I have been charged with impaired driving, what do I need to know?

Impaired Driving Defined

Impaired driving is defined in Section 320.14(1) of Canada’s Criminal Code and is commonly known as “driving under the influence” (DUI) or “driving while impaired/intoxicated” (DWI).  Impaired driving occurs when a person operates a vehicle:

  • After or during the consumption of alcohol or drugs, or a combination of both; and
  • While the ability to operate is compromised to any degree by alcohol, drugs, or both.

A critical aspect of Section 320.14(1) is that it is no longer necessary for a driver to exceed the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level or the blood-drug limit in order to be charged with impaired driving.  Section 320.14(1) specifically states that the only requirement for a charge of impaired driving is that your ability to drive was affected to any degree by alcohol or drugs – regardless of the quantity consumed.  Note that drugs include illegal narcotics and prescription or over-the-counter medication (see the Government of Canada’s Blood Drug Concentration Regulations for more details).  The criminal charges for “impaired by drugs” carry the same penalties as “impaired by alcohol” and are discussed below.

In addition, Section 320.14(1)(b) prohibits a driver from having a BAC of more than eighty (80) milligrams of alcohol in one hundred (100) milligrams of blood (0.08 – also known as the “legal limit”).  And, in Ontario, a driver’s BAC does not need to exceed the legal limit to result in serious consequences.  Section 48 of the Highway Traffic Act, provides that if a driver’s BAC measures between 0.05 and 0.08 (also known as the “warn range”), they may face an administrative driver’s licence suspension.  Novice and young drivers (under 21 years old) must maintain a BAC of zero while operating a car (Section 44.1 of the Highway Traffic Act).

Potential Penalties

In Ontario, there are penalties for impaired driving under both the Criminal Code and the Highway Traffic Act (all Criminal Code driving offences apply to cannabis users, medical or otherwise, who are impaired and/or whose cannabis blood level is over the prohibited limit).

Criminal Code

If you are convicted of impaired driving under Section 320.14 of the Criminal Code, the penalties include:

  • Fine of $1,000.00 (first offence)
  • Imprisonment term of 30 days (second offence)
  • Third and subsequent offences carry an imprisonment term of 120 days for each offence
  • A jail term of 2 years less a day, if the offence proceeds by summary conviction (minor offence)
  • Imprisonment term of up to 10 years, if the offence proceeds by indictment (serious offence)

If your conviction is for a first offence, then your driver’s licence is suspended for a minimum of 1 year; for a second offence, a minimum of 2 years; and, for a third or subsequent offence, 3 years to a lifetime suspension.

Highway Traffic Act

The Highway Traffic Act differs from the Criminal Code in that it imposes immediate penalties for impaired driving offences which include:

  • 90-day roadside licence suspension
  • $550.00 administrative penalty
  • $275.00 driver’s licence reinstatement fee
  • Vehicle impound of 7 days
  • For second and subsequent offences, mandatory education/treatment program
  • Ignition interlock condition on driver’s licence for 6 months to 10 years (third or subsequent offence within 10 years)

If you are convicted of impaired driving, you may face the following additional penalties:

  • Minimum 1-year driver’s licence suspension (first offence)
  • Minimum 3-year driver’s licence suspension (second offence within 10 years)
  • Potential lifetime driver’s licence suspension (third or subsequent offence within 10 years)
  • Mandatory education/treatment program, ignition interlock device (for 1, 3, or 6 years), and undergo a mandatory medical evaluation

The criminal justice system is a complex and intimidating landscape; especially, when your liberty is threatened.  However, Mazin Defence knows the lay of the land and is here to help you navigate your way to the best possible outcome.  If you have a question or need assistance, Mazin Defence’s experience and dedication is here to help.