The charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a common one in Ontario courts. Given that Canada’s drunk-driving death rate is the worst among rich countries, prosecutors tend to take this offence extremely seriously, and if you have been charged with driving over 80, you may face stiff fines or even jail time.
But just because you have been charged with this offense does not necessarily mean you will be convicted or that you will face the maximum penalty. Your chances of winning a DUI case in Ontario depend on a number of factors, including:
- The circumstances of your arrest
- Your prior criminal record
- Your breathalyzer test
- The strength of your defence
Even if you have been pulled over by the police and found to be over 0.08, you will not necessarily end up with a criminal record. This is why it is so important to have a criminal lawyer in Toronto to advise you on your legal options.
In this post, we’ll be exploring Ontario’s impaired driving laws and looking at some of the ways you can improve your chances of winning a DUI case in Ontario court. A good defence may not result in an acquittal, but as we will see, it can play a huge role in reducing your potential sentence and ensuring a single indiscretion doesn’t come to define your life.
Understanding Ontario’s DUI Laws
Ontario, like many other jurisdictions in North America, has designed its DUI laws to prevent drivers from getting behind the wheel when they are too intoxicated to safely operate a vehicle. A driver is understood to be impaired when they have more than 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, hence the common term “driving over 80.”
While the DUI charges are most frequently laid against those driving cars or trucks, the law applies to anyone operating a motor vehicle, including:
- Motor boats
- ATVS/Off-road vehicles
Police are allowed to pull over any driver they suspect of being impaired, and will usually administer a breathalyzer test. You do have the right to refuse a breathalyzer in Ontario — but refusing to take a breathalyzer is itself a criminal offence, one that leads to an automatic 90-day suspension of your license, a criminal charge, and (in most cases) a court appearance.
This means that refusing to take the breathalyzer test almost certainly leads to a permanent criminal record, so you’re usually better off complying with the officer’s demands rather than trying to avoid incriminating yourself.
It should be noted that when it comes to DUI Ontario allows a certain degree of latitude to police officers — the law states that anyone operating a vehicle while over 80 is guilty of an offense, but ‘operating’ does not necessarily mean ‘driving.’ There have been cases where people sitting behind the wheel of a parked car have been charged with DUI.
If you are found to be above the legal limit, you will likely be arrested and taken in to a police station, where a second test will be administered. The bail process is usually fairly straightforward, so once you have been released from custody, you should get in touch with a criminal defence lawyer to start exploring your options in advance of your court date.
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How to Mount a Successful Defence Against DUI Charges
Even if you have been pulled over, blown over 0.08 on your breathalyzer test, and been charged with driving under the influence, you will not necessarily be found guilty of an offence and end up with a criminal record.
If you have never been charged with an offence before and are able to mount a strong defence, you may be able to get the charges dropped. Breathalyzer tests are not infallible, and officers are not allowed to violate your charter rights before, during, or after your arrest, so if the police did not follow the letter of the law when charging you, you have good odds of having the case thrown out of court.
One of the reasons it is so important to meet with a criminal defence lawyer before your plea hearing is so you can go over the elements of the case with someone who can advise you on whether or not a guilty plea is the best option. Being charged with a DUI can have a significant impact on your livelihood, and a permanent criminal record can haunt you for years to come, so before you admit guilt, be sure to get an attorney’s opinion on how you should proceed.
Due to the complex and technical nature of a DUI in Ontario, hiring a DUI lawyer who has experience working on cases such as these and has a proven track record of successfully defending clients charged with a DUI is essential. A Toronto criminal defence lawyer who specializes in drunk driving offenses will know what questions to ask and what strategies to use in pursuing an acquittal, a reduced charge, or a minimal sentence.
If you’ve never been through the court system before, your chances of winning a DUI case in Ontario after you’ve failed a breathalyzer test might seem slim. But the truth is that you rarely have anything to lose by fighting these charges in court, and this is especially true if you’ve been charged with a DUI before and want to avoid doing jail time.
Jeffrey I. Reisman has spent decades in court working both for the Crown and as a defence lawyer, and has represented many DUI cases before Ontario courts. With thousands of successful cases, he is an experienced Toronto criminal defence lawyer who has represented many people charged with impaired driving over the years.
If you want a spirited and empathetic defender who will do everything in his power to protect your civil rights and fight for an acquittal, get in touch with Jeff Reisman Law today.