Impaired driving ( internal link once the impaired driving page is up ) is the operation a vehicle (which can include cars, trucks, boats, snowmobiles and off-road vehicles) while your ability to do so has been compromised to any degree by the consumption of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both.
Throughout Canada, the maximum legal “blood alcohol concentration” (BAC) for fully licensed drivers (in Ontario, a G license) is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, or better known as under 0.08. Driving with a BAC of 0.08 or over is a criminal offence with severe penalties.
As impaired driving is a very serious offence that affects society as a whole, Ontario has taken a stronger stance to its enforcement. In Ontario, if a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 is found, one can also face serious charges, notwithstanding the fact that it is under 0.08. This is commonly referred to as the “warn range.”
Drivers age 21 or under and novice drivers of any age (with either G1, G2, M1, or M2 licenses) must not have any presence of alcohol in their blood when behind a wheel. This is referred to as the “zero BAC” or “zero tolerance” rule.
What Happens When You Get A DUI For The First Time?
There is no warning or second chance when it comes to the seriousness of driving impaired. Therefore, even if it is someone’s first time, there are immediate penalties, which include:
A 90-day license suspension;
A $550 administrative penalty; and
A $275 licence reinstatement fee.
The individual’s vehicle will be impounded for seven days and there will be costs incurred for the amount of time it is impounded and towing fees.
These penalties occur even before there is a conviction. Once an individual is convicted with impaired driving, in addition to the penalties above, there is a minimum one-year license suspension and a fine of $1000.
How Likely Is Jail Time For A First Time DUI?
The Criminal Code of Canada (“Code”) sets out the minimum punishment for the offence of impaired driving in section 320.19(1).
An impaired driving charge is punishable by way of indictment or summary conviction. Indictment is a term used to define a more serious crime, while a summary conviction is of a less serious nature, being punishable by shorter sentences and smaller fines. Both can lead to jail time, even if it is a first offence.
The Court, when determining if jail time will be given, will look at the “aggravating circumstances” outlined in section 320.22 of the Code. Aggravating circumstances refers to the factors that increase the severity of the incident such as:
If the offence resulted in bodily harm to, or the death of, more than one person;
If the offender was operating a motor vehicle in a race with at least one other motor vehicle on a street, road or highway or in another public place;
If the passenger of the vehicle was under the age of 16 years old when the offender drove impaired;
If the offender was being remunerated for operating the conveyance;
If the offender’s blood alcohol concentration at the time of committing the offence was equal to or exceeded 120 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood;
If the offender was operating a large motor vehicle; and
If the offender was not permitted, under a federal or provincial Act, to operate the vehicle.
If the offence included any of the above, the Court may decide to punish by way of indictment (being a more serious crime).
Therefore, although the Court will consider if this is the individual’s first offence, it is not the final decider of whether there will be jail time.
Therefore, impaired driving should be avoided at all costs and if an individual is charged with impaired driving they should obtain legal counsel immediately.
How Much Jail Time For A Second DUI?
The minimum punishment for a second impaired driving conviction is imprisonment for a term of 30 days. This will also depend on the aggravating circumstances listed above. If the impaired driving results in death, the individual is liable on conviction of indictment to imprisonment for life.
How Much Jail Time For A Third DUI?
After a second offence, the Code refers to each offence after as a “subsequent offence” which holds a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of 120 days.
Depending on the aggravating circumstances listed above, and if convicted of way of indictment or summary, imprisonment can be as great as life.
Jonathan Pyzer, B.A., L.L.B, distinguished McGill University and University of Western Ontario alumnus, is a dedicated criminal defence lawyer throughout Ontario. Co-founder of Kostman & Pyzer, Barristers, he focuses on defending individual rights.