Noose is tightening on habitual drunk drivers

Bill C-226 has passed two readings in the House of Commons


Published on February 9, 2017

This is what is left of Grand Falls-Windsor resident Brad Bludon’s car after a suspected drunk driver in Bishops Falls struck him.

©Contributed Image

Brad Blundon of Grand Falls-Windsor had a close call with a suspected drunk driver who fled the scene of an accident in Bishop’s Falls Feb. 6.
Contributed Image

Brad Blundon believes the justice system is broken — as damaged as the car he was driving when a suspected drunk driver struck his vehicle in Bishops Falls Feb. 6.

Blundon was returning home from trip to the store, it was 9:30 at night on a familiar route. As Blundon describes the incident, a truck burst on to the Main Road from the side road, ignoring the stop sign and barreling across the street directly into Blundon’s car.

Dazed he struggled to open the door.

“I finally got my door free, I got out and stood up, and we were talking over the roof of my car, all he said was ‘what are you doing? ‘So I said ‘what are you doing?’ and he kind of casually walked back to his truck,” Blundon told The Advertiser. “And I thought ‘this guy is loaded.”

Blundon says he thought the driver was walking back to his truck to retrieve his insurance information and begin the process of sorting out the mess. Instead, Blundon says he climbed aboard and drove away.

“He started up the truck, backed off my car, ripping and tearing metal and drove away,” Blundon said. “As he was driving away I got his licence plate.”

Blundon says he thought it would be a quick call and officers would come “lights and sirens blazing,” a quick case closed.

Or maybe not.

There is a loophole in Canada’s DUI legislation; habitual drunk drivers know it, and now so does Blundon.

 “It’s called ‘bolus drinking,’ it has it’s own name to it,” said Andrew Murie, Chief Executive Officer for Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada. “It’s a loophole that defence attorney’s use with clients and it is usually used by people who drink and drive a lot.”

The gist is this; the suspected drunk driver flees the scene and claims to have consumed alcohol after the accident. Depending on a variety of factors, the tactic works, so much so Parliament is moving to close the loophole.

“There is a parliamentary change going through the house right now to not allow that defence going forward…,” said Murie. “The problem is right now all the onus is on the Crown to prove that he didn’t do what he said he did, and then in the future it will be the reverse. So, if you come up with this kind of story you have to prove, in factual detail with witnesses, that’s actually what happened.”

Murie says the private member’s bill introduced by Québec Conservative MP Steven Blaney, has already passed a second reading in the House of Commons, soon he expects it to become law — a rare feat for a Private Member’s Bill.

“It’s right now having witnesses discuss the bill and hopefully in the next six weeks it receives approval by the committee and is sent back to the house,” said Murie. “So it could be legislation by May or June this year.”

With the investigation into the DUI still ongoing in Blundon’s incident, there isn’t much the RCMP can discuss specifically about the case, other than to confirm there is an active investigation and that a summons has been issued for a failure to appear to the driver of the truck.

The RCMP did, however, speak to the often times difficult task of convicting suspected drunk drivers

“Impaired driving investigations, in general, can be very technical depending on the circumstances…” said Sgt. Rod Gallop for the RCMP Grand Falls-Windsor detachment. “There are investigative avenues we can take to continue with the investigation but it makes it more complex.”

A copy of the proposed legislation can be found here: https://openparliament.ca/bills/42-1/C-226/.

 

Patrick.murphy@tc.tc