‘Tis the season to be cautious! It’s been a trying couple of years for us all, and this coming holiday season is one we’ve all been looking forward to for a long time. Just remember that one wrong decision can impact your life for years to come. Police will be out in full force, and DUI laws are the strictest they’ve ever been.

If you do find yourself in trouble, hire a respected Toronto criminal defence lawyer who’s also been a prosecutor and knows what it takes to beat a DUI case.

Holiday RIDE Programs

One sure sign that the holiday season is upon us is the start of the RIDE program (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere). Despite last year’s socially-distant holiday season, police still made around 90 impaired-related arrests which, considering the circumstances, wasn’t that much lower than 2019’s total of 122 arrests. So you can expect to see RIDE checks if you’re on the roads during the holidays now that restrictions have been lifted.

Things to keep in mind about RIDE spot checks:

  • Police are allowed to stop you without grounds or probable cause, but those rights don’t allow them to investigate other criminal offences or conduct a search that isn’t related to the purpose of the RIDE stop.
  • Roadside breath and saliva samples can be demanded without “reasonable suspicion.” If you enter a RIDE program, police can demand a sample of your breath into a roadside screening device even if there is no evidence you have been consuming alcohol.  If you refuse, you can be charged with Refuse or Fail to Provide a sample.
  • Telling officers you’ve “had a couple” can only make things worse. Drivers sometimes admit to having a few drinks, thinking their honesty will get them off with a warning. When you tell officers you’ve been drinking, you give them grounds to start investigating you. And that’s exactly what they’ll do.
  • Police can not question or detain passengers, even if those passengers are impaired by drugs or alcohol.

DUI Charges in Ontario

Impaired Driving

This charge can be laid if the officer believes the person driving the vehicle cannot do so safely due to impairment by drugs or alcohol. They can come to this suspicion if they see:

  • Erratic driving, swerving in and out of lanes
  • Delayed reactions to traffic lights and signs
  • Unsafe accelerations and sudden stops
  • Wide turns

You can still be convicted of Impaired even if your BAC is below the legal limit. That’s why you need to hire a Toronto DUI lawyer who knows how to exploit weaknesses in the Crown’s case and raise reasonable doubt.

DUI/Over 80

This charge is made out by a driver having a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 80 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of blood. A person does not have to display any signs of intoxication for this charge to stick. Also, an officer can arrest someone for Over 80 even if they are not driving the motor vehicle as long as they can establish the person had “care and control” of it.

Dont let a DUI Put You in Jail

Refusing to Provide a Blood Sample or Refusing a Breathalyzer

You can be charged with Failure or Refusal to Comply with Demand for refusing a breathalyzer test, refusing to provide a bodily fluid sample (e.g. saliva) or refusing to perform a sobriety test. The penalties are the same as Impaired and Over 80 charges.

DUI Penalties in Ontario

DUI penalties in Ontario can begin as soon as you’re pulled over if your breathalyzer test registers in the Warn Range (BAC of 0.05 or higher), if you fail a field sobriety test or violate a zero-tolerance policy for young, novice or commercial drivers.

Immediate Roadside Penalties

For having a BAC over 0.05 (Warn Range) or violating a zero-tolerance policy:

First offence

  • 3-day licence suspension. (can’t be appealed)
  • $250 fine

Second offence within five years

  • 7-day licence suspension (3-day suspension for commercial drivers). (can’t be appealed)
  • $350 fine
  • You must attend a mandatory education program (for a second occurrence within ten years)

Third and subsequent offences within five years

  • 30-day licence suspension (3-day suspension for commercial drivers). (not appealable)
  • $450 penalty
  • You must attend a mandatory treatment program (for third and subsequent offence within ten years)
  • You will be required to use an ignition interlock device for at least six months (for third and subsequent offence within ten years)
  • You will need to undergo a mandatory medical evaluation to determine whether you meet the requirements for driving in Ontario (for fourth and subsequent offence within ten years).

Additionally, you have to pay a $281 licence reinstatement fee every time your license is suspended. Young or novice drivers can also be charged under the Highway Traffic Act and face additional suspensions and fines if convicted.

Penalties for a BAC. Over the Legal Limit (0.08), Refuse Testing or Impairment

If you fail or refuse to take a drug or alcohol test, register a BAC over 0.08 or if a drug recognition evaluator determines that you are impaired, you face roadside penalties of:

  • 90-day licence suspension
  • 7-day vehicle impoundment
  • $550 penalty
  • $281 licence reinstatement fee
  • Mandatory education or treatment program (for second and subsequent occurrences within ten years)
  • Required ignition interlock device for at least six months (for third and subsequent occurrences within ten years)

Penalties If Convicted of a DUI. Charge in Ontario

These are the penalties you could be facing if convicted in court:

First Offence –  Over 80, Impaired by Drugs and/or Alcohol, Refusal to Comply

  • Mandatory minimum: $1,000 fine ($2,000 for refusing to comply)
  • Maximum: 10 years imprisonment

Second Offence:

  • Mandatory minimum: 30 days imprisonment
  • Maximum: 10 years imprisonment

Third Offence:

  • Mandatory minimum: 120 days imprisonment
  • Maximum: 10 years imprisonment

Don’t take chances. The government is not messing around and neither should you. Hire a DUI expert who knows how to fight back and win.