The recent conviction of a Quebec City man on impaired driving charges even though he was not driving creates a new wrinkle in the ongoing evolution of drinking and driving laws in Canada’s courts. The thing is, he was found guilty of impaired driving for being in care and control of a car he was fixing on the street in front of his house.
Yvon Potvin was arrested on the morning of March 11, 2011, after police who were patrolling his neighbourhood stopped to investigate when they saw him moving erratically around the front of a parked but running vehicle with the hood up.
They quickly learned the 58-year-old had 11 prior convictions for impaired driving, the latest in 1999 for which he had received a seven-month prison sentence.
Despite Potvin’s assurance that he had no intention of taking the wheel, and was simply verifying the results of a recent mechanical repair he had made to his 1995 Jimmy while waiting for a social worker to pick him up and drive him to a medical appointment, Potvin was taken into police custody.
A subsequent breath sample revealed a blood-alcohol content of 0.19, and Potvin was charged with being in the care or control of a motor vehicle while impaired.
In court, Potvin’s previous convictions played against him.
“Even if he says he had no intention of driving, the accused could have put his vehicle in motion at any time, even if only to verify whether his repairs were working,” ruled Quebec Court Judge Pierre Verdon.
Verdon notably referred to a Supreme Court ruling issued almost exactly a year ago to the day.
In R. v. Boudreault, the country’s highest court found Donald Boudreault, who was found drunk at the wheel of his running car one night in February 2009 while waiting for a taxi, did not commit a criminal act because he was only trying to stay warm and was not intending to drive, and therefore did not present a danger to public security.
In regards to the oft-convicted Potvin, however, Verdon argued that by having a running vehicle in his possession while impaired, he posed a “real risk” to others, “not just a minute possibility.”
He found Potvin guilty, and ordered that the man remain in custody while awaiting sentencing in January.
Crown prosecutor Jean-Roch Parent is reportedly seeking a sentence of three to five years in jail.