Scenario (by Cydney Kim)

Michael and Fred are 16 year old friends who love parties. One night, they decide to attend a party at the other end of town. Michael arranges to be picked up by his parents late at night. When Fred’s 20 year old brother drops the two friends off at the party, he leaves his car there for Fred to use.

The party is far from over when Michael suddenly gets a headache and decides to go home. Although Fred offers to drive him home in his brother’s car, Michael is unsure whether Fred can actually drive. Fred assures him that he has just received his ‘G1’ and has been taking driving lessons. However, Michael refuses and Fred drives off alone in anger.

Meanwhile, Michael’s parents are at home enjoying a bit of whiskey. When they receive Michael’s call, they don’t feel drunk at all and head towards the party, with Michael’s mom driving. As soon as Michael steps into the car, he senses that his parents seem a bit weird but he doesn’t say anything and they head home. 

Both Fred and Michael’s mom get stopped by the cops that night.

What are Fred’s legal issues?  What are Michael’s mom’s legal issues? 

Both Fred and Michael’s mom could be charged with criminal offences as a result of their actions.

Adult charges

If Michael’s mom had enough alcohol, she could be charged with impaired driving. Impaired driving, which means driving while your ability is affected by alcohol or drugs, is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada under Section 253(1)(a). Across Canada, it is a criminal offence to operate a vehicle while impaired and/or while having a blood alcohol content  of 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood or more. If someone is convicted, they can lose their license, be fined, or spend time in jail. The vehicle does not even have to be moving; you can be charged if you are impaired behind the wheel, even if you have not started to drive.

Youth Charges

Fred’s legal issues are different since he is 16 years old and does not have a licence. He could still be found guilty of the same criminal offences as Michael’s mom.  However, different procedures apply to Fred since he is under age 18. The Youth Criminal Justice Act applies to his situation, and this changes the way the police officer must interact with Fred. For example, s. 146 of the Act imposes a different way to obtain evidence, not binding youth to certain written and/or oral statements. He has the right to have a parent present when he is being questioned by the police.  The Act also leaves open a larger and more varied sentencing options and ways of resolving cases.  If Fred decides to plead guilty, or loses a trial, he would not be “convicted” of the offences.  Unlike adults, youth are “found guilty”.  (The records system for youth is also very different than for adults, but that is a story for another day…)

Graduated Licensing

In Ontario, as of August 1, 2010 fully licensed drivers who are 21 and under or a novice driver in the Graduate Licensing System (GLS), caught with any alcohol in their blood, will receive an immediate 24-hour roadside driver license suspension and, if convicted, face a fine of $60-$500 and a 30-day license suspension.

Driving with a G1 without a fully licensed supervisor is a separate offence which would result in the temporary suspension of Fred’s licence. 

If you are a youth charged with an offence, check this info pamphlet for more info.

Cydney Kim is a grade 11 student at University of Toronto Schools. She wrote the fact scenario.  The legal information was written by McGill law student Jesse Gutman and JFCY lawyers.