The Christmas/New Years Season should be a time of celebration. Unfortunately, pressures and expectations from family and friends can lead to stress which, if not handled effectively, can lead to poor decision making. The addition of alcohol and other intoxicating substances can sometimes lead to risk taking and sometimes violent acts. Certainly, during the holiday season we see our fair share of domestic assault, impaired driving and shoplifting cases.
It is important to understand that police in British Columbia take a "zero tolerance" approach to domestic assault cases. Those arrested on spousal charges, including relationships where the parties are unmarried and not living together, can expect to spend the night in custody. Even people with no criminal record will be held until the alleged victim can be notified, and reasonable conditions of release can be determined. The accused person is only released on the order of a Provincial court Judge or a Judicial Justice of the Peace. Once released, the accused will have to return to Court, usually in a week or two, and will have to abide by various "no contact" and "no go" conditions until the case is resolved. We strive to help people arrested on domestic assault charges gain their release on the most liberal release conditions possible. Often, we are able to persuade Crown to agree to "loosen" a strict no contact order over time. For example, we have successfully argued that it is appropriate for our client to have contact by phone or text, in order to arrange access to children or to deal with pre-existing financial issues.
Police in British Columbia, likewise, have a very tough approach to impaired driving. Police road checks are certainly out in full force during the holidays. The Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP) regime allows police to administer roadside screening breath tests to suspected impaired drivers and to immediately prohibit them from driving for 90 days upon a "fail" result. Additional penalties include a 30 day immediate vehicle impoundment, fines, and mandatory enrollment in the Responsible Drivers Program before reinstatement of the driver's license is permitted. While IRP law is under the provincial Motor Vehicle Act, police still have the discretion to charge impaired drivers under the Criminal Code. Generally, impaired drivers can expect true criminal charges if they have an alcohol related driving history, there was an accident, a child was present in the car or the driving behavior was particularly bad or the driver was committing some other criminal act. One particularly serios consequence of an impaired driving conviction is that the conviction will render the driver in breach of his or her insurance policy. This can have extremely serious consequences.
We tend to see quite a number of shoplifting charges during the Christmas season. More and more retailers are taking a zero tolerance approach to theft. Most first time shoplifters are released by police on a Promise to Appear in Court and an Undertaking to report to the police detachment on a later date for the purpose of providing fingerprints. Many of our clients have benefited from our knowledge of the law and our experience in persuading Crown Counsel to not prosecute first time shoplifters. In this day of easy internet access, once a person is charged, employers, family, friends, and the US Border Authority can see that a person has been charged. Even a minor shoplifting charge can prevent entry to the United States and can prevent people from advancing in their workplace.
If you or someone you know is facing assault, impaired driving or theft charges, do not hesitate to contact us.