Is a DUI a Criminal Offence in Canada?

Alexander Karapancev

Alexander Karapancev

The simple answer is yes, DUI is a criminal offence in Canada. Under Canadian criminal law, driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a crime. 

In recent years, there has been a major evolution in drunk driving laws. Recent revisions to the Criminal Code have made it easier for the Crown to secure convictions. The consequences of a conviction have also been increased. The technical nature of drunk driving charges makes it necessary to retain lawyers that have a great deal of experience in this field.

What is a DUI in Canada?

The following criminal offences are associated with drinking and driving in Canada:

• Impaired driving;
• Failing to provide a breath sample;
• Driving “over 80” (when the concentration of alcohol in your blood is or exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood);
• Care and control of a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs;

We are highly skilled in the complex legal issues surrounding these criminal charges. You could receive a fine or jail time if you’re found guilty. A minimum one-year driver’s licence suspension is also to be anticipated, not including suspensions imposed in accordance with the Highway Traffic Act. 

What happens if you are convicted of a DUI?

All of the above offences carry severe penalties. If you are found guilty of impaired driving, driving “over 80,” having care and control of a motor vehicle while intoxicated, or failing to provide a breath sample, you must pay at a minimum a $1,000 fine and forfeit your driving privileges for one year. Any of the aforementioned offences will result in a minimum penalty of 30 days in jail and a three-year driving restriction if you are found guilty a second time. The minimum sentence for a future offence (your third, fourth, etc.) is 120 days in jail and a ten-year driving prohibition. 

Despite the seriousness of these punishments, they have extensive financial ramifications that go far beyond the required minimum fine of $1,000 for a first offence. These expenses include the payments for the impaired driving instruction programme, the ignition interlock programme, and licence reinstatement. Insurance premiums also soar once you get back behind the wheel.

What is Impaired Driving?

Impaired driving is the criminal offence most often associated with drinking and driving. The prosecution must establish in court, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired by alcohol. Typically, police officers and other witnesses testify in court to show that the driver’s ability to drive was impaired. 

To establish impairment, police use a range of investigation approaches. You can be asked to blow into an approved screening device by the side of the road by the police. To demonstrate impairment, police may also rely on clues such unusual driving patterns or other visual proof. For instance, the police officers who stopped you might have noticed a strong alcohol odour, bloodshot eyes, or slurred speech. They can assert that you had problems standing up straight or that you lately confessed to drinking.

What is Over 80?

Under the previous drunk driving laws, it was against the law to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level more than 80 mg/100 mL of blood. The crime was consequently widely referred to as “Over 80.” 

The new laws on impaired driving changed the legal limit for alcohol and added many new “legal limits” for drugs. Driving while intoxicated is now prohibited if your blood alcohol level is 80 milligrammes or above per 100 millilitres of blood. As a result, you may now face criminal charges if your blood alcohol level is 80 milligrammes per 100 mL of blood. Although it is still often used, the term “above 80” is no longer strictly accurate. 

The amount of alcohol you’ve consumed, the alcohol content of each drink, when you drank each one, your weight, your gender, how quickly you absorbed the alcohol, and how quickly your body removed the alcohol all play a role in determining your blood alcohol level. It is impossible to anticipate a person’s blood alcohol level merely based on the amount of alcohol they have consumed because everyone metabolises alcohol differently.

What is refuse breath sample?

If you refuse a legitimate police request to blow into a breathalyser or intoxilyzer after being stopped in Toronto or elsewhere in Ontario, you could face a criminal charge. 

A person is legally required to comply with a police officer’s demand to submit to a breathalyser test if certain circumstances are met. For instance, if a person is stopped by the police for a spot check, the officer may ask them to blow into a “Approved Screening Device” at the side of the road. Other times, it can be required that the motorist go with the policeman to the station so they can give breath samples into a “Approved Instrument.” 

If you fail to provide a sample when requested by the authorities, you may be found guilty of an offence akin to driving while impaired or driving “Over 80.”

What is Drug-Impaired Driving?

Many people think that the only type of impaired driving offence in Canada is drunk driving. The use of a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance is nevertheless prohibited just the same.

Physical coordination tests may be required of you at the roadside if law enforcement suspects you are under the influence of drugs based on your driving style, general temperament, physical coordination, and/or the smell of substances (like marijuana). 

After observing you do the physical coordination tests, the police may detain you for driving under the influence if they have reasonable grounds to believe that drugs, alcohol, or both are impairing your ability to drive. After that, the police could demand that you take a DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) test.

Beat your DUI case

We have experience defending DUI cases, including impaired driving, refuse breath sample and Over 80. To increase your chances of winning your case, it is essential to hire legal representation as soon as you can after being charged. 24/7, including holidays, you can contact Karapancev Law by phone or on our website to discuss any allegation of drinking and driving.

In matters involving DUI’s, we have experience representing individuals in Toronto, Newmarket, Oshawa and throughout the Province of Ontario.

Alexander Karapancev

Alexander Karapancev

Alexander Karapancev is a Toronto criminal lawyer practicing throughout the province of Ontario. He regularly serves as lead trial counsel on serious and complex criminal cases. He is the founder of Karapancev Law, a law firm representing clients facing criminal charges, regulatory offences, and professional discipline proceedings.

Mr. Karapancev has acted as counsel in hundreds of cases throughout the province of Ontario, regularly representing clients at trials, applications, bail hearings and preliminary inquiries. He is regularly retained to defend individuals charged with serious allegations of fraud, drug trafficking, DUI offences, domestic assault, and sexual assault. Prior to founding his law firm, Mr. Karapancev practiced criminal defence at a boutique Toronto law firm and also served as a per diem Crown prosecutor.

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