Should drunk drivers who cause death be charged with manslaughter?

“Man accused of impair driving, killing man in Mississauga crash, appears in court”

This is one of the headlines splashed all over social media locally in the Greater Toronto Area today.

Essentially a 20 year old man faces nine alcohol-related charges, including impaired driving and criminal negligence causing death, after a collision in Mississauga left a 40-year-old man dead, his two-year-old son in hospital and his wife devastated.


“Police say Millett was intoxicated as he sped westbound from a Queen Elizabeth Way off-ramp around 3:30 a.m. Sunday with three passengers in a black, four-door Dodge Caliber.

Mounir Mahious, with his wife and two-year-old son, drove southbound on Cawthra Rd. when, according to police, the hatchback barreled into the driver’s side of Mahious’s Kia Rio.

The force of the collision ejected Mahious and his son, Djibril, from the car, despite both being buckled in. The crash left the driver’s side of Mahious’s Kia shorn off and the Caliber came to rest hundreds of feet away, flipped on its roof.”

We can all agree that this is a horrific, avoidable situation and a life taken much too early.

The thing is it’s gotten me thinking, should someone who causes a death while driving intoxicated be charged with manslaughter?

There are different charges for a death caused by someone driving intoxicated.

Here’s the breakdown:

First degree murder = premeditated murder. We do not have capital punishment in Canada so a person who is convicted of first degree murder is sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years. The calculation for those 25 years begins when the person has been arrested and placed in custody, not when they are convicted and found guilty. There is no discretion on the part of the judge; that is the minimum sentence and it is automatic.

Second degree murder = all other murder other than first degree murder. A murder which is not planned but you still intend to kill someone, that is second degree murder. The sentencing ranges from life in jail with no parole for 10 years to 25 years until you are eligible for parole.

After the time is served in prison on a sentence for first or second degree murder, the person still reports to a parole officer for the rest of their life.

Manslaughter = the death of an individual while committing an illegal act. Though the person died, there was no intention to cause death. The sentencing options for manslaughter are very complicated because there is no minimum. You can get anything from probation (which is unlikely) to life in jail. Often individuals found guilty of manslaughter will serve medium range penitentiary terms, in the neighbourhood of 7 to 15 years.

On July 2, 2008, new provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada concerning impaired driving came into force. As a result, there are now nine distinct offences related to impaired driving in the Criminal Code of Canada. These offences are:

Operating a motor vehicle while the ability to do so is impaired by alcohol or a drug causing death[7]: Min=$1,000 fine (1st offence), 30 days’ imprisonment (2ndoffence), 120 days’ imprisonment (subsequent offence) – Max= Life imprisonment

Operating a motor vehicle having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration of alcohol in the blood exceeds 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood causing death[8]: Min=$1,000 fine (1st offence), 30 days’ imprisonment (2ndoffence), 120 days’ imprisonment (subsequent offence) – Max= Life imprisonment.

Now we have the background the question which was raised to me was:

Should drunk drivers who cause death be charged with manslaughter?

Tell me your thoughts, I’m interested. Would it make a difference?

Also worthy of consideration as Christmas approaches: By 2008, drinking and driving cases made up 12 per cent of all criminal charges, making it the largest single offence group. In 2008 it was estimated that 53,000 drinking and driving cases are heard every year in Canada. The conviction rate was 73 per cent, which exceeded the rate for all criminal convictions by 13 per cent.


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12 Responses

  1. I think drunk drivers who cause death should be charged at minimum with 2nd degree murder, possibly first. Driving while drunk is no accident. And if you get behind the wheel while intoxicated, you know you could cause death. So , thats not manslaughter. Thats my opinion.

  2. I agree with the other ladies. If you leave your house, or wherever you are, in a vehicle and you stop and get drunk somewhere and then get back in your car then that is premeditated. Why don’t we just charge people with first degree murder? Might send a powerful message and then the families of the people who have been killed by these drunk drivers wouldn’t have to work so hard to get laws passed after the fact.

  3. As someone who was in a head on collision caused by a drunk driver–a man so drunk he didn’t even know he caused an accident–I do believe anyone causing death by driving drunk should be charged with manslaughter. We were fortunate in that we walked away with only injuries but the emotional/mental toll it had on me and my older son took much longer to heal. I sat in court and watched the man who hurt my family and left my son afraid to go to sleep at night walk away with a fine and a suspended license. He was allowed to drive again in 15 months.

  4. Yes. Plain and simply, yes.

    With all of the driving alternatives available, there is NO reason someone should be driving while intoxicated. If their ignorances causes them to take someone elses life, they SHOULD pay for it.

    On the same note, I have also read in a local newspaper that police (in my neck of the woods at least) will often NOT issue tickets, etc for people driving while impaired as it results in too much paperwork for them.. The government toots it’s horn for having such strict penalties for driving while intoxicated, but apparently they are not strict enough if so many people continue to do so… and I know they continue as I can tell you about 3 deaths in the past month where I live from drunk drivers.

  5. A person is dead. Drinking and getting behind the wheel is the same thing as wielding a gun in a crowd. I agree with the other poster that it should be 2nd degree murder at the very minimum.

  6. Driving while intoxicated and killing someone is murder. It is completely avoidable and those who drink and drive know they are taking a huge risk for themselves and anyone else who is unfortunate enough to be in there path.

    Definitely manslaughter.

  7. Yes – it is manslaughter at minimum, actually its second degree. Again ridiculous these laws protect the offenders vs the victim. And this man is crying in court? Please. Even his friends are responsible for something in my opinion.

  8. yes, manslaughter at the absolute least. these other laws are, at their simplest, stating that the dead person’s life [that mother, daughter, son, father, brother, friend, etc.] is worth $1000 … that is atrocious.
    and, like a legal adult can be charged for giving a minor alcohol while on their property, the property [bar, house, workplace, etc.] that allows that individual to leave and drive while intoxicated is, in fact, guilty by associated. which should come with its own set of charges.

  9. I agree with you all, that the charge should be much higher than just drunk driving. It is a huge PREVENTABLE cause of death, and the person who causes that makes a choice. Premeditated could reasonably be argued. I had a dear friend and mentor who was killed in a head on with a drunk driver. All the media attention was on the drunk DOCTOR who died. Almost nothing about the man that he killed, makes me sick.
    Perhaps if it were called murder, people would be less likely to sympathize with the perpetrator. He killed himself in this case, so at least we don’t have to worry about him doing it again. At a huge price. Huge.

  10. I want to start by saying that I think drinking and driving is so very WRONG, however, I think whether a person is charged with murder depends on each case. There are different levels of intoxication. There are those people who go out have a few know they should take a cab but don’t and then there are those who have drank so incredibly much that they are in black out mode and completely unaware of what they are doing. In the second scenario I think that not only should the drunk person face consequences but so should the establishment who allowed that person to get behind the wheel. My father was an alcoholic and I know that there were times that he was totally oblivious to what he was doing or saying. To me it’s a very difficult thing to judge.

  11. I think that the government who allows alcohol to be legal should be largely to blame. While the freedom of drinking is still our choice, it is hard for a person in todays society to say no.
    The billboards, magazines, news paper, bench adds, radio, t.v., all display and subject our minds to alcohol numerous times a day whether we realize it or not.
    Imagine being an addict or easliy impressionable mind to alcohol and waking up to these things every day.
    It sad to see our government reap dollars from overly taxed alcohol that can lead to injuries, violence, broken families, abuse, and sometimes even death.
    If there is so much trouble with alcohol…get rid of it.

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