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When police, courts delay trial, drunk driving charges dismissed

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Some people in Toronto are quick to make judgments about people whose criminal charges are dropped because of technicalities. Some think that the technicality was the only thing that would have prevented a conviction; others see no reason why someone accused of a crime should be freed because of a police or court mistake. The truth of the matter is, however, that these technicalities are important protections for anyone charged with a crime, whether he or she is innocent or guilty.

For individuals charged with driving while impaired, there is a requirement that police and courts get the defendant to trial relatively quickly. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that up to 10 months of delay is still acceptable, but not much longer than that. Without a rule like this, defendants have no real expectations of when they will go to trial, when their lives will return to normal or when they can say that they are no longer criminal suspects.

Toronto has seen a number of driving while impaired cases thrown out after unacceptable delays. One Ontario court justice has been quite vocal in denouncing police and the courts for causing the delays. One of the primary reasons for delay appears to be making available police recordings of blood alcohol tests.

It is obvious that no one can or should be tried mere moments after an arrest, but there are certain rules in place that limit how long courts and police can delay before charges must be stayed or dropped. While the public may find these rules to be arbitrary or unfair, these same people would likely appreciate the protections the rule affords if they were charged with driving while impaired.

Source: MetroNews Canada, “Ontario judges criticize police, courts for delays,” 16 Dec. 2013

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