitting handcuffed in the back of a cruiser car.

“The unfairness” of the above identification method was prejudicial, Lerner stated.

Police methods “clearly tainted” and had a “contaminating effect” on the identification-investigative process.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that the ID evidence was tossed even though the suspect had a set of keys a broken light from the car in his possession at the time of his arrest. 

During trial — one of the witnesses who stated he got “a decent look” at the driver involved in the crash testified that he was simply describing the accused in court.

As well, the admissibility of statements given to police by the accused was challenged during a voir dire and tossed out.

Both factors contributed to a lost prosecution, one that was set down for trial initially in April 2008, delayed till the next year, and finally wrapped up five years — five years! — after the suspect’s arrest.

Personally, I don’t remember what I had for breakfast (actually I do, it was nothing.) But realistically, how can a witness reasonably be expected to remember finer details of an event (one where things happened in rapid-fire succession) half a decade after they happened?

I’ve said here before that drunk driving cases are among the most hotly litigated simply because the stakes — a criminal record, the loss of one’s privilege to drive and the prospect of public humiliation — are so high for so many.

For many people, it’s worth the cost of a good defence lawyer to delay, delay, delay and ultimately fight the allegations, make Charter challenges about abuse of process, police tactics, etc.

I can point to a number of recent DUI-related cases in Manitoba’s provincial court where these factors loom large.

Here’s but a few: here, here, here.

Anyhow, I said something to the prosecutor about ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ and it was apparent he wasn’t really buying that.

To him, there was no story here, but I get why.

He sees the same things go on day after day after day. Files left hanging for years, the guilty walking free. It’s part and parcel of his job.

But to me, and I suspect some members of the public, a person police said was a drunk driver who walked free is a story.

I’ll leave it to you to decide why.

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Notes for a long weekend

(James Turner)

It’s rapture day. And while I’m still waiting for the brimstone to fall and my dogs to start talking about how awesome heaven is, I thought I’d make these [maybe final?] notes.

If a tree falls?

It’s been a violent week in Winnipeg. Lots of apparently culpable homicides and other violent acts taking place — including one in particular that has a lot of people on edge.

But I wanted to give kudos to Gabrielle Giroday of the Free Press for her story today about Iris Heald, who died earlier this week after an attack on the street. Likely due to the overwhelming amount of violence, Heald’s death went largely unreported. And although I tend to personally eschew the news convention of chasing grief, Giroday acknowledged the victim in this case with respect and distance — and best of all, honesty.

“Iris Heald had few friends. And she had no family in the city.”

And, at the root of it, is why it’s sad she died the way she did, and why the story is, in my view, an important one.

A personal aside

Two people who touched my life years ago recently died. I found out about both of the deaths today.

One was a young woman who I dated extremely briefly in the year 2001. She killed herself in early May.

Having not seen her for years, I can’t say what went wrong, but my understanding is she suffered from severe bouts of depression — despite being (at least outwardly) a vibrant, creative and outgoing person. Regardless of whether we kept in touch or not, I’m sad she’s gone. She touched a lot of people’s lives, judging by the reaction to her death.

It’s odd the impression people leave: she had the most lovely nose.

The second was an Irish doctor who used to work in Osborne Village who was regular customer at the bar at the former Tap and Grill restaurant, where I worked for many years.

Although he was likely one of the most ornery people I’ve ever met, he was in turn funny, interesting and at times, even encouraging.

“You’ll be a great poet,” he once told me, despite my denials of having any interest in that line of work. Regular readers of this blog may even find that comical.

He died at the Riverview Health Centre on Wednesday. I don’t know what from. He was heavy smoker and drinker when I knew him, so maybe that had something to do with it.

RIP to them both.

From the notebook –

I wanted to put on the record — at least more comprehensively — Judge Linda Giesbrecht’s comments to John Petriew during his sentencing hearing last year for his sixth impaired driving conviction. The 35-year-old is being held in custody after a boating mishap last Saturday on the Assiniboine that police believe claimed the life of a 37-year-old man. In her reasons, Giesbrecht stated she was uncomfortable accepting a plea deal where Petriew pleaded guilty and got a time-served sentence of 10 months [at double credit].

The joint recommendation is a bit difficult for me, because it’s low in my view …

You keep drinking and driving … you are endangering the public every time you do this. And this is your sixth time in committing this type of offence …

Every day in this country people are killed, people are injured and there’s massive property loss — and thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost wages of people being hurt and injured — nevermind the toll it takes on people who have lost loved ones because of drunk drivers …

You have a couple of kids — how would you feel if one day they were off to school and a drunk driver smashed through some intersection and kills one of them or puts them in a wheelchair?

She then cautions him that any subsequent DUI convictions could lead to serious prison time.

I just want you to know … that what you’re risking is a penitentiary sentence — the sentences will just keep going up. And if you were ever in an accident where you hurt someone when you were drunk, you would probably be going into the penitentiary for many, many years. There’s just no question of that.

I’m talking you could even go double digits because of your terrible driving record. You cannot afford another impaired drive. That’s all I’m telling you.

I’ll direct readers at this point to consider today’s Globe and Mail and it’s feature on the persistence of drinking and driving in Canada.

Specifically, I’d ask you to read page 3 of the article — regarding repeat offenders.

Essentially, if sanctions and punishment won’t work for people like Petriew, maybe incentives will, Erin Anderssen’s subject suggests:

Since punitive sentence fail to deter these people, they are more likely to be influenced by incentives. For instance, Dr. Brown suggests, they may agree to installing an interlock device, requiring a driver to provide a breath sample before the car will turn on, if it means lower insurance rates and a reduction in fines. (Ontario introduced a law last August allowing first-time offenders to reduce their license suspension if they install the device.)

Dr. Brown concedes that “anything with the whiff of a reward” may be unpalatable to the public. But one reason broader campaigns are facing diminishing returns may be that they’re failing to reach the niche of the population likely to cause more accidents.

Following this, is the DUI rate in Manitoba a further argument for rapid, accessible transit? We’re likely not gonna get any better if the car culture stays entrenched.

It’s the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. The problem in Manitoba is statistically more an issue here than elsewhere.

Like the local judge above says, the toll impaired driving takes on people, their families and the public purse is huge.

But we don’t — to my knowledge, anyways — have a dedicated unit of police officers (like homicide, for example) working 24-7 to hunt down drunks and keep them off our roads.

Why is that?

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How tough can we get, really?

We'd love to think this, but is it true? (MPI)

Or better yet — are the sentencing tools judges and justices have to work with good enough?

Are the options of jail, probation, house arrest and fines (generally, these are the big four) enough to deter offenders (convicted or would-be) from crime?

Let’s look at the recent case of Crystal Audy, a 29-year-old First Nations woman who lives on reserve just outside of Swan River.

Last April, Audy was hammered on booze and dope and rolled a vehicle. One passenger suffered a broken jaw, the other a range of injuries that will likely affect her for the rest of her life.

From Judge Don Slough’s Jan. 19 decision:

[The victim]suffered a broken arm, paralysis to her right side and extensive bruising as a result of the accident.  Four months later, [The victim] still uses a cane and requires assistance in her home in terms of bathing.  Her treatment is on-going and it sounds as if she will never return to her pre-offence condition.

Audy — who has no criminal record — blew .14 at the low range when tested.

When asked why she drove she responded “I was the least drunk of everyone so I had to drive,” an opinion shared by another passenger.  At no point in her life had Ms. Audy possessed a driver’s licence.

The judge then turns to Audy’s background:

The Pre-Sentence Report which included a valuable “Gladue Report” describes Ms. Audy as the product of a small, remote and impoverished First Nation community with high rates of unemployment and crime. She is responsible for the care of two young children and subsists on Band assistance.  The community has limited recreational and therapeutic resources.   Ms. Audy advised the probation officer she frequently saw violence and substance abuse within her own community.  Her parents were the product of the residential school system.  The offender’s mother in particular suffered as a result and due to family addiction issues Ms. Audy was raised in foster homes and by her grandmother.  The offender advises that she was victimized as a child.  She has a very limited work history.   Ms. Audy advised the probation officer she was not currently abusing alcohol but that until very recently she used marijuana on a frequent basis. Notwithstanding the offender’s lack of a prior record the Pre-Sentence Report states that using the current assessment tool:

“Ms. Audy was assessed as high risk to re-offend.  The significant factors for this person are Employment/Education, Alcohol/Drug Problem and Leisure/Recreation.  Other factors that may have an impact on this case are Ms. Audy’s own victimization issues and her problem with depression”.

He then considers the appropriate sentence, and his range of options are limited by the fact conditional sentences are no longer available for impaired driving cause bodily harm.

There are a number of factors that demand consideration of an incarceratory sentence.  The circumstances of the offence are serious and the bodily harm caused by the accused appears to be permanent.  In addition, my experience sitting in Swan River suggests that drinking and driving is a serious issue in this community and the communities in the Swan River region. This includes the First Nation community where Ms. Audy resides. The Pre-Sentence Report indicates members of that First Nation community are aware of the impact of this offence on the victims.  It is important that the Court provide a strong response to this offence.

It is difficult to gauge with precision the weight to give to Parliament’s decision to eliminate the availability of a Conditional Sentence Order for this offence.  As Ms. Audy’s counsel has pointed out, the amendments do not preclude the imposition of what would normally be considered a less onerous sentence such as a fine and probation.  That being said, it is difficult to believe that Parliament’s intention was to encourage more lenient sentences for a serious personal injury offence.

As referenced earlier the R.C.M.P. suggested that at the time of the incident there was very little evidence of remorse.  However, it has been my observation that the offender’s demeanor and her statements to the Court demonstrate a high degree of remorse.

In considering whether to impose a period of incarceration, I must consider whether or not an intermittent sentence would provide the denunciation and deterrence this offence warrants.  It is my understanding that for women in Manitoba all intermittent sentences are served at the Portage Women’s Jail an overcrowded and decrepit 115-year-old facility.  A new and larger institution will be opening in the relatively near future in Headingley.

For this offender to serve an intermittent sentence she would have to travel approximately four hours to Portage la Prairie.  Given she has no car or driver’s licence and according to the Pre-Sentence Report is on Band assistance the logistics and expense involved make it virtually impossible for Ms. Audy to serve an intermittent sentence.

Due to these limitations, the judge’s hands, essentially, are tied. Sending Audy to jail can’t, or better yet, won’t work in terms of balancing the set out sentencing principles of denunciation, deterrence and rehabilitation.

In the end, Slough rules to fine her and put her on probation.

I am ordering that Ms. Audy pay a fine of $1,000 within 12 months and be placed on supervised probation for 18 months.

The conditions of that probation include an absolute curfew (essentially house arrest similar to conditional sentence without the true threat of that being converted to real jail) and community service work in the amount of 120 hours. He also adds a two-year-driving prohibition — IMO a pointless measure given she’s never had a licence and yet was driving anyway. It’s Swan River. I’m sure this happens a lot.

Jail, probation, fine. These ultimately were the options.

On one hand, one could be questioning the sentence: that somehow not sending Audy to jail lets her off the hook for injuring two people, one very badly.

On the other, one sees the pointlessness of jailing her. It won’t change a thing for her and likely won’t “teach her a lesson” as the hang em’ high crowd would crow.

But clearly, fining a woman — a young mother — on social assistance and allowing her to stay at home could be equally perceived as too lenient.

My question — to get to it an a long-winded way, is: Are there other options judges should have to deal with similar cases?

So-called sentencing circles are one thing, but that’s old news. What else?

Public shaming? Hard to do in a community where there’s virtually no media to cover case outcomes.

Public speaking? (Similar to the above…)

We all know by now that sentencing reform is well underway in Canada – typically leaning on harsher jail terms, mandatory minimums and so-called “traditional” punitive measures.

But I’m more interested in innovation and new ideas. The U.S. experience tells us that locking people up for longer and longer terms isn’t sustainable.

And the Canadian experience is that perceptions the justice system is soft on criminals is deteriorating public faith in the justice system.

The Audy case is emblematic of that. If this decision were to go into an MSM newspaper or broadcast, I can guarantee there would be gnashing of teeth and the usual call to arms for harsher this and that.

Make no mistake: violent criminals need to be separated from society for the greater good of living in peace.

But in the cases like the Crystal Audys of the world, we should be thinking of giving judges more creative ways to punish people for their bad acts.

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Impaired Driving stats – Winnipeg 2010 Christmas

Straight from the horse’s mouth (with thanks for the breakdown:)

2010 FESTIVE SEASON CHECKSTOP PROGRAM RESULTS
Total Number of Vehicles Stopped — 2471 (30% decrease from 2009)

Total Number of Individuals charged:
Drive Impaired, Drive Over 80 mg% and/ or Refusal- 98 (72% increase over 2009)
Highest Blood Alcohol Concentration 280%
Lowest Blood Alcohol Concentration 90 mgs%
Average Blood Alcohol Concentration 136 mgs%
Arrest Times:
Earliest Arrest Time — 3:00 pm
Latest Arrest Time  — 5:47 am
Statistics for individuals charged:
85 males (age range 18 to 67 years)
13 females (age range 19 to 52 years)
Average age —  37 years
Offenders with previous Impaired Driving Charges: 26
  • 1 prior offence-   17
  • 2 prior offences-   5
  • 3 prior offences-   2
  • 4 prior offences-   1
  • 6 prior offences-   1
Alcohol Screening Device Tests  Administered— 596 (710% increase over 2009)
In 23% of the 2471 vehicles stopped (which is 596), alcohol had been consumed by the driver
Alcohol Screening Device —Pass— (Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0 to 49 mgs%)- 415
Alcohol Screening Device —Warn—(Blood Alcohol Concentration of 50 to 99 mgs%)- 125
Alcohol Screening Device —Fail— (Blood Alcohol Concentration in excess of 99 mgs%)- 56
Provincial Offence Notices Issued— 245 (41% increase over 2009)
Individuals arrested on Arrest Warrants- 9 (33% increase over 2009)
NOVICE DRIVER 0% BAC RESTRICTION OFFENCES
14 Novice drivers were issued province offence notices for driving with alcohol in their blood.
2009 FESTIVE SEASON CHECKSTOP PROGRAM RESULTS:
Total Number of Vehicles Stopped- 3225
Total Number of Individuals charged:
Drive Impaired, Drive Over 80 mg% and/or Refusal to Provide a Sample- 57
Alcohol Screening Device Tests Administered— 84
Alcohol Screening Device —Pass— (Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0 to 49 mgs%)- 55
Alcohol Screening Device —Warn— (Blood Alcohol Concentration of 50 to 99 mgs%)- 21
Alcohol Screening Device —Fail— (Blood Alcohol Concentration in excess of 99 mgs%)- 9
Provincial Offence Notices Issued -174
Individuals arrested on Arrest Warrants – 6

Impaired driving arrests, by location

Couple things:

Great feature by Adam Wasny in the WFP this weekend on the Checkstop program, followed by a good story from Welch and virtually all other Winnipeg media outlets on the successes of this year’s crackdown, which has already exceeded years past in terms of arrests.

I take issue with the service — and the media — trumpeting that the tactic of targeting bars and social venues as “new,” however. They’ve been doing this for a long while now.

Instead, it would appear that the service has boosted staffing levels for the Checkstop initiative, resulting in more checks and roadside arrests.

From Dec. 2008 – official statement:

Police will be strictly enforcing Impaired Driving legislation, targeting areas of the city where social functions that involve the consumption of alcohol take place. Police will be using all tools at their disposal, including physical coordination tests and drug evaluations, to detect and arrest those who choose to drive impaired.

My gut feeling is that the real tactic is a simple one: Add more bodies. Who knows, maybe MPI or the MLCC ponied up some dough.

Another observation: For the first time, the WPS is giving a short description of the events leading up to a drunk driver’s arrest, which helps the media ‘sell’ the story about the stupidity of drunk driving more.

And as much as I admire the idea of the story, thumbs down to CTV for their recent report about DUI convictions stemming from previous years’ Checkstop arrests.

Picking 15 cases at random and then reporting the outcome isn’t enough to say the “majority” are resulting in convictions. Especially when there were 57 + arrests resulting in charges last season.

Do them all, and then make some conclusions. I suspect the result would be surprising.

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Winnipeg impaired driving arrests, by location

Couple of notes:

  • Suspects typically are not identified until they make their first court appearance. Most are suspended at the roadside and then issued an offence notice to show up at 408 York on a specific day. Police are promising to release the names once they’re charged.
  • Impaired driving arrests make defence lawyers happy. The vast majority of their clients have cash — or at least more means than the average criminal — to pay for representation. Given the heartbreak a DUI conviction can have on one’s relationship with MPI, a lot of people will fight tooth and nail to avoid owning up.
  • Drunk driving cases continue to contain probably some of the most thorny and complex legal issues. Virtually everything officers do from the moment they pull you over will be pulled apart, scrutinized, disputed and contended by lawyers should the case proceed to trial.
  • Always keep in mind: Drunk drivers are as prevalent as the service makes officers available to catch them, so there’s likely a heck of a lot more than they’re catching. Be safe out there.
  • Shame is widely under-used as a deterrent by police, who sanitize every official statement they make. The annual Checkstop program, and the releasing of accuseds’ names is a deviation from that.