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Consequences of Impaired Driving In Ontario

Losing your licence because of an impaired driving conviction due to alcohol and/or drugs (including cannabis) can have a massively detrimental effect on your life, especially if you rely on driving to get to work or if you live in a rural area.

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA) creates punishments that are in addition to the Criminal Code fines and periods of imprisonment for impaired driving offences, including licence suspensions between 1 year for a first offence to a lifetime for a third offence.

In addition to being subject to the suspensions, these drivers have to complete a remedial measures assessment and education or treatment program (for approximately 10 months), and also have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on their vehicles for between 1 year for a first offence to lifetime for a third offence (if the suspension period is reduced to 10 years). The Ignition Interlock Device is a leased breath alcohol monitoring machine wired into your vehicle’s ignition.

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Possible Early Reinstatement of a Suspended Licence

If you meet certain conditions, The Highway Traffic Act allows for early reinstatement of a suspended licence with the installation of the Ignition Interlock Device. This program is divided into “streams,” and which stream you may be eligible for depends on if this is a first or second driving offence.

Program Availability

This program is available for persons:

  • convicted of a first or second impaired or 80 and over driving or refuse breath sample offence,
  • that did not cause bodily harm or death, and
  • did not involve drug impairment.

Program Eligiblity

In order to be eligible, you must:

  • have a car;
  • have valid insurance;
  • not be under another suspension (such as for dangerous driving or a novice driver disqualification); and
  • have your fines fully paid.

Two of the requirements for all streams is to successfully complete the assessment component of the required remedial measures program and to establish proof of a lease agreement for an approved Ignition Interlock Device.

The difference between Stream A and Stream B, which both concern first offences, is that Stream A applies to those who plead guilty and are sentenced within 89 days of being charged. Stream B applies to those who plead guilty and are sentenced later or where the matter goes to trial and they lose. Stream A only applies to those who have not been convicted of an Impaired Operation/Exceed 80 mg and over or Fail to Provide a Breath Sample offence within the last ten (10) years.

For those who have been convicted of an Impaired Operation/Exceed over 80 mg or Fail to Provide a Breath Sample offence within the last ten (10) years, there is an option to pursue Stream D. Stream D requires a guilty plea and sentencing within 89 days of the charge being laid, the same as Stream A.

For second and subsequent convictions for these criminal drinking and driving offences, there are mandatory jail sentences as well.

This program offers a lot of benefits to those facing charges: the opportunity to reduce the time spent without a licence, for example. There is some concern though that it may persuade those who are innocent to falsely plead guilty to get their licence back sooner or because 89 days is not enough time to assess if they have a strong defence. Due to this tight timeframe, it is critical to retain a lawyer quickly so that you can get a clear understanding of your options in order to make a decision.

COVID-19 NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation has now extended the timeframe to 282 days after the date of the offence.

The New Ontario Impaired Driving Penalties For A First Offence

  • 90 day licence suspension
  • 7 day vehicle impoundment
  • A fine of $550.00 (starting January 2019)
  • $275 licence reinstatement fee
  • Up to a maximum of 10 years in jail
  • Where bodily harm is caused the maximum can be up to 14 years
  • Where death is caused the maximum can be life imprisonment
  • Second offence minimum of 30 days in jail
  • Third offence minimum of 120 days in jail

Additional Other Consequences if Convicted

  • licence suspension of at least 1 year (for first offence)
  • The installation of the Ignition Interlock Device for at least 6 months and a lifetime, depending on the number of prior convictions and the date of each sentencing
  • Being required to attend the Ministry of Transportation “Back on Track” assessment or the assessment and the Educational or Treatment Programs
  • Massive insurance increases
  • A criminal record which may limit your employment prospects
  • Your ability to travel internationally could be affected
  • Your automobile could be seized and sold by the police
  • Possible immigration-citizenship consequences

Ignition Interlock Program

If you are a first-time or second-time offender charged with impaired driving or over 80 and refuse, and there are no drugs involved or no aggravating circumstances, you may be eligible to get a licence suspension of less than one year allowing you to drive with the Interlock Ignition Device instead. You MUST please guilty and be sentenced within 89 days of the charge and the appropriate arrangements must be made ahead of time to qualify.

Ignition Interlock device licence conditions also apply if you are caught driving with a ‘Warn Range’ 0.05 to 0.079 BAC three or more times.

Consequences of Being Caught Driving with a ‘Warn Range’ 0.05 to 0.079 BAC

First Offence

  • 3 day licence suspension
  • Administrative Monetary Penalty of $250 (begins January 2019)
  • $275 licence reinstatement fee

Second Offence (within a 5 year period)

  • 7 day licence suspension
  • Administrative Monetary Penalty of $350 (begins January 2019)
  • Mandatory participation in Alcohol Education Program
  • $275 licence reinstatement fee

Third and Subsequent Offence

  • 30 day licence suspension (3 day suspension for commercial drivers)
  • Administrative Monetary Penalty of $350 (starting January 2019)
  • Mandatory participation in Alcohol Education Program
  • At least 6 month Ignition Interlock licence condition
  • Mandatory medical evaluation
  • $275 licence reinstatement fee

Other Ontario Impaired Driving Penalties

Further fines, jail, probation, weapons prohibitions, DNA orders, increased insurance and many other penalties are possible in addition to the basic fines and driver’s licence suspensions. The sooner we act the more we control the damage.

Ontario has drinking and driving laws that capture drinking and driving behaviours not caught by the federal Criminal Code offences of impaired, 80 mg and over and refuse. The province of Ontario has instituted automatic roadside licence suspensions that immediately remove suspected impaired drivers from the roads. Immediate roadside suspensions are also intended to act as a deterrent, in the hope that they will discourage drivers who have been caught drinking and driving from ever re-offending again. If a driver is caught with a BAC in the “warn range” of 0.05, that driver’s licence will be suspended at roadside for three days. If a driver with a prior “warn range” suspension gets caught again, that person’s driver’s licence will be suspended for seven days. For a third or subsequent occurrence of being caught driving with a BAC in the warn range, the offending driver’s licence will be immediately suspended for 30 days.

Drivers under the age of 21 years and novice drivers, who are not fully licenced, are allowed no alcohol whatsoever in their systems. If caught with any alcohol in their blood, these drivers would get an immediate 24-hour roadside licence suspension and then if convicted, the fully licenced driver who is 21 or under could receive a fine of up to $500 and a 30-day licence suspension. In addition to fines and potential jail time, a novice driver with an impaired driving conviction would also have his or her licence suspended and be required to return to the start of the Graduated Licence System.

The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario does not recognize pardons. Therefore, despite having received a pardon for a previous drinking and driving offence, you will receive the same driving suspension as if you had not received a pardon. This can result in devastating consequences.

Also, if you have a conviction from certain states in the United States, such as Michigan or New York, in certain circumstances it may count as a “prior” in Canada.

An experienced lawyer can assist you in navigating through these rough waters. Often, simply timing when the accused finishes his/her file, can have a significant beneficial impact in reducing the length of driving suspensions.

Our DUI Lawyers Available to Help

At Aitken Robertson, our team approach gives you an opportunity to meet with our various lawyers to fully discuss the facts of your case. While no lawyer can promise a particular result, we will often be able to give you an initial, honest impression of your case and explain to you the approach that we will take in defending you. If you hire Aitken Robertson we will work with a variety of experts to evaluate the merits of your case.

Aitken Robertson is experienced in assessing the complicated interplay between the Criminal Code and the Highway Traffic Act to avoid the unexpected and unwanted results that await the misinformed.

Contact us today and get started with a free consultation. We have offices throughout Ontario where we can provide you with assistance.

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Criminal Lawyer Richard Aitken

Richard Aitken

Managing Lawyer
With over 35 years practicing criminal law under his belt, Richard Aitken not only continues to handle his cases but assists the rest of his team with their cases daily. Richard has focused much of his practice on drinking and driving offences and is so passionate about this field of law he owns his own Initializer 8000TM, the instrument used by Ontario police for testing blood alcohol levels.
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Edmund Chan - Criminal Lawyer

T. Edmund Chan

Lawyer
Edmund has been an Ontario Lawyer for over 25 years and is one of the most experienced Impaired Driving Defence Lawyers in the Province, having handled thousands of Impaired/Over 80 cases, and many other types of Criminal Charges.
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Justin Marchand - Criminal Defence Lawyer

Justin Marchand

Lawyer
Mr. Marchand practices in all area of criminal law, with a focus on Constitutional arguments in the context of drinking and driving related offences. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2010 from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He received his Juris Doctor law degree from Western University.
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Phil Stiles - Criminal Defence Lawyer

Philip Stiles

Lawyer
As a former Crown prosecutor, Mr. Philip Stiles brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Aitken Robertson team. Taking on files in Peterborough, the Kawarthas, and Oshawa, Mr. Stiles serves as counsel to those charged with criminal offences.
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Ottawa Criminal Lawyer - Virginia Dolinska

Virginia Dolinska

Lawyer
A dedicated criminal defence lawyer, Virginia Dolinska earned her J.D. at the University of Ottawa, articled under Richard Aitken, and now leads the firm’s operations in Ottawa, Belleville, and Kingston full-time. Virginia immigrated to Canada from Eastern Europe at a young age and keeps those challenges in mind as she assists those facing challenges of their own.
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Dan Lemaire - Criminal Lawyer Peterborough

Dan Lemaire

Lawyer
Dan Lemaire is a Peterborough local who returned to his home town to article and practice law at Aitken Robertson after earning his J.D. at Queen’s. Dan earned awards for being top of his class in several courses, including criminal law and advanced legal research. Dan is almost as passionate about cooking as he is about the law and spends his free time trying out new recipes.
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Channdeep Singh Nagi

Channdeep Singh Nagi

Lawyer
Channdeep takes a client-centric approach to his work and is always on the lookout for any infirmity in the prosecution’s case. He reassures clients that they are being taken care of and believes this is an indispensable part of practicing criminal law.
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Recent DUI Cases Handled By Aitken Robertson

CASE STUDY: Impaired Care or Control and Care or Control Over 80 in Oshawa

Given that the Crown was unwilling to withdraw the charge, the very clear goal in this case was simply to show the trial judge that Mr. E. had no intention of moving his vehicle from its resting point in the visitor’s parking of the townhouse complex.

CASE STUDY: Over 80 and Charge Withdrawn

Police were notified with information that Mr. K was involved in an assault with his brother and left the scene intoxicated. Shortly after, Mr. K was pulled over while operating his vehicle. After making some incriminating admissions to the officers, Mr. K was asked to provide a breath sample in an approved screening device on the roadside.

CASE STUDY: Charges Withdrawn – Over 80

Getting the criminal charge of over 80 dropped was the priority. The Highway Traffic Act charges carried fines and penalties, but no criminal record. A plea deal to have the criminal charges dropped would be a fine option that avoided trial and saved the client money.

CASE STUDY: Charges Withdrawn – Over 80

While on his drive home from a charitable event, Mr. B was stopped by police in a RIDE check. He had consumed only a small number of drinks that evening, and they were spread out over several hours, but Mr. B was nervous because he rarely encounters police.

CASE STUDY: Charges Withdrawn- Driving With BAC Over 80

Mr. T’s ability to drive was central to his practice as a butcher. Farmers would contact Mr. T in emergencies where livestock needed to be put down and butchered quickly and losing his ability to travel for work would be financially devastating.

CASE STUDY: Drunk Driving with Drugs

Mr. V was in a restaurant and unhappy with his food order. After some argument with staff, staff called the police against Mr. V. The staff complained to police that Mr. V was impaired and driving.

CASE STUDY: Plea Down to Careless Driving – Over 80, Impaired

Mr. M was charged with operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 80 and over mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood and operating a vehicle impaired in the city of Milton.

CASE STUDY: Plea Down to Careless Driving – Over 80

Mr. W’s position as a hockey coach, his new job, and his future goals to start a business and own a home were at risk. He’d been convicted for the same offence once before and knew a second conviction could be worse.

CASE STUDY: Charges Withdrawn – Over 80

This client's trial dates were cancelled and she was free of the burden of fighting criminal charges far earlier than she thought she’d be.

CASE STUDY: Charge Withdrawn – Refusal to Provide a Breath Sample

Mr. M, a US military veteran and long-time law enforcement officer, was crossing the border into Canada to visit a casino in Niagara.

CASE STUDY: Acquitted – Refusal to Provide Breath Sample

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is very clear in its protection of a person’s right to contact a lawyer upon arrest.

CASE STUDY: Pled Down to Careless Driving from Over 80

The case went to trial, during which the Crown decided to offer a deal: if Mr. Z would plead guilty to careless driving, the charges of Over 80 would be dropped.

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