The R.I.D.E. program is a great initiative aimed at reducing the number people drinking and driving on our roads. It is a program that I would like to see used more frequently throughout the year. I also appreciate of the job our police officers do by running the R.I.D.E. program, particularly when they are outside on those cold nights. However, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that the Durham Police post names of people charged with impaired driving after being stopped by a R.I.D.E. program. The purpose of releasing the names of individuals charged with impaired driving is to deter other people from making the same decision to drink and drive.
The Concerns of Publishing Names of Individuals Charged with Impaired Driving
Would it not be more appropriate for the police to wait until a person has been found guilty before their name is posted? This approach certainly would be more consistent with the spirit of the provision in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If we want to shame people who commit criminal offences, should we not wait until they have their day in court?
If you were found not guilty or if the charges against you were withdrawn but your name has already been posted as someone charged with impaired driving, it is sort of like ‘that’s great I wasn’t convicted, but my name has already been run through the mud.’ In the interest of fairness, I wonder whether the Durham Regional Police would also be willing to publish the names of individuals who have are found not guilty?
How is it fair to publish only the names of those people charged with drinking and driving resulting from the R.I.D.E. program? You would think that in order to be fair, the Durham Police would publish the name of every single person charged with impaired driving. If publishing the names of those people charged with drinking and driving is such an effective deterrent, then you would think that the name of every person who is charged with drinking and driving would be posted. Also, if this practice is effective then why has Durham Regional Police not adopted this practice for the entire year?
Publishing Names as a Method of Deterring Others from Drinking and Driving
The purpose of posting the names of individuals charged with drinking and driving as a result of the R.I.D.E. program is to deter others from drinking and driving. Sergeant Nancy van Rooy of the Durham Regional Police has been quoted as stating “We believe it is a good, sound deterrent that gets results.” However, I fail to understand how publically shaming individuals charged with impaired driving is an effective deterrent for others. Also, I have yet to see this approach achieve any meaningful results.
First, is it really reasonable to expect that a person who has consumed enough alcohol to be over the legal limit is someone who is likely to be thinking about their name being published for impaired driving prior to getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle? Keep in mind that we are talking about impaired driving; which one of the underlying presumptions is that an individual who is impaired by alcohol or drugs has a diminished ability to make responsible decisions. So for the person who is already impaired, I cannot understand how publishing the names of people who have been charged with impaired driving will somehow be an effective deterrent for that person who is already impaired and whose decision making ability is diminished.
For those individuals who have not yet gone out for the evening and are deciding whether to drive or to arrange for alternate transportation, do you really think that the first thing on their mind is that they do not want their name posted on the Durham Regional Police website? Does it not seem more likely that a responsible person may be thinking about; (1) how to get home safely, (2) that they do not want to risk getting into an accident or injuring anyone else, (3) that they do not want run the risk of being charged with a criminal offence or (4) that they do not want to run the risk of their licence being suspended.
One of the principles of sentencing in our Criminal Code is deterrence. We often use short jail sentences as a method of deterring others from committing similar crimes, yet people continue to commit criminal offences every day. There are other countries that continue to enforce the death penalty as a method of deterring others from committing horrific crimes, yet these crimes still occur on regular basis. If jail sentences and the death sentence are not working effectively to deter individuals from committing criminal offences, I fail to see how publically shaming others will achieve any better results.
I agree that we need to make our best efforts to reduce drinking and driving and deter others from doing so. However, we should be looking at what are realistic, effective approaches to deterring drinking and driving. We need to educate the public about what happens if you are charged with impaired driving. The public needs to know;
- There is an automatic 90-day licence suspension under the Highway Traffic Act.
- The inconvenience of having to attend court and that it could cost you thousands of dollars to hire a criminal defence lawyer.
- The process of getting your licence back. The Back on Track course costs about $600. There are also the costs and inconvenience of driving with an Ignition Interlock device.
- Your insurance rates will double or triple if you are convicted for impaired driving.
- How individuals who are the victims of impaired drivers have been effected.
- How the lives of others are ruined from a collision caused by an impaired driver.
- You could be held civilly liable for any injuries you caused resulting from drinking and driving.
Do any of the above financial costs or personal inconveniences concern you? What about the lives that are ruined as a result of drinking and driving? Or are you more concerned about your name appearing on the Durham Regional Police website?
If you have been charged with impaired driving, Over 80 or failing to provide a sample, contact me immediately.
For more information on the implications of a conviction for impaired driving click here.