What is “Impaired Driving”? Is it the Same as 'DUI' or 'drunk driving'?
Often understood as “drunk driving” or “DUI”, it is the offence of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Lawyers who practice in this area of law in Canada, refer to it is as “impaired driving” or “over 80”. Drivers are charged with this offense if police have a suspicion of impairment and can request a breath sample into an ASD- Approved Screening Device if they have reasonable and probable grounds to do so. If your breath into the device registers a fail then the police will initiate an arrest and transport you to the police station where they will request another 2 breath samples.
“DUI” Charges are serious criminal charges and you can be charged these offences or a combination of the following -
- Impaired Driving – this charge arises when police have a suspicion that a driver has alcohol or drugs in their system.
- Over 80 – If after your breath sample it is found that you have over 80 mg of alcohol in your blood then you are charged “Over 80”
- Failure to provide a breath sample – If the police make a request of a motorist to provide a breath sample and the request is refused, without reasonable grounds, then a criminal charge can be laid.
What are the Consequences of Impaired Driving?:
These charges are very serious and can cause you to lose your license, face potential jail time and even a criminal record. Having a criminal record can hurt your employment, credit, housing and travel opportunities.
Additionally, the ancillary effects of a conviction far outweigh the immediate fine or sentence. Upon a finding of guilt for impaired driving (or “over 80” or “DUI”), insurance premiums will skyrocket, there will be a mandatory driving suspension for a period of one year, as well as remedial programs imposed by the government to transition back into driving (such as ignition interlock systems installed in vehicles). All of this comes with a considerable expense and unbearable inconvenience to those people who rely upon their driving for work and day to day purposes. Other consequences may include -
- 90 Day Automatic License Suspension
- Drivers License Suspension ranging from 1 year on your first offence to a lifetime for your third offence
- Minimum jail sentences from 30 to 120 days
- Installation of an Ignition Interlock
- Completing a mandatory educational program
Because the penalties can be great in these cases it is important to have an experienced lawyer defend your case. DUI charges can be complicated, and an expert understanding of the situation and the law are required to secure your future. Jeffrey Reisman will fight for your case and his years of experience may result in the charges being withdrawn or substantially reduced. He has extensive trial experience in the United States and Canada and will be able to walk you through each step of your defence. He will never leave you in the dark about your case.
How urgent is it to hire a lawyer for my impaired driving charge?
Unfortunately, there is no simple, or inexpensive way to address impaired driving charges. Even though lawyers' fees may be high, they will often pale in comparison to the money spent on insurance and other matters if a conviction is registered. Therefore, do not agree to plead guilty until you understand whether there are defences that apply to your case, and what the consequences are of a conviction like this.
What can an Impaired Driving Lawyer Do to Help?
Obviously a person can approach this however they wish. The choice on whether to hire an impaired driving lawyer or not is up to the person charged with the offence. However, delaying this decision can also have consequences as there are time limits on different approaches for these types of offences in Ontario.
In particular, if a person decides to plead guilty early they are eligible for “Stream A” or “Stream B” license reinstatement and reduced driving prohibitions. For those charges in Ontario, a detailed explanation of the differences between such programs can be found at the Ministry of Transportation website on impaired driving consequences and the Back on Track Program.
Depending on the facts of your case, entering such a program may or may not be advisable. However, those decisions need to be made promptly and no less than 90 days from the date of the offence in the case of “Stream A” allowances. This is why it is very important to obtain proper legal advice and assistance at the earliest opportunity so that a prudent course of action can be decided upon by the alleged offender. In short, speak to a lawyer as soon as possible regardless of your intended course of action so you can fully appreciate the consequences to your actions and whether there is any way to avoid culpability, including proving one’s innocence.
Do I really need a lawyer for impaired driving charges?
Impaired driving is an extremely complicated and specialized area of law that requires a great deal of experience and knowledge to understand what the issues may be as it relates to your case. To name only a few common aspects:
- Can the Crown prove the person was in “care and control” of the motor vehicle at the time of the offence?
- Was there an intention or act of driving even if they had constructive care and control of the vehicle (for example, found drunk sleeping in a running car to keep warm)?
- Were the devices used approved in law?
- Were the devices in proper working order and maintained in accordance with manufacturer specifications?
- Did the police engage the testing as soon as practicable?
- Were there any constitutional violations in obtaining the samples or observations of impairment?
- Was the person detained in excess of what they ought to have been in the circumstances?
- Do the observations made prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was impaired at the time?
- Does new provisions under the Criminal Code to establish impairment by drug meet sufficient levels of reliability or are they junk science?
As mentioned, this is only a small fraction of the types of issues a lawyer will look at in assessing the merit to defending an impaired driving / over 80 charge that a client may be facing. Even though a person has an absolute right to defend themselves, they also have an absolute right to try and take out their own wisdom teeth – neither decision will end well.