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When Should Drunk Drivers lose their licenses?

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The punishment for alcohol related offenses during 1970’s and the early 1980’s was limited to no more than a fine or a night in jail. With so many victims of such a preventable offense, many Canadians were left wondering whether a drunk driver should have the right to still get behind the wheel. The answer can be found by analyzing Canada’s judicial system in its entirety, as well as the negative effects to the offender and society, that would result in the immediate loss of a driver’s license after a drunken driving conviction. The federal government needs to punish offenders of drunk driving, but it is to the ultimate benefit of society to impose a “one strike” system whereby any second time offender would immediately lose their drivers license.

Since the early 1980s the federal government has severely toughened the penalties for impaired driving. A first conviction for impaired driving carries a minimum fine of $600 and a potential driving ban of up to three years. Second-time offenders face a minimum of 14 days in prison and a possible driving ban of five years. Triple offenders face 90-day prison sentences and a minimum three-year driving ban. Following offences would result in licenses being revoked for life. In this scenario which exists today, it would be quite possible that an offender could be liable for death and destruction on several occasions before the law would be able to prevent this needless crime in the future. It is obvious that the unnecessary pain and suffering that occurs as a result of drunk driving, for the family, the offender, and society must be dealt with severely, with the best possible outcome for all parties.

The nature of the judicial system in Canada is not to merely punish offenders, but to rehabilitate them so that when they re-enter society they do so in a more responsible manner. For a drunk driver to permanently lose there license on their first conviction, has several material and negative repercussions. Firstly, there is the distinct possibility that upon first conviction the offender would never repeat, in which case the permanent loss of their license would be much too severe. Secondly, the breathalyzer test is not always completely accurate, and there have been cases in the past where people have been convicted when they in fact they might not have been in violation of Canadian law. The purpose of punishment for drunk drivers, and in fact any criminals, is not to put them at a future disadvantage, but rather to insure that they will not place a further burden on society.

From an economic standpoint, revoking licenses for life would have a negative effect on the ability of convicted drunk drivers to continue to lead productive lives. These people should be able to continue with their lives after an initial conviction. A subsequent conviction proves that the offender has not learned anything from the first experience, and in this case it seems reasonable to prevent any further offences.

It is apparent that the automatic loss of license for a first offense is too strong and negates the purpose of the Canadian judicial system, as well as not allowing for an offender to productively return to society. The federal government needs to punish offenders of drunk driving, but it is to the ultimate benefit of society to impose a “one strike” system whereby any second time offender would immediately lose their drivers license.


Morrison, Keith . CBC Archives . 18 Oct. 2005 .

Mothers Against Dunk Driving . 18 Oct. 2005 .

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