What Do I Need to Know About DUI (Impaired Driving) Charges?

Graham Zoppi & Hillson

July 10, 2015

The drinking and driving provisions of the Criminal Code were created to protect Canada’s roads and its drivers. Those provisions establish the acceptable blood alcohol content (BAC) levels for Canadian drivers. BAC is the measurement used to determine the quantity of alcohol in your bloodstream. It is expressed in milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood. Currently, the federal legal BAC is 0.08 and driving or being in care and control of a motor vehicle while exceeding this level is a criminal offence.

The Criminal Code classifies several offences related to drinking and driving, and you will hear people refer to them casually by different term, such as:

  • DUI: Driving Under the Influence
  • DWI: Driving while Intoxicated
  • DWAI: Driving while Ability (is) Impaired
  • Driving Over 80: BAC level is over 0.08.

Essentially all of them mean the same: you were operating a motor vehicle or had a motor vehicle in your care and control while either a) your ability was impaired by alcohol or b) you had a BAC greater than 0.08 at the time the police requested a breathalyzer test.

It is worth mentioning, you can still be charged with a DUI even when your BAC is 0.08 or less, if the police determine you were driving or in care and control while exhibiting indicators of impairment. This is quite often proven by the manner of driving itself, such as weaving or other erratic driving.

Once your vehicle has been stopped by police, they can ask for a roadside breath sample if they suspect you have operated a motor vehicle and consumed alcohol within a three hour period.

You don’t have to be operating a motor vehicle when the police find you in order to be charged with impaired care and control. You can be charged if there is evidence of you sitting behind the wheel of the vehicle, even while it is parked and the engine is off.

Refusing to partake in breath testing when requested by the police does not help you avoid being charged with a drinking and driving offence. Rather than being charged with Over 80, if you refuse to provide a breath sample, you will be charge with the offence of Refuse Breath Sample. If you are found guilty for this criminal offence, it carries the same penalties as being found guilty for impaired driving.

The penalties vary from one province to another in regards to license suspensions. However, as of July 2, 2008, the minimum sentencing guidelines for being found guilty of impaired driving (DUI) or Over 80 was modified. Now, all first offence DUI charges carry a minimum of a one year license suspension and a $1,000 fine. Each province has different regulations that allow you to potentially get your license back prior to the full year, but only when certain eligibility preconditions are met.

If you are stopped and charged with a drinking and driving offence, you need to retain the services of a qualified Toronto DUI lawyer. You want a lawyer with a proven track record of successes to represent your interests. In some cases, your criminal defence lawyer in Toronto may be able to resolve your charges without the need or cost of having to go to trial. For more information or to schedule a free consultation appointment to discuss your DUI charges, contact RGZLaw today by phoning 416-873-6970.