Repeat Drunk Drivers Risk Losing Their Cars



    McGuinty Government Protecting Ontario Families From Drinking And Driving

    HAMILTON, ON, Feb. 20 /CNW/ - Those who repeatedly drink and drive risk
losing their cars permanently under a new civil law that takes effect today.
    This legislation sets a new national standard for keeping Ontario's roads
and families safe from people who repeatedly choose to drink and drive.

    
    The new law allows the civil courts, at the request of the Attorney
General, to impound and forfeit a vehicle, if the court finds:
    -   That the vehicle was involved in, or is likely to be involved in, a
        drinking and driving offence, AND
    -   The vehicle is owned or driven by a person whose driver's licence has
        been suspended for a drinking and driving offence two or more times
        in the preceding 10 years.
    

    Victims of the activity which resulted in the forfeiture may apply for
compensation from the proceeds of sale.
    The new amendments to the Civil Remedies Act, 2001 were introduced in the
Safer Roads for a Safer Ontario Act, 2007, and target vehicles used by people
who repeatedly drink and drive.
    "Ontario takes impaired driving very seriously," said Attorney General
Chris Bentley. "Repeat drinking drivers who aren't getting the message now run
the risk of having the courts take their vehicles away forever."
    "Ontario is a leader in road safety across North America," said Jim
Bradley, Minister of Transportation. "To keep families and communities safe,
we are getting tougher on those who endanger themselves and others. Our
message is simple, if you drink, don't drive."
    "We are using every criminal and civil law tool available to us to help
keep people who repeatedly drink and drive off Ontario's roads," said Rick
Bartolucci, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
    "This new law targeting the vehicles of repeat drinking and driving
offenders will help make Ontario communities safer," said Ted McMeekin, MPP
for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale.

    
    Ontario leads the way in combating drinking and driving through some of
the toughest laws and programs in North America, including:
    -   Immediate licence suspension
    -   Stiff fines
    -   Longer suspension periods
    -   Mandatory alcohol education and treatment
    -   Vehicle impoundment
    -   Ignition Interlock program.

    Disponible en français

                       www.ontario.ca/attorneygeneral


    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           CIVIL VEHICLE FORFEITURE
    

    Amendments to Ontario's civil forfeiture legislation take effect today to
help keep Ontario's roads safe from repeat drinking and driving offenders.
    Ontario's civil forfeiture law already allowed for the forfeiture of
vehicles used for dangerous driving behaviour such as street racing. The new
amendments to the Civil Remedies Act, included in the Safer Roads for a Safer
Ontario Act, 2007, set a new standard for road safety by targeting vehicles
used by repeat drinking and driving offenders. Victims of the activity which
resulted in the forfeiture may apply for compensation from the proceeds of
sale.

    
    The New Law

    The new law allows civil courts, at the request of the Attorney General,
to impound and forfeit a vehicle, if the court finds:
    -   That the vehicle was involved in, or is likely to be involved in, a
        drinking and driving offence, AND
    -   The vehicle is owned or driven by a person whose driver's licence has
        been suspended for a drinking and driving offence two or more times
        in the preceding 10 years.

    The civil court would also have the power to release a vehicle from
"impound" if the registered owner of the vehicle agrees to certain
court-imposed terms and conditions including:
    -   Fitting the vehicle with an ignition interlock device - an alcohol
        breath-screening device that prevents a vehicle from starting if it
        detects a blood alcohol concentration over a pre-set limit
    -   Having the registered owner agree that the person whose actions
        resulted in the forfeiture application would not drive the vehicle.
    

    The new law also protects the interests of responsible vehicle owners who
do, or have done, all they can to ensure that the vehicle is not being driven,
or will not be driven in the future, by the person who engaged in unlawful
vehicular activities.

    How The New Law Works

    The new law applies to automobiles, motorcycles, motor assisted bicycles
and snowmobiles.
    The process for civil forfeiture of vehicles involved in repeat drinking
and driving offences begins when police or Crown prosecutors submit a case to
the reviewing authority, an independent Crown counsel in the Ministry of the
Attorney General. That counsel decides whether the statutory criteria in the
Civil Remedies Act have been met. Once that is confirmed, the case information
is forwarded to the ministry's Civil Remedies for Illicit Activities Office
(CRIA), which is responsible for enforcing the Act.
    Cases can be referred to the CRIA office before or after a drinking and
driving charge is laid, or even if no drinking and driving charges are laid.
    CRIA lawyers bring proceedings to court on behalf of the Attorney
General. If they can prove that the vehicle was driven, or is likely to be
driven, by someone who has committed or is likely to commit a drinking and
driving offence, the court can issue orders forfeiting the vehicle to the
Crown.
    Forfeited vehicles will go to public auction. The proceeds will be
deposited into a special purpose account. Direct victims of the unlawful
activity associated with the forfeiture can submit a claim for compensation
against the funds. Remaining funds may be disbursed for grants to support
programs and initiatives that assist victims of unlawful activity or prevent
victimization.

    Civil Forfeiture Successes

    Ontario's Civil Remedies for Illicit Activities office is recognized
nationally and internationally for its precedent-setting work. Since November
2003, a total of $4.1 million in property has been forfeited to the Crown. The
province also has approximately $13.1 million in property that is frozen
pending the completion of civil forfeiture proceedings.

    
    Under the Civil Remedies Act, the Attorney General has:
    -   Shut down a notorious Hamilton crack house and transferred ownership
        to the City of Hamilton
    -   Frozen a second crack house in Hamilton
    -   Frozen a third crack house in Chatham
    -   Crushed two street racing cars
    -   Frozen two Hell's Angels club houses - one in Oshawa and one in
        Thunder Bay
    -   Taken 10 guns off the streets (including a stun gun)
    -   Forfeited 13 properties used for marijuana grow operations and frozen
        54 more
    -   Forfeited over $1 million in illicit cash
    -   Distributed approximately $1 million in compensation to victims of
        unlawful activity
    -   Awarded more than $900,000 in grants to law enforcement agencies.
    

    Supporting Quotes for Today's Announcement

    "There is strong public support for governments to strengthen measures
aimed at reducing impaired driving," said Wanda Kristensen, Director of
Programs, Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada. "We recently commissioned a
study, along with Transport Canada, that showed that 89 per cent of
respondents favoured the confiscation of vehicles of convicted drivers who
drive during a licence suspension."
    "By making these new civil measures available to us, we can help prevent
injury and death as a result of impaired driving," said Hamilton Police
Service Chief Brian Mullan.

    
    Contacts:
    Sheamus Murphy                                        Brendan Crawley
    Ministry of the Attorney General     Ministry of the Attorney General
    Minister's Office                               Communications Branch
    (416) 326-1785                                         (416) 326-2210

    Disponible en français

                       www.ontario.ca/attorneygeneral
    





For further information:

For further information: Sheamus Murphy, Ministry of the Attorney
General, Minister's Office, (416) 326-1785, (416) 518-1322 (cell); Brendan
Crawley, Ministry of the Attorney General, Communications Branch, (416)
326-2210

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