Case Study: Charges Withdrawn – Over 80
Ms. R. is a responsible mother of a young child and dedicated to her employment in the childcare field. She’d been taking care of children for over a decade without any run-ins with the criminal justice system. Late at night in the middle of winter, Ms. R. experienced something terrifying; her vehicle slid out and rolled, coming to a stop upside-down in a ditch.
Shortly after arriving the police shifted gears from assisting with the roll-over to suspecting Ms. R. of driving while intoxicated. Police made the demand for a breath sample, and upon providing it Ms. R. registered a fail. She was arrested and brought to a nearby station where she was tested again, which she also failed. She was charged with operating a motor vehicle with more than 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood and was released on a promise to appear the following morning.
Ms. R.’s employment involved childcare. People who work with vulnerable populations, like children or the elderly, typically need a clear criminal record to be eligible for the position. If Ms. R. were convicted of the criminal offence of driving over 80, she risked losing the job she’d held for over a decade. Our goal would be to either have the charges withdrawn or have Ms. R. acquitted at trial. Pleading down to a non-criminal charge would be an option but our focus was on the withdrawal or the acquittal.
They say, “the devil’s in the details” and that hits home when preparing a criminal defence strategy. Justin reviewed the police officer’s notes and the information disclosed to us by the Crown and compared the information they had written down with the information Ms. R. gave. It immediately became clear that there were important inconsistencies that would make for a strong defence.
For example, the time Ms. R. said the collision occurred was different than what the police said it was. The two times were off by a substantial number of minutes. Police are held to strict requirements for keeping logs of when and where things occur during investigations. This high standard is necessary to avoid mistaken convictions, abuse of police power, and so on. Such a glaring error in the police officer’s account of the events would make the Crown’s case appear weak at trial, particularly because of the number of witnesses who could corroborate Ms. R.’s account.
Justin prepared to argue these issues at trial and scheduled a meeting with the Crown Attorney to allow him to withdraw the charges. The Crown is reluctant to take a case to trial if they don’t have a reasonable chance of convicting the accused because going to trial with a low chance of winning is a waste of time and resources.
At the meeting, the Crown Attorney quickly became aware just how weak the case was and how low the chance of conviction was with such inconsistencies. He agreed to fully withdraw the charges. Justin phoned Ms. R. to tell her the good news– the trial dates had been cancelled and she was free of the burden of fighting criminal charges far earlier than she thought she’d be.