After much stalling and anticipation Ontario has finally enacted a formal ignition interlock program designed to relieve some of the burden on our courts caused by massive amounts of impaired driving litigation.
Effective Aug. 3, 2010, persons convicted of a first impaired driving offence that does not cause bodily harm or death will be eligible for reduced licence suspensions if they comply with the regulations of the program — the primary requirement being the installation of an ignition interlock device (essentially a mini-breathalyzer machine attached to the ignition of your vehicle making it impossible to operate the car unless sobriety is confirmed).
The program is intriguing in at least one respect in that it has been clearly designed to encourage early guilty pleas. Candidates for the program are divided into two streams. Stream A consists of persons who enter a guilty plea within 90 days of being charged whereas everyone else falls into Stream B. Stream B offenders can apply to have their mandatory minimum one-year licence suspension shortened to as little as six months provided they comply with the eligibility requirements and regulations of the ignition interlock program. In comparison, those who ‘make their peace with Her Majesty’ within 90 days of being charged can see their suspensions reduced to three months after which they can operate a motor vehicle in compliance with the ignition interlock provisions.
Transitionary rules are in place for those who are already facing impaired driving charges that are more than 90 days old but have not yet come to trial. These individuals will have the opportunity to avail themselves of the shortened Stream A suspensions provided they enter pleas within 90 days of the Aug. 3 commencement of the new regulations.
It is difficult to predict exactly how far-reaching the effect of these new provisions will be on reducing impaired driving trials in our courts. The regulations fall short of the inducements I have previously proposed in that they still require at least a 90-day “absolute suspension” and still require a criminal conviction which for many accused persons is an even greater concern than the loss of their licence. Having said that, there is no doubt we will see an impact going forward and the belated enactment of these regulations is a step in the right direction.