Proposed Reduced Suspension with Ignition Interlock Conduct Review Program Welcomed by Ontario Defence Lawyers

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The proposed Ignition Interlock Conduct Review program will allow certain convicted impaired drivers to shorten their driver's license suspension with the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. Aitken Robertson, an Ontario law firm that represents clients facing impaired driving and DUI charges, has advocated the implementation of the Ignition Interlock Program since it first came into law in 2007 and welcomes this step forward.

Any person convicted of an impaired driving offence in Ontario will serve a driving licence suspension under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. Currently, the minimum term of the suspension is one year for a first offense. In 2007, the Ontario Legislature passed Bill 203, the Safer Roads for a Safer Ontario Act that included the Ignition Interlock Program which allows for licence suspensions of as little as 3 months for convicted impaired drivers participating in the program. Although the Ignition Interlock Program has been on the books for nearly 3 years, the lack of regulations governing how it will work has delayed its implementation. The Ontario criminal law firm of Aitken Robertson (http://www.fightthecharges.com) has been urging the government to move ahead with the program and welcomes the proposed reduced suspension with Ignition Interlock Conduct Review Program.

"We have been waiting for the government to act for some time now," states Nathan Baker, one of Aitken Robertson's criminal defence lawyers, "For years, the Criminal Code of Canada has allowed for sentencing that would see a person convicted of a drinking and driving offence receive their driver's license back in as little as three months, provided they were enrolled in a provincial ignition interlock program. The Ignition Interlock Program has proven to be a success in places where is has been put into practice. The program has been credited with reducing the number of repeat impaired driving offenders and reducing the number of people caught driving illegally without a license. It also reduces the hardship placed on first time offenders caused by a lengthy driver's license suspension," adds Baker.

Under the proposed Conduct Review Program, drivers who meet the eligibility requirements and successfully enter the 'conduct review' program will have their licence suspension adjusted to as little as 3 months for a first offence. The proposed details of the new program were posted on March 25, 2010 on the Ontario Government website. It is found at (http://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=3082). To be eligible, the driver must plead guilty and be sentenced within 90 days of the date that the offence took place. Lawyers are worried that some innocent people may be forced to plead guilty given the much harsher penalty if they exercise their right to a trial. "Even though the breath testing instrument may have been broken or an officer may have trampled the rights of an accused, many will plead guilty rather than take the risk, even if they are innocent" states Baker. An accused person must provide proof that they have leased an interlock device and they must also complete the assessment component of the required remedial measures program prior to the expiry of the minimum prohibition period. The government is proceeding with this program because they believe that it will help make Ontario's roads safer by monitoring the driving behaviour of offenders who have a history of impaired driving and reducing recidivism through behaviour modification.

While some may think that the proposed reduced suspension offered with the Ignition Interlock Program may be too lenient, the punishment for those convicted of drinking and driving offences is still serious enough to act as a strong deterrent. To be eligible, offenders must fully comply with all the restrictions and regulations imposed, including the purchase or lease of an interlock devise. As well, they will have legal bills to pay and they will carry the stigma of a criminal conviction. Through the program, drivers earn their driving privileges back.

"I represent clients facing the loss of their drivers licence due to drinking and driving charges, many of whom are first time offenders and, if they are in fact guilty, they are very unlikely to reoffend. The proposed reduced suspension with Ignition Interlock Control Review program allows these people to drive again after a minimum of 90 days. In many cases, it enables them to keep their jobs so that they and their families do not become a burden on society. For the most part, it is a good program that needs to be implemented as soon as possible," says Baker. "One aspect of the proposed program that will cause some difficulties for lawyers and their clients is the short time given to decide on whether to plead guilty or to fight the charges. To be eligible for the proposed reduced suspension with Ignition Interlock Control Review program, a guilty plea must be entered within 90 days of the original charge. The short time allotted may force someone charged to plead guilty. It leaves little time to consult with a lawyer and limits the lawyer's time to establish if there are grounds for a defence. While not perfect, the early reinstatement with interlock program is a step forward in driver rehabilitation and in reducing drinking and driving offenses," advises Baker.

Contact Information:
Nathan Baker
Aitken Robertson, Barristers & Solicitors
263 Charlotte Street
Peterborough ON K9J 7Y4
Toll Free 1-800-668-1657
705 742-0440
http://www.fightthecharges.com

About Aitken Robertson, Barristers & Solicitors: The Ontario law firm of Aitken Robertson specializes in the criminal defence of drinking and driving cases and all DUI offenses. With 45 years of combined legal experience, Aitken Robertson uses a unique team approach, offering clients individual attention, aggressive representation and a vigorous defence to achieve the best possible outcome. Practicing in Toronto, Peterborough, Oshawa, Lindsay, Coburg and Kingston, Aitken Robertson offers a free initial consultation and reasonable payment plans. For more information call 1-800-668-1657 or visit their website http://www.fightthecharges.com.

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