The DUI fines and penalties in Toronto frequently surprise those who are charged with the offence.
Some people have little idea of how harsh the penalties for DUI are. It is no exaggeration to call them potentially life-changing if you are convicted (depending on the circumstances, of course).
Getting clear on the potential DUI fines and penalties will mean fewer surprises if you are later convicted.
However, bear in mind that a skilled and experienced DUI lawyer like Alan Pearse can help you escape such penalties or, even if you do end up being convicted, greatly reduce their severity and their impact on your life.
How is DUI prosecuted in Toronto?
There are two DUI-related offences in Toronto. They are treated equally as seriously and how your case will be prosecuted depends on the exact nature and circumstances of the charge.
The term “DUI” is not used in Canadian law. Instead, the two offences are:
- Impaired operation/care or control of a vehicle (because of alcohol or drugs)
- Over 80mg operation/care or control of a vehicle
Section 253 of the Criminal Code lays out these two offences in the following way:
“Every one commits an offence who operates a motor vehicle or vessel or operates or assists in the operation of an aircraft or of railway equipment or has the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment, whether it is in motion or not, (a) while the person’s ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or a drug; or (b) having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person’s blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred millilitres of blood.”
Failure or refusal to comply with a request for a breathalyzer test or blood/urine test is also treated as a criminal offence in Toronto.
Note that you do not need to exceed the legal blood-alcohol or blood-drug limit to be charged with impaired driving.
If your ability to drive was affected to any degree by alcohol or drugs (according to the observations of the law enforcement officer who stops you), you could face an impaired driving charge.
Both DUI offences are federal criminal law offences and the Crown Attorney has the option to prosecute by indictment (like a felony in the U.S.) or summary conviction (like a misdemeanor offence in the U.S.).
Most DUI offences in Toronto proceed by summary conviction rather than an indictment.
Penalties for impaired driving
If you are convicted of impaired driving or over 80 as an adult in Toronto, mandatory penalties apply under the Canadian Criminal Code.
Both crimes are treated the same in terms of the minimum penalties:
- For a first offence, a fine of $1,000
- For a second offence, imprisonment for a term of 30 days, and
- For each subsequent offence, imprisonment for a term of 120 days
Note that these are minimum mandatory penalties. If you are convicted, you may face the following:
- A jail term of not more than two years less a day for a summary conviction
- Imprisonment for a term of up to 10 years for an indictment
In some cases, there may be some room to negotiate the jail term with the prosecution, if you have little chance of winning your trial.
Lengthy license suspensions also accompany the fines and potential jail time:
- For a first offence: minimum 1-3-year licence suspension
- For a second offence: minimum 2-10-year licence suspension
- For a third or subsequent offence: 3-year-to-lifetime licence suspension
You may be able to reduce your driving suspension if you agree to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in your vehicle after serving a stated minimum portion of your suspension: at least three months for a first offence and six months for a second or third offence.
The IID is a device that sits inside your vehicle and will not allow you to start the engine and drive if alcohol over a pre-set limit of 0.02 (i.e., 20 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood) is detected on your breath.
If convicted of impaired driving or over 80, you will also receive a license suspension from your provincial driving authority. This may or may not run concurrently with your federal license suspension.
You may also be required to go through a remedial program and take part in the ignition interlock program. Refusing to comply may result in your license being suspended indefinitely.
After your driving suspension expires, you cannot simply start driving again. You must take steps to have your license reinstated and pay the fee.
One of the most serious long-term consequences of a conviction is the criminal record you will receive. This may affect employment, travel plans, insurance premiums and other aspects of your future life.
What happens if death or injury is caused to another person?
If you are charged with DUI with death or bodily harm of another person resulting from your actions, it is likely to be penalised more heavily.
- If bodily harm results from the offence, the maximum sentence is 10 years in jail
- If death results from the offence, the maximum sentence is a lifetime in jail
Get serious about defending your DUI charge
If you are serious about defending your DUI charge, you choose a lawyer with a track record of successfully getting charges withdrawn, winning at trial, or with the experience to negotiate reduced penalties for drivers.
Alan Pearse may contest your charge using technical defences, cross-examination of witnesses, Charter Rights and Freedoms defences, or other defences based on the exact nature of your arrest and charge.
For an assessment of your case and advice on the suggested next steps, get in touch with Alan and his team.