Being charged for drinking and driving is certainly not a pleasant situation, especially if you are a first-time offender. You may not know what to expect or how to proceed with a first offence DUI.
This is further complicated by jurisdiction, provincial and individual state laws on DUIs, which means that local representation is an essential factor in your defence. You will need a law firm that is familiar with the DUI laws specific to your jurisdiction. OMQ Law, for instance, focuses exclusively on DUI within the provincial jurisdiction of Ontario, and can plan a legal strategy tailored to Ontario DUI laws.
Knowing your specific rights as a driver is one part of the battle to getting any charges against you dismissed. A second part lies in being familiar with all the possible consequences you might face. And the last is having a skilled lawyer to help to you through the entire process.
While laws will differ slightly from state to state and province to province, a few general guidelines exist. So if you receive a first-time DUI charge, you should be aware the following consequences:
Consequences of First Time DUI in Ontario
1) Monetary Fines And Cost
If you are charged with driving under the influence and plead or are found guilty, you will probably face a monetary penalty. The fine for a first-time conviction of impaired driving in Canada and the US is usually $1000. But it will ultimately depend on your case and the circumstances. If convicted in the US, fines can be higher depending on the state you are in.
However, note that this fine does not include fees for required treatment programs, impound and towing fees, license reinstatement fees, or the costs incurred by the rental and maintenance of ignition interlock devices.
2) License Suspension
The suspension of your driver’s license is one of the most common things you should expect if convicted. In Canada, driving licenses are usually suspended for 1 year. You will need to meet certain conditions before the judge can return your license. For first-time convictions, you can have your license suspension reduced under the Ignition Interlock Program.
In the US, the suspension of your license will depend on the state you are from. Many states will suspend your driver’s license upon the first DUI arrest. Yet some states will hold off until your second or third arrest. In other cases, some states may even suspend your license for refusing to undergo a sobriety or breathalyzer test rather than for the DUI itself. So check with your local state DUI laws to know how your license will be suspended for a DUI.
3) DUI Programs
As part of the conditions of getting your license reinstated, in Ontario, you will have to attend Ontario’s remedial measures program, which consists of educational and treatment workshops from the Back On Track Program. The fee for the program is $634 and, for an impaired driving conviction, takes up to 11 months to complete. It consists of an assessment session, education and treatment workshops, and a follow up interview 6 months after the workshops are completed.
If convicted for a DUI in the US, you are also subject to completing a DUI program as part of your penalty. The programs are implemented at the state level. Not all programs are the same. For instance, in Idaho and California there are differences in assessment, requirements, and eligibility. Despite the difference in structure of these programs, the goals of each are aimed at preventing repeat offences.
4) Ignition Interlock Program
As a first-time offender, you may be subject to the Ignition Interlock Program if you want to get your driver’s license reinstated. This probationary program is implemented in most provinces and requires you to have an interlock ignition device installed and inspected regularly by a specialist in your car. You have to blow into it every time before you start your car and at random intervals during the ride to prove that you are alcohol free.
If you are a first-time offender in Canada, this device stays on your car for a minimum of one year. However, you can apply to the Ministry of Transportation to have the condition on your license removed. Otherwise, you are only allowed to drive cars with an ignition interlock device or face fines ranging from $200 – $1,000 if convicted of driving a car without one.
Several states in the US now require the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device after your first DUI conviction. Depending on your state, some will first suspend your license for a period of time and then have the ignition interlock device installed in every vehicle you own for a year.
5) Criminal Record
If you are convicted, a criminal charge will be put to your name and that is certainly not pleasant or convenient, especially when applying for jobs or when a background check is being performed.
In Canada, when a DUI conviction produces a criminal record, it will show up in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and police databases. To eliminate the DUI conviction from a background check, you can get a record suspension or a pardon, the latter of which takes a minimum of 5 years to apply. Note that even if you end up not being convicted and don’t have a record, the DUI charge will still be in the police system.
If you get convicted or plead guilty in the US, you will have a criminal record. In general, a DUI conviction could remain on record for 10 years. Not only that, but it will affect and have an impact on the penalties of any subsequent DUI charges you receive, usually resulting in harsher consequences.
6) Out-of-State License Suspensions And Traveling
If travelling from Canada to the US with a DUI conviction, you will be allowed entry into the country. Though because a DUI is considered a criminal offence, you could still run the risk of being denied. You should have a certified copy of the official court document with you at all times.
If you are from the states visiting Canada, however, and you get your first DUI, depending on your home state you are still held accountable. If convicted in Ontario for drinking and driving, driver’s licenses from New York or Michigan will be suspended. In addition, existing convictions from either of those states, may count as a prior in Canada. So the consequences may be more severe than expected.
Being convicted within the US itself outside of your home state also bears an impact on your license. The US implements The Interstate Driver’s License Compact. This contract states that if arrested and convicted while travelling in another state, your driver’s license could still be suspended in your home state.
7) Higher Insurance Rates
If you have a criminal conviction, from that moment on all insurance companies both in Canada and the US, will consider you a high risk driver and you will always face higher insurance rates.
In Canada, once you get convicted of a DUI offence, most insurance companies will refuse to insure you after the conviction or may triple your premiums on average because drinking while driving is considered a violation of policy terms. As an alternative, you can move to facility association insurance, but that option can be too expensive with high premiums to make it even worthwhile.
The severity of your drunk driving conviction in the US will naturally have an impact on your insurance rate. A conviction that is considered will subject you to higher premiums than say a conviction that is considered a misdemeanour. As a high risk driver in the US, your insurance company will file an SR-22 that guarantees that you can pay the required claim.
In conclusion, make sure you are prepared to face the above consequences of a DUI before you get behind the wheel. Note that a conviction is not always automatic. You do not have to plead guilty in court. In fact, a first-time DUI charge can be challenged even though you are arrested. If you are unsure about the charges against you, retain a reliable, competent lawyer on your side from the very start.
Call us for a consultation to find out where you stand with a DUI charge and what your next step should be.