If you have been charged with impaired driving in Toronto, you are not alone. In 2016 there were 14,765 police-reported alcohol DUI incidents in Ontario. In 2015, there were 3,500 in Toronto.
Just because you have been charged, does not mean you will be found guilty. In 2015/2016, there were 9,250 findings of guilt in Ontario for impaired driving. In 2015, less than 54% of cases result in a finding of guilt in Ontario. You can greatly increase your chances of being one of the 46% who are not found guilty by hiring one of our skilled criminal defence lawyers. Indeed, the vast majority of our cases result in a positive result for our client.
In Canada “Impaired Driving” is the catch-all term that refers to 3 criminal offences:
Driving or being in care and control of a vehicle while your ability to do so is impaired by alcohol or drugs,
Driving or being in care and control of a vehicle while your blood-alcohol level is over the legal limit, and
Failing or refusing to provide a breath sample.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) are American terms that are commonly used in Canada to refer to Impaired Driving. You may have been charged with one or two of these offences.
At Strategic Criminal Defence, we have developed a very strong focus on defending drug and alcohol-related driving offences. Collectively, our team has defended thousands of impaired driving charges, and we have the experience and knowledge needed to provide you with sound advice on the best way to handle your matter. Set up a meeting with one of our criminal defence lawyers at our Edmonton office, and we will be able to review your case and help you quickly determine the most effective and efficient way to defend your impaired driving charges.
The Impaired Driving Investigation
Your impaired driving charge likely began with being stopped by police. You may have been stopped at a checkstop with a number of other vehicles, or you may have been subject to a ‘roving checkstop’. In Canada, police are legally allowed to stop your vehicle for the purpose of checking whether you are impaired by alcohol or drugs. Both the Ontario Provincial Police and the Toronto Police Service conduct roving checkstops in which vehicles are randomly pulled over.
A police officer then likely asked for your driver’s licence, and asked if you had been drinking. At this point, the police officer is determining if he or she has ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ you are impaired by alcohol. This is a high standard, so the Criminal Code allows the police officer to demand that you provide a roadside breath sample if he or she ‘has a reasonable suspicion that you have alcohol in your body’. If a police officer asked you to provide a roadside sample, and you are in the Greater Toronto Area, you likely provided a sample into the Draeger Alcotest 6810. The Ontario Provincial Police, the Toronto Police Service, the Peel Regional Police, and the York Regional Police all use the Draeger Alcotest 6810. Other roadside devices include the Alcotest(R) 7410 GLC and the Alco-Sensor FST.
After you provided a sample into the roadside device, the police officer likely arrested you, asked if you wanted to contact a lawyer, and demanded that you provide more samples of your breath at the police station or checkstop bus. Most people don’t know this, but the breath sample that you gave on the roadside device (if you gave one) cannot be used against you in court to prove impairment or that you were over the legal limit. Therefore, the police must take the ‘evidentiary samples’ from a different device at the police station of checkstop bus. The ‘evidentiary’ device is called the Intoxilyzer® 8000C. Like all machines, it is not perfect, and requires maintenance at times. If the maintenance records show it was functioning improperly, or no maintenance records exist, this may raise a defence for your case.
If you decided not to call a lawyer before providing a sample of your breath, or did not like the advice the lawyer gave you on the phone, it’s not too late. Contact one of our skilled criminal defence lawyers to determine your best defence.
The Driving Suspension
Even though you have only been charged with impaired driving, and not yet found guilty, you will already face some consequences. In the Greater Toronto Area, if you are charged with impaired driving, you will have to contend with an ‘administrative licence suspension’ that will last for 90 days, and you can also expect your vehicle to be impounded for 7 days. In some cases, you may be able to appeal this suspension (for mistake of identity or medical reason for refusing a breath sample), so it is important that you contact one of our criminal defence lawyers as soon as possible.
The Sentence for Impaired Driving
Individuals found guilty of impaired driving face a heavy penalty. Because impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada, the Canadian government has implemented stiff mandatory minimum sentences for those who are found guilty of alcohol/drug related driving offences.
If you are convicted of impaired driving in the Greater Toronto Area (or anywhere in Canada for that matter), you will automatically face a minimum of a $1000.00 fine, and a minimum 1 year driving prohibition. For a second offence, you will automatically face a minimum 30 days in jail, and a driving prohibition of at least 2 years. On a third offence, you will face a minimum of 120 days in jail, and a driving prohibition of at least three years. The maximum penalty for impaired driving in Canada is 5 years in jail.
If death of bodily harm occurred as a result of the impaired driving charges, the sentence will likely involve jail, with the maximums being 10 years for bodily harm or a life sentence if death occurs. The length of the jail can vary greatly depending on the particular circumstances of the case and the effectiveness of the lawyer. Moreover, such cases are often very complicated and require extensive research and court submissions, so it’s important to have the best representation possible.
In the Greater Toronto Area, there is also an automatic Victim Fine Surcharge which increases the fine by 30%. Impaired driving is a criminal offence, not a traffic offence, so you will not get any demerit points. If you are found to have a ‘warning’ level of alcohol content in your blood, (0.05 – 0.08), police may suspend your licence and give you a fine, this is a traffic ticket but it does not include any demerits.
Impaired Driving Ignition Interlock Program
Despite the mandatory minimum driving prohibitions, you may be allowed to drive even after being convicted of impaired driving. This is possible through the ignition interlock device program. The ignition interlock program is a government program that you can participate in with leave of the Court. If you are allowed to participate in the interlock device program, after 3 months from your conviction you will be allowed to install a ignition interlock device (a ‘blow-box’) in your vehicle that will allow you to drive only when you have no alcohol in your body. If this is your second offence, you will not be eligible for the program until 6 months after your conviction, and 12 months if this is your third offence.
In the Greater Toronto Area, the Ignition Interlock Device Program is divided into 2 “Streams”. Stream A allows you to drive with an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle after 3 months from being convicted. Stream B allows you to drive with the device after 6 months from being convicted.
To qualify for Stream A, you must:
Plead guilty and be convicted of the offence,
Be sentenced to a driving prohibition within 90 days of the date of the offence, and
Meet the program’s other eligibility requirements.
If you do not plead guilty to the offence within 90 days or you are otherwise found ineligible for Stream A, you may still be eligible for Stream B. In order to learn more about your eligibility for the ignition interlock device program, contact one of our criminal lawyers right away. We will be able to provide you with more information about your options, and can help get you driving again as soon as possible.
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