How do I deal with the legal system after my son was killed by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel?
This was the plea in my inbox from a mother who was trying to understand in the recent aftermath of a catastrophe. The two haunting concerns that she has right now are that this driver is still legally allowed to drive and the most significant consequence that he might face for causing death is a traffic ticket.
What happens to the offending driver between the initial incident and the first appearance in court to face charges depends on many things.
The severity of the incident, the actions of the driver that led to it, their criminal and driving history and the possibility of repeated similar behaviour in the near future are all considered.
It is not uncommon to have an alcoholic driver with previous convictions released by a justice of the peace on a condition not to drive until the conclusion of the case for a current offence and could be considered for an incident such as this one.
In British Columbia, once the police investigation is concluded and a report to Crown counsel is filed a decision will be made on how to deal with the offence.
The Crown Counsel Policy Manual sets out responsibility for decisions and what the possible range of actions might be.
Depending on the decision, actions may range from alternate measures, a traffic ticket or criminal prosecution.
Finally, the issue of punishment for the offending driver is dealt with by the courts, assuming that the driver is convicted or pleads guilty. Again, the range of outcomes is extensive, ranging from alternative resolutions, Motor Vehicle Act convictions, and criminal convictions including fines, house arrest and jail sentences.
The judge is restricted in applying penalty by case law and the charges that Crown counsel chooses to prosecute.
Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca