Impaired driving, or, as it is more commonly known, driving under the influence (DUI), is one of the most serious charges a Toronto driver can face, and while the overall incidence of impaired driving has decreased, it is still a major problem on Ontario’s roads.
These charges can be brought against any driver deemed to be operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and in some cases, it isn’t even necessary for the individual charged to actually be driving — police have the discretionary ability to lay these charges against people who are simply sitting behind the wheel of a parked car while intoxicated.
But despite the frequency with which these charges are laid, many Ontarians don’t understand the full implications of the offense, the length of time a DUI conviction stays on a permanent record, or the full extent of their legal rights.
Every Ontarian charged with a crime like impaired driving has the right to contest DUI charges in court if they choose to do so.
This blog will outline what you should do if you have been charged with a DUI, what the process for fighting charges in court looks like, and why you should hire an experienced Toronto criminal defence lawyer to help you mount an effective defence if you are facing impaired driving charges.
What Do Impaired Driving Charges Entail?
According to the Canadian Criminal Code, you can receive a DUI if you are deemed to be operating a motor vehicle while too impaired to do so properly, or if you have more than 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood.
If convicted, you can face a range of consequences, including:
- Vehicle impoundment
- Driving prohibition
- Fine of $1000 or more
- Jail time
These penalties scale up depending on how many convictions you have. For example, a person facing second DUI in Ontario or a third DUI may be looking at several months in jail and a three-year driving prohibition, while a first offence DUI in Ontario could get off with a fine.
For many Torontonians, receiving a DUI can impact their livelihood for years, and potentially make it harder to find jobs in the future.
If you are caught driving at or over 80/0.08 in Toronto you’ll need a criminal lawyer with experience dealing with impaired driving — these are serious charges, and they can have an extremely disruptive impact on your life if you are convicted.
What Happens After You are Charged with a DUI?
In most cases, police will charge someone with impaired driving after they fail or refuse to take a breathalyzer test — you are legally allowed to refuse the test, but failure to provide a breath sample is also a criminal offense. Either way, will at this point be arrested and taken into custody. Two further tests will then be administered to corroborate the first one.
While this is happening, your vehicle will be impounded for at least seven days. In most cases, you will not be prohibited from driving as part of your bail conditions.
Within 24 hours, they will face a bail hearing that will determine the conditions of their release. Because impaired driving is not a violent crime, you will likely be given a Promise to Appear Notice in which you will agree to have your photograph and fingerprints taken, and to show up for your first court hearing. It is a good idea to have your criminal lawyer with you for the bail hearing if possible.
The court date you are given is not the same as your trial date. When you first appear in court, it will be to lodge a plea of either guilty or not guilty. You should not make this decision without first consulting with a Toronto DUI lawyer who can lay out the full range of options available for your defence.
If you were caught driving over 80, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be convicted. The court may find that the police had no probable cause for pulling you over, or did not lawfully administer the breathalyzer test. Even in the event that you are found guilty, a strong defence can lead to a reduced sentence — your suspension period will be shorter, for example, or you may not face a license suspension at all.
How Long Do Impaired Driving Charges Stay on Your Criminal Record?
As you might expect given the above, there are many factors that go into sentencing for impaired driving, and the sentence you ultimately receive will determine how long impaired driving charges stay on your criminal record. It will also have an impact on how much your insurance premiums increase, and the time it takes them to come back down again.
If you receive a DUI, the conviction will stay on your permanent record for three years. But if that conviction is accompanied by a license suspension, that time will double to six years. If further infractions occur, convictions can stay on your record even longer.
This is one of the reasons why it can be worthwhile to fight charges in court. Even if you aren’t acquitted or given a conditional discharge, a lesser sentence can make a huge difference in how long the conviction stays on your criminal record, and how seriously it impacts your insurance premiums once your suspension period is over.
Because they understand the legal options available to people charged with DUI offenses, a Toronto criminal lawyer can dramatically improve your chances of winning a DUI case in Ontario.
With experience as both a defence attorney and a prosecutor, Jeffrey I. Reisman can bring expert knowledge of how the court system works to your case, and will be your best advocate in and out of the courtroom. If you’ve been charged with impaired driving in Ontario, don’t lose hope: get in touch with Jeff Reisman Law today.