Every year, thousands of impaired driving cases come up in Ottawa. Many of these cases are either dismissed or the defendant acquitted.
The chances of this happening in your case — or at least having the consequences of a conviction greatly mitigated — are improved if you choose to appoint skilled legal representation.
It’s important to understand what happens if you are charged with impaired driving and the potentially serious impact that a criminal conviction can have on your future so that you can make the right decision about hiring an impaired driving lawyer.
At Friedman Mansour LLP in Ottawa, we’re ready to defend you against an impaired driving charge whether you’re suspected of alcohol or drug impairment, having a blood alcohol level over the legal limit or failing to provide a breath sample.
What happens if you’re charged with impaired driving in Ottawa?
Most people charged with impaired driving in Ottawa are stopped by the police — either randomly at a checkpoint or by a “roving check stop”.
As impaired driving laws have tightened, Ontario Provincial Police and the Ottawa Police Service can now stop you randomly to check whether you are impaired by alcohol or drugs.
You will be asked for your licence and whether you have been drinking. The police officer will then assess whether there are “reasonable grounds” to believe you are impaired by alcohol or drugs. If so, the police officer can demand that you provide a roadside breath sample.
If you are over the legal limit or the officer believes that you are impaired, you will be arrested, advised of your right to contact a lawyer, and more samples of your breath or blood will be collected at the police station or check stop bus.
The roadside breath sample cannot be used as evidence to convict you of impaired driving. This evidence must be collected from a device called the Intoxilyzer® 8000C.
An impaired driving conviction is not necessary for your driver’s licence to be suspended in Ontario. An impaired driving charge is enough.
An immediate administrative licence suspension for 90 days will be applied and your vehicle will likely be impounded for seven days. You may have grounds for appealing this administrative penalty so it’s important to speak to your impaired driving defence lawyer as soon as possible after you’re charged.
What are the penalties for impaired driving in Ontario?
The Canadian government imposes mandatory minimum sentences for anyone found guilty of impaired driving.
Even for a first offence, penalties include the following:
A minimum fine of $1,000 (not including fees and surcharges)
A minimum one-year driving prohibition
For a second impaired driving offence, you will receive:
An automatic minimum 30-day jail sentence
A minimum two-year driving prohibition
A fine at the judge’s discretion
For a third impaired driving offence, you will receive:
An automatic minimum 120-day jail sentence
A minimum three-year driving prohibition
A fine at the judge’s discretion
These are the minimum penalties. The maximum penalty for impaired driving is five years in jail unless someone is injured or killed.
In the case of injury, up to 10 years in jail is possible and a life sentence is not unknown if impaired driving results in someone else’s death.
The ignition interlock program allows drivers convicted of impaired driving for the first time to continue driving after three months (despite their year-long license suspension). For second-time offenders, the period is six months and for third-offenders 12 months.
Under the terms of the program, an eligible driver fits an ignition interlock device (IID or “blow box”) into his/her vehicle and must blow into it before the engine will start. Only if you have a zero-alcohol reading can you start the vehicle.
Not everyone is eligible for the program and acceptance into it may require you to plead guilty to your charge. Speak to one of our impaired driving lawyers for more information.
Can you go to the U.S. if found guilty of a DUI?
You can be denied entry to the U.S. with an impaired driving conviction — though the final decision lies with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent handling your case.
There is no official ban for Canadian citizens with impaired driving convictions because it is not considered a “crime of moral turpitude”.
What are the chances of getting a DUI dismissed in Ontario?
A charge is not the same as a conviction. There are several viable defences for DUI or impaired driving but it will depend on the facts of your case and the skills of your lawyer.
These cases are invariably complex and require extensive expertise to research and present the best possible defence.
Once your lawyer understands what happened, what actions you took, the actions of the police, and what you said during the investigation and charge process, we will start to work on one of the following defences:
A “rising blood alcohol content” defence
Challenging the accuracy of the Field Sobriety Tests
Challenging the breath test results due to faulty or poorly calibrated equipment
Failure of the police officer to Issue an implied consent warning (for breath test refusal)
Failure of the officer to protect your Charter rights
Unlawful checkpoint stop or arrest
Racial profiling or other misconduct by the police officer(s)
Breath testing equipment, like all machinery, is subject to faults and unless properly maintained can give inaccurate readings. This and/or a lack of training for the officer who carried out the arrest and performed the test can be enough to get a case dismissed.
Sometimes, if the blood alcohol content was between 0.05 and 0.08 but the impaired driving case is not dismissed, the offence can be downgraded to a traffic ticket so that you are not left with a criminal record. But, again, much depends on the skills and experience of your DUI lawyer.
Will you need to attend DUI class in Ontario?
On top of the punishments already outlined, to get your license reinstated in Ontario after an impaired driving charge entails attendance at a remedial measures program called Back on Track, run by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.
The fee for the program is currently $634 and you will be liable to pay this. It takes up to 11 months to complete and consists of an assessment session, education and treatment workshops, and a follow-up interview six months after the workshops are completed.
Before you are accepted into the remedial measures program, you will need to meet the following requirements:
You must be eligible for a driver’s licence
An ignition interlock device must be fitted in your vehicle
You must send an application to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to be accepted into the DUI class
You will need to pay a portion of the $634 fee before being admitted to the program
You must consent to classes including addiction services for counseling, rehabilitation, and education.