A few weeks ago, the Marco Muzzo sentencing grabbed national headlines. In case you don’t know about the Marco Muzzo case; here’s the gist.
Mr. Muzzo was driving drunk in York Region. His drunk driving led to a fatal car crash which killed 4 people. It was a tragic collision. At our law firm, we don’t refer to these collisions as “accidents“. Accidents are by their very nature, unintentional acts. You mean no harm, although harm may come from your unintentional negligence.
Drunk driving on the other hand is never unintentional. It’s a conscious decision to drink, and then another conscious decision to drive. Every person needs to know or ought to know that whenever you get behind the wheel after you’ve had a drink or two puts the lives and safety of other motorists at risk.
Mr. Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He received 8 months credit for time spent in prison pre-sentencing. That means that he will only need to serve 9 years and 4 months in jail. Upon release from prison, he will be prohibited from driving for 12 years. He will be eligible for parole and an early release. When that time comes is up to the Court. In my informal poll of criminal lawyers, the consensus is that if Mr. Muzzo is a model prisoner, he may get parole in around 3 years or so.
Think about that long and hard. If Mr. Muzzo, having made a conscious decision to drink and drive and kill 4 people is out on parole in 3-4 years, does that punishment/penalty fit the crime? Conversely, does 9 years and 4 months of jail time fit the crime?
Finding the right balance between penalty, punishment, deterrent and rehabilitation/reintegration of an offender is a difficult balance. This is one of the hallmarks of Canada’s criminal justice system. The goal of the justice system is not only justice, but it’s to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders so that they can become productive members to society.
This same delicate balancing act does NOT apply to the civil justice system. Nobody is doing jail time (unless they’re found in contempt of Court or in repeated breach of a Court Order) for having caused damage to others.