The views expressed in this article are general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice. We specifically ask that readers not rely on the information contained below without proper consultation with an accredited lawyer in good standing.
Criminal law is complex and the laws governing drunk driving are increasingly severe. Let’s look at some basic facts about drunk driving charges that everyone should be familiar with.
What Is Impaired Driving?
In Ontario and the rest of Canada, “impaired driving” is considered to be a criminal offence that involves the of operation a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or/and drugs. This offence is punishable under criminal laws of Canada.
Can One Get a Criminal Record for Drunk or Impaired Driving?
The answer is: of course! According to Canadian criminal law, anyone convicted for impaired driving or driving under the influence ends up with a criminal record. Such an unpleasant stain on one’s record can possibly be eliminated, but several years need to pass before a person becomes eligible for that and there is no guarantee that it will be possible.
What Is the Legal Limit for Blood Alcohol Levels? How Much Can I Drink Without Getting Charged With DUI?
You can still probably have a drink or two as long as you don’t hit the limit for blood alcohol level which is 0.05 in Ontario if you have a full G license. Ontario is one of the provinces that has “warn range” laws. So if you have between 0.05 and 0.08 you will lose your license for 3 days and you will need to pay the associated fines. The fines for the warn range are usually up to $180 (administrative monetary penalty) .
If this happens to you more than once, and you get one more warn range charge within a 5-year period, you could lose your license for 7 days. In addition, you will have to attend an alcohol treatment program and to pay a $180 penalty.
If it happens that in the same 5-year period you get charged for a third time, you will lose your license for 30 days, be required to pay a fine in the amount of $180, attend an alcohol treatment program and install an interlock device for a 6-month period.
More serious charges can be laid if your blood alcohol level is over 0.08.
What Are the Ramifications If I Hit the Limit of 0.08?
You will immediately get your license suspended for 90 days, your vehicle will be impounded and you will have to pay the same amount of money as for the warn range – $180. If convicted for impaired driving, first time offenders can expect to face the following penalties: $1000 fine, 1-year license suspension, required use of an interlock ignition device for at least one year and attendance at an alcohol treatment program.
If convicted and you are a second-time offender, apart from the mandatory alcohol treatment program, you can expect the following penalties: a 30-day minimum jail sentence, license suspension for 3 years and when you get your license back you will be required to equip your vehicle with an interlock ignition device for an additional 3 more years. Moreover, you will likely be fined in an amount determined at the discretion of the judge.
If convicted for impaired driving more than two times, the penalties are harsher: the minimum jail sentence is 120 days and your license can be suspended for a lifetime, although in some cases this penalty can be reduced to 10 years. You will also be fined in an amount determined by the discretion of the judge and have the lifetime requirement to drive a vehicle with an interlock ignition device.
What Are the Fines or Financial Consequences of Being Convicted With a DUI?
A first-time offender should pay the fine of $1000. In addition to that, a person charged with DUI should pay a monthly fee for installing an ignition interlock device in his/her vehicle, which is about $1,350.
Court costs can range between $2,000 and $20,000. A license reinstatement fee is $150. One should also expect to pay a minimum of $18,000 for the increases in insurance costs.
The cost of alcohol treatment program for those who are convicted is $634 for assessment, treatment and follow up. Drivers who receive more than one warn range in a 5-year time period, should pay $294 for the treatment program.
What Are the Consequences of a Criminal Record?
This is a topic we have already discussed, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat that a criminal record may lead to bad credit, higher insurance rates, difficulties finding employment and even a ban on traveling to other countries.
Can I Get Charged With DUI Even if I Wasn’t Driving?
Yes. Just the mere fact of sitting behind the wheel in a drunken state can have consequences in the form of a criminal record or license suspension, even if there was no intention of driving the vehicle. The Crown has to prove that you were under “care or control” of the vehicle while your abilities were impaired by alcohol. This can happen in cases where you have your car keys with you and you are in the front seat and the car is not moving. Even if your engine is not turned on, you can be convicted of impaired driving. Furthermore, if you fall asleep in the driver’s seat you are still considered to be in control of the vehicle.
Can I Be Charged if I Refuse to Take the Breath Sample Test?
Yes, you can be charged with the offence of refusal or refusal to blow (criminal code 254(5), unless you have a reasonable excuse for not taking the test. It is interesting to note that the penalties for the refusal charge are the same as penalties for drunk driving charges: $1000 for first offence, 30 days jail sentence for the second, 120 days jail sentence for the third offence. In addition to that, you will get a criminal record for the first time offender.
What is considered as a reasonable excuse for not taking the breath sample test or breathalyzer test?
It depends on the particular situation, one reason may be considered reasonable in one case, whereas it won’t be considered reasonable in another. Some examples of reasonable excuses may related to a medical nature – different health issues that restrain a person from taking the test. There may be other reasons as well, but the general expectation is that one take the test.
Can I Delay Taking the Breath Sample Test by Offering a Blood Sample Instead?
No, it would still be seen as a refusal of taking the breath test.
What Is the Difference Between a Roadside Breath Sample Test and a Breathalyzer Test?
The roadside breath sample test is a screening device used by the police at the side of the road when they pull you over under suspicion that you were driving impaired. The breathalyzer test is carried out at the police station and it is more precise than the roadside test.
How Does a Breathalyzer Work?
A breathalyzer is an instrument used by police to define the specific quantity of alcohol in your breath. It uses infrared energy which passes through the breath sample which indicates the amount of alcohol. Some machines use 2 and others use 3 different infrared frequencies. Those machines that use 3 are more accurate, however they are not infallible.
What Are the Police Allowed to Do When They Stop My Vehicle?
The police can always ask to see your driver’s license and insurance. If the police suspect that you are driving under the influence you will be asked to take a physical sobriety test or a roadside breath test. They don’t have to wait for a lawyer before taking the test. However, if you are taken to the police station to have a breathalyzer test, the police will have to give you the right to speak to your lawyer before taking the test.
How to Behave With the Police?
It is important to keep in mind that refusal to blow into a breath test or agree to a blood test without a reason has the same consequences as blowing over 80. However, you are not obligated to tell the police how much you had to drink. You are free to remain silent.
Also, it is important to know that the police must use one of the official testing methods – trying to smell alcohol on you is certainly not an official way to reveal how many drinks one had. However, the police have a right to use all possible legitimate methods to establish if somebody was impaired while operating a vehicle.
Can the Police Make a Mistake When Measuring the Level of Alcohol in Blood?
The police can commit serious errors that include improper use or improper handling of the breathalyzer or breath test, insufficient grounds for stopping and investigating the driver, not respecting the driver’s constitutional rights or not following proper procedures with respect to a driver’s rights.
Sometimes “contrary evidence” appears, which is evidence that shows that the level of alcohol in the driver’s blood is not above the legal limit. Also, if your first breath test was taken more than 2 hours after alleged impaired driving, there is the possibility that it may raise a doubt about the reliability of the test.
How Long Will Charges Remain on Your Driving License?
It can take up to five to ten years to pardon or suspend a DUI criminal record. Drunk driving charges can stay on your driving license for at least 10 years.
What Is the Maximum Punishment?
The maximum punishment is a life sentence if another person is killed because of the offence.
Can I Fight My Drunk Driving Charge? How Do I Get Charges Dropped?
It is always strongly recommended that you deal with any drunk or impaired driving charges with the help of a criminal lawyer – an expert specialized in criminal law can be a great asset for any charges that can get you a criminal record, such as drunk driving, dangerous driving, etc. An experienced lawyer will ensure that your situation is dealt with in the most appropriate manner and that all relevant factors are taken into consideration – as every situation is unique with its own set of complexities.