Across Toronto, a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving means that the law is extremely harsh on offenders.
While teenagers are inexperienced drivers and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs seriously endangers the lives of others, it is unreasonable for one mistake made on the roads to negatively impact the rest of your life.
With representation from an experienced impaired driving lawyer, it is possible to escape the harshest consequences of an underage DUI charge.
Alan Pearse can help you prepare a strong underage DUI defence so that you can move on with your life unburdened by a criminal charge.
What is underage DUI?
The legal drinking age in Toronto is 18 or 19, depending on your province.
However, for the purposes of a DUI offence, there is a zero-tolerance policy for drivers aged 21 or under when it comes to drinking and driving.
This applies to all licence classes and novice drivers and means that you can be charged criminally for DUI if you are caught by the police driving after consuming ANY amount of alcohol or drugs, including cannabis.
Unlike for drivers aged over 21, for whom there is a legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit of .08, you will be arrested immediately if you are under 21 and found to be driving with even a minute amount of alcohol or drugs in your blood.
These measures were implemented by law enforcement across Toronto years ago to curb rising underage DUI offences on the roads.
Possible consequences of an underage DUI charge
There are serious immediate and long-term consequences if you are charged and convicted of underage DUI.
Prohibitions and suspensions for underage DUI
The most immediate potential consequences are:
- A fine of $1000-$1500
- License suspension for 30 days for a first offence
- Serving time in a juvenile detention centre
- Community service
When you get your license back, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device in order to drive your vehicle.
Such devices prevent you from driving a vehicle if any alcohol is detected in your system. They were previously reserved for serious or repeat offenders but, because of their effectiveness, courts are increasingly assigning them in underage DUI cases.
The longer-term consequences of an underage DUI conviction can include:
- A lifelong criminal record that shows on background checks (unless you are able to expunge the record)
- Problems finding employment (especially jobs that involve driving a vehicle)
- Travel or immigration restrictions
- Increased insurance premiums
For repeat offenders, the possible consequences are even more serious, including longer or even permanent licence cancellations, and potential jail time.
In the case of a DUI under the age of 18 or 19 (depending on the province in which the offence occurs), minors may face additional penalties for the crime of underage drinking as well as driving under the influence.
Defences for underage DUI
Even if you are caught drinking and driving and are aged under 21, you still have a chance of escaping the worst-case scenarios.
Minors and those under the age of 21 have rights under the legal system and these rights are often the starting place for an underage DUI defence.
The law enforcement officers who stop you must respect your rights under the Canadian Charter and be able to demonstrate that you were operating the motor vehicle and that you had been drinking.
While the Crown prosecution no longer needs to demonstrate that law enforcement had “reasonable suspicion” (they can order you to take a breath test even without indications of alcohol impairment since the law was changed in 2018), they must demonstrate that the officers followed correct police practice when obtaining their evidence.
Criminal prosecutions for DUI entail a considerable amount of evidence and are often reliant upon the judgment of police officers and the accuracy of the equipment they use. There is a high burden of proof and an experienced lawyer may be able to call evidence into question. Unless it is watertight, it may be excluded from court.
This can often lead to a case being dismissed and no criminal record for the accused.
Even if you are convicted, Alan Pearse will fight to mitigate the consequences you may face.
Some courts offer DUI diversion programs, which allow DUI defendants to plead to a lesser charge or get their charges dismissed under certain conditions.
It is important to speak to Alan Pearse as soon as possible after you are arrested and charged so that we can begin working on your defence immediately.
This will give you the best chance of escaping a criminal record.
Underage DUI and in need of legal advice?
Alan Pearse has successfully contested countless underage DUI cases in Toronto – even for repeat offenders.
As a well-established DUI lawyer, he will work with you on a strong underage DUI defence that explores all possibilities for escaping a criminal conviction and the serious consequences it entails.
For an assessment of your case and advice on the suggested next steps, get in touch with Alan and his team.