Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Hard Case Makes Bad Law

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Hard Case Makes Bad Law

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Hard case makes bad law

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published Oct. 31:

There's an old saying beloved of lawyers and judges: "Hard cases make bad law." Last week's Supreme Court of Canada decision acquitting a Quebec man, found drunk behind the wheel of his idling truck, of the crime of having care or control of a motor vehicle while impaired is a case in point. It was a just result. But the rationale behind it is suspect.

The majority decision imported -- "read in," in legal speak -- a new factor the Crown must prove to gain a conviction, one not found in the wording of the Criminal Code offence of impaired driving. Although, based on the evidence, the court rendered a fair decision, its legal reasoning was a bit of a reach. Sticking to the basics of criminal law would better have served its object.

The facts of the case are simple.

On a cold and blustery morning in February 2009 in Jonquière, Que., Daniel Boudreault knew he was too drunk to drive his truck home from an acquaintance's apartment (his blood alcohol level later measured more than three times the legal limit of 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood), so he had her call a taxi.

After approximately 25 minutes, the taxi hadn't arrived, so his host placed a second call to the cab company. Wanting to go to bed, she asked Mr. Boudreault to leave, but told him he could warm up in his truck while waiting for the taxi. Mr. Boudreault got into his truck, placed the automatic transmission in park, started the engine and turned on the heat. And promptly fell asleep.

When the taxi arrived, the driver saw Mr. Boudreault asleep in the driver's seat and called the police. The police arrived, woke the inebriated man, arrested him and charged him with having care or control of a motor vehicle while his ability was impaired by alcohol.

To acquit Mr. Boudreault, the court created an element of the crime not reflected in the language of the Criminal Code. …

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