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Results from a national survey of Crown prosecutors and defense counsel on impaired driving in Canada: A “System Improvements” perspective

Journal of Safety Research
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jsr.2008.12.001
  • Alcohol-Impaired Driving
  • Drinking And Driving
  • System Improvement
  • Criminal Justice
  • Legal Process
  • Design
  • Law


Abstract Introduction This article summarizes the main findings from a study designed to examine the legal process in Canada as it applies to alcohol-impaired driving from the point of view of Crown prosecutors and defense counsel, and to identify evidentiary or procedural factors that may impact the legal process, the rights of the accused, and interactions of all parts in the legal process. Method The data in this study were collected by means of a survey that was mailed out to the population of Crown prosecutors and defense counsel in Canada. In total, 765 prosecutors and 270 defense lawyers or an estimated 33% of all Canadian prosecutors and 15% of defense lawyers completed and returned the questionnaire. The "systems improvement" paradigm was used to interpret the findings and draw conclusions. Such an approach acknowledges the importance of the context in which countermeasures are implemented and delivered and the structures or entities used to deliver countermeasures to a designated target group. Results Results on type of charges and breath alcohol concentration, caseload, case outcomes, case preparation time, conviction rate at trial and overall conviction rate, reasons for acquittals and time to resolve cases are described. Discussion The findings from this national survey suggest that there are important challenges within the criminal justice system that impede the effective and efficient processing of impaired driving cases. Some of these challenges occur as a function of practices and policies, while others occur as a function of legislation. Impact on industry This study illustrates that a "system improvements" approach that acknowledges the importance of all elements of the criminal justice system and the interaction between those elements, can be beneficial in overcoming the alcohol-impaired driving problem.

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