July 17, 2024

Obligate Law

Professional Law Makers

Don’t Be Drunk Driving a Wheelchair – DUI Laws in Canada

3 min read
Don’t Be Drunk Driving a Wheelchair – DUI Laws in Canada

Did you know that in Canada, our DUI laws can result in being arrested and found guilty for operating a motorized scooter while drunk?

How could this be you ask? Well, the definition of a motor vehicle is any vehicle that is drawn, propelled or driven by any means other than muscular power.

These DUI laws stem from the Ontario case R. v. Shanahan. The facts of this case is as follows. A man who was hurt, used a motorized scooter to go out one night. He ended up getting drunk. He was spotted by police crossing a road erratically. He was “pulled over” and charged with impaired driving.

One piece of important information in this case is the defendant could move about on his own some – approximately one hundred to one hundred and fifty meters.

The Ontario Court hearing the case found that a motorized personal device, such as a wheelchair is a motor vehicle under the Criminal Code. However, the defendant then made an application under section 15 of the Charger arguing his equality rights were breached.

The equality rights hearing addressed the following two issues.

1. Were the accused’s section 15 equality rights breached?

J.D. Wake J. (the Honourable Judge) held that the Canada DUI laws (in this case, section 253 of the Criminal Code) does not make a distinction between people reliant on motorized wheelchairs and people who don’t need motorized wheelchairs.

Next, the accused argued that the DUI laws resulted in unfairness (i.e. inequality) to non-able-bodied people. This argument failed because the Court found the accused was mobile without a motorized wheelchair.

Moreover, able-bodied people who walk in public while drunk can be arrested and convicted for mischief. This means that there really isn’t a difference with respect the DUI laws between disabled and able-bodied people. Both groups can be arrested for being drunk in public.

2. Then the Court addressed whether the result offended the accused’s dignity under section 15 of the Charter?

The Court held no for the following reason:

“The argument in favour of striking down s.253 [of the Criminal Code] seems to be that the dignity of a disabled person can only be sustained if he is afforded the right to behave with a lack of dignity. In my view s.15 of the Charter should not be used to support the result of such inverted reasoning.”

When all is said and done, a person operating a motorized wheelchair can be convicted of DUI in Canada.

Considerations the following 3 points / questions:

This specific case (R. v. Shanahan) involved someone not totally disabled. Therefore, the outcome could be different if a person was 100 percent disabled.

Question: are people impaired on pain medication not able to use motorized wheelchairs outside of their home? I simply pose this question, I don’t know the answer.

Can a person be arrested for DUI simply by sitting in a stationary motorized personal device such as a wheelchair?

The DUI laws in Canada hold that a person in the driver’s seat of a car or truck while impaired can be found guilty of our DUI laws. I haven’t read a case addressing this issue, but it seems possible being stationary in a restaurant in a motorized wheelchair, for instance, while impaired is breaking Canada’s DUI laws.

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