As we enter the summer months, Toronto’s COVID vaccination rollout is starting to have an effect. As of the end of May, about 55% of the population has received at least one dose, with tens of thousands more doses being administered every day. The end of lockdown cycles may finally be in sight.

For many of us, it has been over a year since we’ve had to think about planning a ride home from the bar, or from a friend’s party. But as we slowly begin to get back to normal in the coming months, and excitedly anticipate nights out and friendly get-togethers, it’s time for cabs and designated drivers to make a comeback, because impaired driving has serious consequences that can affect your life for years.

However, if you do make a mistake, or underestimate just how much you’ve had before you get behind the wheel, you should get in touch with a DUI lawyer in Toronto as soon as possible; Impaired driving legislation is a not a simple area of law, and having a knowledgeable, experienced lawyer at your side can make navigating a DUI less of an ordeal.

In this article, we’ll talk about the various categories of impairment, the legal repercussions of each of them, and the longer-term ramifications of having a DUI conviction on your record.

Alcohol, Cannabis, and Illicit Drugs

It is important to remember that with the introduction of legalized cannabis in Canada, Police have gained new screening tools that do more than just check your blood-alcohol level (BAC).

While alcohol and cannabis have a ‘warn’ range with lesser consequences, any detectable amount of LSD, psilocybin, psilocin (aka magic mushrooms), ketamine, PCP, cocaine, methamphetamine or 6-mam (a metabolite of heroin) falls under the prohibited levels category, explained below.

Zero Tolerance Drivers

In Ontario, any driver under the age of 21, as well as a novice driver of any age whatsoever, must have no alcohol, cannabis or other screenable drug in their system at all. This applies to anyone with a G1, G2, M1, or M2 licence, as well as commercial drivers in control of a vehicle requiring an A-F class licence or a Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration.

In this category, there are immediate penalties that do not require a court hearing, and depend on whether you have committed an offence previously:

  • 1st offence: three-day licence suspension and $250 fine
  • 2nd offence (within 5 years): seven-day licence suspension, $350 fine, and mandatory course
  • 3rd/subsequent offence (within 5 years): 30-day licence suspension, #450 fine, mandatory course, use of an ignition interlock device, and a mandatory medical evaluation.

Drivers under the age of 21 can also be charged under the Highway Traffic Act and any conviction would result in a further suspension of at least 30 days, and a fine up to $500. The immediate penalties cannot be appealed, but if you are charged, then it is appropriate to involve criminal lawyers in Toronto to hopefully mitigate the additional penalties.

Warn Range

The warn range applies to a specific range of intoxication which only applies to alcohol and cannabis. For alcohol, the range is a BAC of .05 to .08, and for cannabis, it is 2.5-5ng of THC/ml of blood. This category has the same immediate penalties as the zero tolerance category. However, conviction carries very serious additional penalties:

  • 1st offence: minimum $1000 fine, maximum 10 years imprisonment
  • 2nd offence: minimum 30 days to maximum 10 years imprisonment
  • 3rd offence: minimum 120 days to maximum 10 years imprisonment

Clearly, even in the warn range, impaired driving charges carry significant consequences.

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Prohibited Levels

A prohibited level of impairment refers to a BAC over .08, THC/ml levels over 5ng, or any detectable level of illicit drugs. This category has its own set of immediate penalties:

  • 90-day licence suspension
  • Seven-day vehicle impoundment
  • $550 fine
  • $281 licence reinstatement fee

In the event of a 2nd offence, a mandatory course or treatment program will be added to the list above. In the event of a 3rd offence, you will also need to use an ignition interlock device for at least 6 months.

This category has the same conviction penalties as the warn range, but there are additional conviction penalties for Ontarians, as you will see below.

Ontario-Specific Conviction Penalties

The conviction penalties listed for the warn range and prohibited levels are federal, and apply to all provinces. However, each province has different additional penalties, and Ontario impaired driving laws are especially severe. They are as follows:

  • 1st offence: minimum one-year licence suspension, use of an ignition interlock device for at least 1 year
  • 2nd offence (within 10 years): minimum three-year licence suspension, use of an ignition interlock device for at least 3 years
  • 3rd offence (within 10 years): potential lifetime licence suspension, use of an ignition interlock device for at least 6 years

Also, whether it is your first offence or not, there is also a mandatory education course or treatment program, as well as a mandatory medical evaluation.

Impaired Driving Causing Bodily Harm or Death

So far, we’ve only looked at the legal consequences of being caught while impaired behind the wheel. But any time you drive while impaired, you risk much more than your own life, money and freedom. You also risk others.

If you are convicted of harming someone while driving impaired, you can be sentenced to up to 14 years imprisonment, and if someone dies as a result of your impaired driving, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

The consequences of impaired driving are many and varied, and the legal process surrounding impaired driving charges is very complex. If you have been charged with a DUI, consider booking a free consultation with us, and learn how we can help you navigate this very difficult time.

If you don’t have any outstanding charges, but are just excited to get out of the house and enjoy the summer, don’t forget to plan your ride home — impaired driving has serious consequences that can affect your life for years. And if you’ve been charged with impaired driving, make sure to call Jeff Reisman Law for the best possible defence in court.