Impaired Driving Laws in Ontario
What is impaired driving?
Impaired driving in Ontario is when a person operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both, to a degree that their ability to operate the vehicle is impaired. This can include driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.08, or with any amount of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol that impairs driving ability. It is illegal and can result in criminal charges, fines, license suspension, and possible imprisonment.
In Ontario, impaired driving charges are laid under both the Criminal Code of Canada and the provincial Highway Traffic Act. The Criminal Code sets out the criminal offence of impaired driving, while the provincial Highway Traffic Act provides for administrative penalties such as driver’s licence suspensions and vehicle impoundment. These administrative penalties are separate from criminal charges, but they can be imposed at the same time and can have significant consequences for the individual’s ability to drive and travel.
Laws for Impaired Driving in Ontario
In Ontario, impaired driving offences are prosecuted under both the Criminal Code and the Highway Traffic Act. The Criminal Code sets out the criminal offences of impaired driving, while the Highway Traffic Act deals with provincial offences, such as administrative license suspensions and vehicle impoundment. Therefore, if you are charged with impaired driving in Ontario, you may face charges under both the Criminal Code and the Highway Traffic Act.
In Ontario, impaired driving offences are charged under the Criminal Code. The Administrative Driver’s License Suspension (ADLS) program is a provincial administrative penalty that operates in addition to the criminal charges. The ADLS program allows for the immediate roadside suspension of a driver’s license for 90 days if they are found to be operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit, or if they fail a sobriety test or refuse to provide a breath sample. However, this administrative penalty is separate from the criminal charges that may be laid and prosecuted under the Criminal Code.
Impaired driving causing death, bodily harm
Impaired driving laws become more severe if you cause harm to others. Impaired driving causing death is a serious criminal offense in Ontario, Canada. It involves operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, resulting in the death of another person. These offences are covered under s.320.14 of the Criminal Code.
If convicted of Impaired driving causing bodily harm, you could face a minimum of two years and up to 10 years in jail. If indicted, there is a maximum of 14 years imprisonment.
If convicted of Impaired driving causing death you could face imprisonment for life.
In Ontario, if a police officer suspects that a driver is impaired, they may demand that the driver provide a breath sample using an approved screening device (ASD) at the roadside. Refusing to provide a breath sample upon demand is a criminal offence under section 320.15 of the Criminal Code.
If a driver is convicted of refusing to provide a breath sample, they face penalties similar to those for impaired driving. These penalties may include fines, a driving prohibition, mandatory participation in an alcohol education or treatment program, installation of an ignition interlock device, and possibly even imprisonment.
In addition to the criminal penalties, drivers who refuse to provide a breath sample also face administrative penalties under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act. These penalties may include an immediate driver’s license suspension for 90 days and the impoundment of the driver’s vehicle for seven days.
Types of Impairment
In Ontario, there are three main types of impairment that can lead to charges of impaired driving:
- Impairment by alcohol: This is the most common type of impairment and occurs when a person’s ability to operate a vehicle is affected by the consumption of alcohol. In Ontario, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) while driving is 0.08, and if a driver is found to have a BAC over the legal limit, they can face charges of impaired driving.
- Impairment by drugs: This occurs when a person’s ability to operate a vehicle is affected by the consumption of drugs, including illegal drugs and prescription medication. This includes both illegal drugs, such as cocaine or marijuana, and prescription drugs that can cause drowsiness or affect a person’s ability to drive safely. In Ontario, police officers who are trained as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) can conduct a series of tests to determine if a driver is impaired by drugs.
- Impairment by a combination of alcohol and drugs: This occurs when a person’s ability to operate a vehicle is affected by the consumption of both alcohol and drugs. This can be a particularly dangerous form of impairment, as the effects of alcohol and drugs can interact in unpredictable ways, leading to increased impairment and a higher risk of accidents.
It’s worth noting that impairment can also result from fatigue or other medical conditions that affect a person’s ability to drive safely. While these types of impairment are not specifically addressed in impaired driving laws, drivers who are impaired in these ways can still be charged with careless or dangerous driving if they cause an accident.
The penalties for impaired driving in Ontario depend on the severity of the offence and whether it is a first-time or repeat offence.
The consequences of Being Caught Driving with a ‘Warn Range’ 0.05 to 0.079 BAC are as follows:
For a first Offence:
- 3-day licence suspension
- Administrative Monetary Penalty of $250 (begins January 2019)
- $275 licence reinstatement fee
For a 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
For 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
In addition to the penalties listed above, impaired driving causing bodily harm or death can result in much more severe penalties, including lengthy prison sentences and lifetime license suspensions.
You may get a criminal record for impaired driving in Ontario. Having a criminal record for impaired driving can have significant consequences, such as difficulty finding employment, housing, and travel restrictions. It is important to note that a criminal record for impaired driving can remain on an individual’s record for life, unless it is pardoned or expunged.
In Ontario, impaired driving is considered a serious criminal offence, and offenders may face jail time as a penalty. The length of the jail sentence will depend on various factors, including the severity of the offence, the offender’s prior criminal record, and whether anyone was injured or killed as a result of the impaired driving.
In Ontario, a driver convicted of impaired driving will face license penalties, which can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case. The penalties can include:
- License suspension: A driver who is charged with impaired driving will have their license suspended immediately for 90 days. If the driver is convicted, they will face further license suspensions.
- Ignition interlock: The court may order a driver to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle as a condition of getting their license back. This device requires the driver to blow into a breathalyzer before starting their vehicle, and if the device detects any alcohol, the vehicle will not start.
- License suspension for subsequent offences: If a driver is convicted of impaired driving for a second or subsequent time within 10 years, they will face longer license suspensions.
- License reinstatement requirements: Before a driver can get their license back after a suspension, they will need to complete certain requirements, such as paying fees and completing a remedial measures program.
- License reinstatement fees: In addition to the regular licensing fees, drivers who have had their license suspended for impaired driving will need to pay reinstatement fees.
It’s important to note that impaired driving charges and convictions can also have other consequences, such as increased insurance premiums and a criminal record.
If a driver is charged with impaired driving in Ontario, their vehicle may be impounded. The impoundment fees may range from $150-$400 and other fees include tow fees and storage fees.
For second and subsequent offences, the impoundment fees increase, and the vehicle may be subject to forfeiture. It is important to note that these fees are in addition to any fines, legal fees, and other costs associated with an impaired driving charge.
Individuals who are charged and convicted of impaired driving in Canada may face several fees and costs, including:
- Fines: Fines can range from $1,000 to $10,000 for a first-time offender, with higher fines for repeat offenders.
- Victim surcharge: A victim surcharge is an additional fee imposed on offenders, with the amount varying by province.
- Legal fees: Legal fees will depend on the complexity of the case, and individuals may choose to hire a lawyer or use the services of a legal aid lawyer.
- Impoundment and towing fees: If a vehicle is impounded, individuals will be responsible for paying towing and storage fees.
- License reinstatement fees: Individuals who have their driver’s license suspended or revoked due to impaired driving will be required to pay fees to have their license reinstated.
- Ignition interlock program fees: If an individual is required to participate in an ignition interlock program, they will be responsible for the installation and maintenance fees.
- Treatment program fees: Individuals who are required to participate in a treatment program will be responsible for the associated fees, although some programs may be covered by insurance.
It’s important to note that the costs and fees associated with impaired driving can be significant and can have long-lasting financial consequences.
In Ontario, there are several treatment programs available for individuals convicted of impaired driving, including:
- Back on Track: This is a remedial program for drivers convicted of impaired driving. It is a mandatory requirement to complete this program in order to regain your license.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): AA is a voluntary program for individuals struggling with alcoholism. It provides support and guidance to help people achieve and maintain sobriety.
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA): NA is a support group for individuals struggling with drug addiction. It provides a safe and supportive environment to help people achieve and maintain sobriety.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that helps individuals change their negative thoughts and behaviours. It can be helpful for individuals struggling with addiction or other mental health issues.
- Residential treatment programs: There are several residential treatment programs available in Ontario for individuals struggling with addiction. These programs provide intensive support and therapy in a structured environment.
- Outpatient treatment programs: Outpatient treatment programs provide support and therapy on an outpatient basis, allowing individuals to continue to live at home while receiving treatment.
It is important to note that participation in treatment programs is not a substitute for legal consequences for impaired driving convictions. However, the completion of a treatment program may be taken into consideration by the court when determining sentencing.
In Ontario, an ignition interlock device (IID) is a requirement for drivers convicted of impaired driving offences. The IID is installed in the driver’s vehicle and requires a breath sample to be provided before the vehicle can be started. If the IID detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the set limit, the vehicle will not start.
The length of time that an IID is required varies based on the specific circumstances of the offence. For a first-time conviction with a BAC over 0.08%, an IID is mandatory for at least 6 months. For subsequent convictions, the mandatory IID period increases to a minimum of 1 year.
In addition to the mandatory installation of an IID, penalties for impaired driving in Ontario may include fines, driver’s license suspension, and even imprisonment. The severity of the penalties depends on the specific circumstances of the offence and whether it is a first-time or subsequent conviction. Repeat offenders may face longer driver’s license suspensions, mandatory treatment programs, and longer prison sentences.
In Ontario, there are various defences that can be raised in impaired driving cases. It’s important to note that the availability and success of these defences depend on the specific circumstances of each case.
Lack of Impairment
One of the primary defences is to challenge the prosecution’s evidence of impairment. This may involve presenting evidence to show that you were not impaired by alcohol or drugs while operating the vehicle. This could include witness testimony, expert opinions, or challenging the reliability of the testing methods used.
Faulty Testing Equipment
Challenging the reliability and accuracy of a breathalyzer or blood test results can be a defence. This may involve questioning the maintenance, calibration, or administration of the testing equipment. If there are issues with the testing equipment or its operation, it can cast doubt on the accuracy of the results.
In certain situations, it may be possible to argue that impaired driving was necessary to avoid greater harm. This defence requires demonstrating that there was a genuine emergency or necessity that compelled you to drive while impaired. However, this defence is rarely successful and is subject to strict requirements.
Applicable Charter Defences
Any violations of your rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms can be a defence. This can include violations of your right to counsel, right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, or right against self-incrimination. If your rights were violated during the arrest or investigation, it may impact the admissibility of evidence against you. Common Charter breaches include:
- Section 8 – Right to be secure from search and seizure;
- Section 9 – Right not to be arbitrarily detained;
- Section 10 – Right to be informed of reasons for detention or arrest:
- Section 11 – General: legal rights apply to those “charged with an offence”
- Section 12 – Cruel and unusual treatment or punishment
Can you go to jail for impaired driving?
Yes, impaired driving in Ontario can lead to imprisonment if a person is convicted of the offence. Impaired driving is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code and is taken very seriously by the courts. The penalties for impaired driving offences can include jail time, among other consequences.
It is important to note that impaired driving causing bodily harm or death carries even more severe penalties. If impaired driving leads to the injury or death of another person, the potential consequences, including imprisonment, can be significantly increased.
How does impaired driving affect insurance?
Impaired driving can have significant consequences for auto insurance in Ontario. Insurance companies consider impaired driving convictions as high-risk behaviour, which can result in various impacts on insurance coverage and premiums.
How does impaired driving affect immigration?
Impaired driving convictions can have implications for immigration in Ontario, as they may impact a person’s admissibility to Canada. It is important to note that impaired driving convictions can affect your eligibility for temporary resident status, such as a visitor visa, work permit, or study permit. Immigration authorities may assess your criminal record and consider it as part of the admissibility criteria for granting temporary resident status,
It is important to note that each immigration case is unique, and the specific impact of an impaired driving conviction on immigration status can vary depending on various factors, including the severity of the offence, the individual’s immigration status, and other circumstances. It is recommended to consult with an immigration lawyer or a qualified immigration consultant who can assess your specific situation and provide guidance on how an impaired driving conviction may affect your immigration status or applications. They can help you understand the options available to address the implications of a criminal record on your immigration prospects.
What is the difference between impaired driving and DUI?
In Ontario, the terms “impaired driving” and “DUI” (Driving Under the Influence) are often used interchangeably, but there can be slight differences in their legal definitions and implications.
Impaired driving refers to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, to the extent that your ability to operate the vehicle is impaired. In Ontario, impaired driving is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. The term “impaired driving” encompasses situations where a person’s ability to drive is affected by alcohol, drugs (including both illegal substances and prescription medications), or a combination of both.
DUI, on the other hand, is a term commonly used in some jurisdictions, particularly in the United States, to describe the offence of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While DUI is not a term explicitly used in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act or the Criminal Code, it is often used informally to refer to impaired driving cases involving alcohol.