Care or Control of a Motor Vehicle

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What Is Care Or Control Of A Motor Vehicle

Most people do not realize that they may be committing a criminal offence when they enter a motor vehicle while impaired, even if they have no intention to operate the vehicle.

Individuals using a motor vehicle for shelter, a place to sleep, or even a place to talk, while they are impaired by alcohol or a drug, may find themselves on the other end of the law charged with the offence of care or control of a motor vehicle while impaired.

What Does The Supreme Court Of Canada Say About Care Or Control

A conviction for this offence carries the same penalty as a conviction for impaired operation of a motor vehicle.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in R. v. Boudreault, [2012] 3 S.C.R. 157, had occasion to recently outline the parameters of the offence of care or control of a motor vehicle contrary to section 253(1) of the Criminal Code.  The Court stated:

“Care or control within the meaning of section 253(1) of the Criminal Code signifies

  • An intentional course of conduct associated with a motor vehicle;
  • By a person whose ability to drive is impaired, or whose blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit; and
  • In circumstances that create a realistic risk of danger to persons or property.

The risk of danger must be realistic and not just theoretically possible.

Parliament’s objective in enacting section 253 of the Criminal Code was to prevent the risk of danger to public safety that normally arises from the mere combination of alcohol and automobile. Conduct that presents no such risk falls outside the intended reach of the offence.”

The Court went on to state that the existence of a realistic risk of danger is a matter of fact. They held that to avoid conviction, the accused will in practice face a tactical necessity of adducing evidence tending to prove that no realistic risk of danger existed in the particular circumstances of the case.

The trial Judge must examine all of the relevant evidence and may consider a number of factors, including whether the accused took care to arrange an alternate plan to ensure his safe transportation home.

R. V. Boudreault And How It Affects You

In R. v. Boudreault, the accused was too impaired to drive and asked an acquaintance to call a taxi for him. She did. The accused waited in his running vehicle for the taxi. He fell asleep while waiting for the taxi.

Mr. Boudreault was acquitted of the offence of having care or control of a motor vehicle as he had taken the care to arrange an alternate plan to ensure his safe transportation home.

The Supreme Court, at paragraph 49 stated:

  1. The accused may escape conviction, for example, by adducing evidence that the motor vehicle was inoperable or, on account of its location or placement, could, under no reasonably conceivable circumstances, pose a risk of danger. Likewise, use of the vehicle for a manifestly innocent purpose should not attract the stigma of a criminal conviction.  As Lamer C.J. observed in Penno, “The law … is not deprived of any flexibility and does not go so far as to punish the mere presence of an individual whose ability to drive is impaired in a motor vehicle”.

Therefore, if you are charged with the offence of care or control of a motor vehicle while impaired, you are strongly encouraged to contact a lawyer well versed in this area.

You can reach a member of our legal team by calling us toll-free at 1-877-277-4766. We’re also available by email through

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