Supreme Court to decide if alcohol consumption is relevant in dangerous driving causing death trials

Published: March 24, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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The Supreme Court of Canada will decide whether alcohol consumption should be considered when a jury is deciding if a person is guilty of dangerous driving causing death. Specifically, should the jury consider drinking consumption is the accused was not convicted of impaired driving?

That’s the question the court will answer. In an announcement this week, the Supreme Court of Canada said it will release its decision regarding David McLennan today (March 23). He is accused of causing death by dangerous driving. The Supreme Court can give McLennan the ability to appeal is previous Court of Appeal for Ontario ruling from 2016.

It is a criminal offence, under Section 249 of the Criminal Code of Canada, to drive “a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated and the amount of traffic that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place.”

McLennan was involved in collision in July, 2008 when his vehicle’s right wheels slipped off the road on a curve and cause him to lose control. Despite trying to correct the mistake, McLennan ended up crashing, resulting in his son (who was a passenger) dying because of the collision.

Authorities brought dangerous driving charges on McLennan and he was convicted of dangerous driving causing death. He was given nine months’ imprisonment, two years’ probation and a one-year driving prohibition. The decision was upheld against McLennan after he took his case to the Court of Appeal for Ontario.

McLennan consumed alcohol hours before the collision and was cleared of impaired driving. This has been a sticking point in the case.

A question is “what, if any, use can the jury make of the admitted consumption of alcohol by the appellant in its consideration of the dangerous driving charge?” wrote Madam Justice Jean MacFarland of the Court of Appeal for Ontario.

The Crown argues that “the mere fact” that McLennan “had consumed some alcohol was a relevant factor for the jury in deciding whether a reasonable and prudent driver would not drive in the manner in which the appellant drove, and certainly would not drive in that manner after drinking anything at all,” Justice MacFarland added.