Victims and survivors of impaired driving have rights in the judicial system. MADD Canada can provide information about the justice system, victim and survivor rights and provide support to those making their way through the system. MADD Canada has developed A Victim’s Guide to the Criminal Justice System to help victims and survivors understand how the justice system works, impaired driving laws and the role of victims and survivors in the system.
Canadian Victims Bill of Rights
In 2015, Parliament passed the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights which lays out what “rights” victims have in the criminal justice system. The following are some highlights of the principles found in the bill. Victims and survivors can:
- Request information about the criminal justice system and your role in it;
- Request information about the services and programs;
- File a complaint if you believe your rights were infringed upon or denied;
- Request information about the status and outcome of the investigation;
- Request information about the location/time of court proceedings as well as their progress and outcome;
- Request information about conditional release (i.e. parole) reviews and the timing and conditions of any release;
- Request testimonial aids when appearing as a witness in proceedings relating to the offence;
- Present a victim impact statement; and
- Have the court consider making a restitution order against the offender.
Most provinces and territories have similar legislation so victims and survivors should consult the legislation in their own province or territory. Victims and survivors may contact the Victim Services Manager in your region or the local Victim Services Volunteer in their area.
Sentencing and Victim Impact Statements
Sentencing for impaired driving, particularly for impaired driving cases that involve death or injury, can be complicated and complex. A number of factors can influence the sentence a judge gives an offender, including plea deals, whether the offender has previous convictions, the level of intoxication, etc. Sentences for impaired driving causing death or injury have become longer over the past 15 years; it used to be common for a conviction of impaired driving causing death to result in a sentence of 2 years or less and often it was a conditional sentence, meaning the offender could serve it at home instead of being imprisoned. However, many victims and survivors feel that sentences fall short of their expectations. MADD Canada’s Sentencing Framework for Impaired Driving offers information on sentencing principles of the Canadian justice system and our recommended sentencing range.
Victims and survivors have the right to present a Victim Impact Statement before the judge decides on a sentence and the judge must consider it. Statements may be presented in writing or read aloud in court. The Crown or Victim Services should discuss this with victims and survivors and MADD Canada Victim Services Managers and Volunteers are available to provide information and support. Many MADD Canada Chapters support victims and survivors through the court process and may be available to attend court to offer support.
Parole and Corrections
Most offenders do not serve their entire sentence in prison. Victims and survivors may receive information about the offender from the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada. For example victims and survivors can find out what prison the offender is serving his/her sentence in, when the offender can apply for parole and victims and survivors may attend the hearing and present a Victim Impact Statement. Justice Canada offers financial assistance to attend hearings. Victims and survivors need to register to receive information.
MADD Canada Victim Services Managers and Volunteers are available to assist with the registration process and can provide information and support throughout the parole process. How to get more information about the justice system and how MADD Canada can support victims and survivors:
- Gillian Phillips, Western Region (MB, SK, AB, BC, YT, NWT) at 1-866-461-4077 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Steve Sullivan, Ontario Region at 1-866-876-5224 or via email at email@example.com
- Marie Claude Morin, Quebec Region at 1-877-392-6233 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gloria Appleby, Atlantic Region (NS, NB, PE, NL) at 1-866-381-8310 or via email at email@example.com
Glossary of Legal Terms
If you are involved in any legal proceeding, you will probably hear terms you are not familiar with. To assist you, MADD Canada has compiled a list of the definitions for common legal terms, which can help to understand legal problems and procedures. Please note, these definitions are short and should not be relied on to conduct your legal affairs.