Impaired Driving/DUI Lawyers in Toronto

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In Canada, impaired driving is a serious offence under the Criminal Code, encompassing actions such as operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs, failing to provide a breath sample, and driving with a blood alcohol concentration exceeding the legal limit. The repercussions of an impaired driving conviction are profound, affecting not only your driver's license and insurance premiums but also your current employment and future job opportunities. 

Are you facing a charge of impaired driving in Canada? Don't navigate the legal system alone. At Pyzer Criminal Lawyers, our team leverages extensive experience defending impaired driving charges. We can help you navigate these complex legal waters and avoid mandatory penalties. Our team meticulously analyzes every detail of your case to build a strong defence strategy tailored to your unique situation. We understand the significant impact of an impaired driving conviction and strive for the best possible outcome in each case. It's crucial to seek seasoned legal advice early to ensure your rights are protected throughout the legal process.

What is Considered Impaired Driving?

Operation while impaired, as defined in section 320.14 of the Criminal Code of Canada, encompasses a range of offences related to operating a conveyance while impaired. Impaired in this context can mean impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. This includes situations where your blood alcohol or drug concentration exceeds the legal limits within two hours of ceasing to operate the vehicle. Canadian law is stringent: it not only prohibits driving while under the influence but also categorizes exceeding these legal concentration limits as a criminal offence.

The term "motor vehicle" includes not just cars and trucks but also extends to industrial equipment, farm tractors and other motorized vehicles such as snowmobiles, broadening the scope of what can constitute an impaired driving offence. The repercussions of an impaired driving conviction are substantial, leading to a criminal record and potential loss of driving privileges.

What Does Impaired Mean?

The Criminal Code does not explicitly define “impaired”. The term does, however, extend beyond the common misconception that it solely pertains to alcohol consumption. As mentioned above, in the context of Canadian law, impairment while driving can result from the use of alcohol, drugs, or both, significantly affecting an individual's ability to operate a vehicle safely. 

It is important to note that impairment does not necessarily equate to being over the legal limits for blood-alcohol or blood-drug concentration. Instead, the critical factor is the measurable impact on your driving capabilities due to substance consumption.

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The Role of a Criminal Lawyer in Impaired Driving Cases

Faced with impaired driving can be daunting. You might feel like the legal system is stacked against you, and the potential long-term consequences could be severe. That's why it's important to understand how a skilled criminal lawyer can help you navigate this difficult situation. A good criminal lawyer will do more than file paperwork. They'll carefully examine every aspect of your case, no matter how complex, and strategically challenge the evidence against you. 

One key area where a lawyer's expertise is invaluable is contesting the results of breathalyzer tests. Lawyers often scrutinize the equipment's calibration and the proper administration of the test. Similarly, the validity of field sobriety tests can be questioned, mainly focusing on the administering officer's training and interpretation accuracy.

Moreover, experienced lawyers are adept at engaging in plea negotiations with prosecutors, aiming to reduce charges or lessen penalties based on the specifics of the case. They develop tailored defence strategies that highlight each client's unique circumstances and narrative, ensuring a personalized approach to legal defence. 

By advocating for favourable bail conditions and diligently upholding your rights throughout the legal process, a dedicated lawyer ensures that every facet of your case is managed with the utmost care and professionalism, reinforcing the indispensable role of legal representation in achieving the best possible outcome in impaired driving cases.

Different Types of Impaired Driving Charges That We Defend Against

Impaired driving encompasses all the specific types of offences where someone operates a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. The specific charges can be found in section 320.14—Operation while impaired—of the Criminal Code.

At Pyzer Criminal Lawyers, we handle a variety of impaired driving charges, each with its unique legal nuances and complexities. From "driving over 80"  to operation while impaired and even the less straightforward "care and control" scenarios—we are prepared to defend against all these accusations.

Operation While Impaired (s. 320.14(1)(a))

Operation while impaired makes it an offence for anyone to operate a vehicle if their ability to do so is impaired to any degree by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. This means that it is illegal for you to drive a car, truck, motorcycle, boat, or any other vehicle if your mental or physical abilities are even slightly affected by alcohol or drugs. The law does not require you to be severely impaired—even slight impairment is against the law.

Operation While Over 80 (s. 320.14(1)(b))

This is also known as “driving over 80” or simply “over 80”. This offence arises when an individual is found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeding 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood while operating or being in the care and control of a motor vehicle. This specific charge focuses on the concentration (“over 80”) rather than the impairment caused by the alcohol. This hinges on the measurement obtained via a breathalyzer or blood test, which legally substantiates that the driver was beyond the permissible alcohol limit.

Blood Drug Concentration Equal to or Exceeding That Prescribed By Regulation (s. 320.14(1)(c))

This section makes it an offence to have a blood drug concentration (BDC) equal to or exceeding the prescribed limit within two hours of ceasing to operate a vehicle. This means that if you have consumed drugs and then drive, and a subsequent blood test within two hours shows a BDC at or above the legal limit, you can be charged with this offence. Prohibited BDC limits are set by regulation and vary by drug.

Combined BAC and BDC Equal to or Exceeding That Prescribed by Regulation (s. 320.14(1)(d))

It’s an offence to have a combination of BAC and BDC equal to or exceeding the prescribed limit within two hours of ceasing to operate a vehicle. This means that if you have consumed both alcohol and drugs and then drive, and a subsequent test within two hours shows a BAC and BDC that together exceed the legal limit, you can be charged with this offence. The prohibited combination limit is set by regulation.

Offences under s. 320.14 (excluding s. 320.14(4) — operation with low blood drug concentrations — which is a straight summary conviction) are hybrid offences and carries the following penalties: 

  • Summary conviction: 2 years less a day or $5,000 fine
  • Indictment: Maximum of 10 years incarceration. 

Impaired Driving-Adjacent Offences

Impaired driving charges often center on the act of driving itself. However, it's important to understand that you can be charged with impaired driving-related offences even if you weren't caught actively driving. We will discuss a few of these offences next. 

Care and Control (s. 253(1), repealed)

This now-repealed section includes the concept of "impaired care and control." This meant you could be charged with impaired driving even if you weren't actively driving a vehicle. The key is whether you were impaired and had the potential to set the vehicle in motion.  For example, sitting in the driver's seat with the engine running or having the keys in the ignition could be enough for a "care and control" charge.

Refusal to Provide a Breath or Blood Sample (s. 320.15)

Refusal to provide a breath or blood sample when requested by a police officer who has reasonable grounds to suspect impaired driving is a criminal offence in terms of the Criminal Code of Canada. This charge is levied when an individual either outright declines or fails to adequately comply with a demand for testing during a suspicion of impaired driving investigation. Such refusal includes cases where the individual does not blow into the breathalyzer properly or where the sample provided is insufficient for testing.

Offences under this section are hybrid with a Crown election. This means the prosecution (the Crown) has the discretion to choose whether to proceed with the case as a less serious summary conviction offence or a more serious indictable offence. The penalties for each are:

  • Summary conviction: 2 years less a day
  • Indictment: Maximum of 10 years incarceration

Dangerous Operation (s. 320.13)

This section makes it an offence to operate a “conveyance”  (such as a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or railway equipment) in a manner that is considered dangerous to the public, regardless of whether an accident occurs or if other road users are present at the time. For example, if you drive at extremely high speeds, weaving in and out of traffic, running red lights, and generally operating the vehicle in a reckless manner, you could be charged with Dangerous Operation, even if you don't cause a collision. 

Legal prosecution under this category can escalate to more severe charges if the dangerous operation results in bodily harm or death. Under this statute, there are three distinct categories: Dangerous Operation (s. 320.13(3)), Dangerous Operation Causing Bodily Harm (s. 320.13(2)), and Dangerous Operation Causing Death (s. 320.13(3)), each carrying progressively severe penalties. The penalties for each of these categories are as follows:

  • Dangerous Operation: This is a hybrid offence with a maximum penalty of 2 years less a day on summary conviction and up to 10 years incarceration on indictment. 
  • Dangerous Operation Causing Bodily Harm: The same penalties apply to this offence as to dangerous operation, except on indictment, you can face up to 14 years in prison. 
  • Dangerous Operation Causing Death: This charge is straight indictable and carries a maximum penalty of life in jail.

Other Penalties for Impaired Driving and Related Convictions

In addition to the fines and potential jail time mentioned above, impaired driving and related convictions can result in various additional consequences depending on whether this is your first conviction, section conviction, or a subsequent conviction. These include:

  • License Suspension: Your driver's license may be suspended immediately upon arrest and for an extended period following conviction.
  • Education or Treatment Program: You may be required to complete an educational program or a treatment program for substance abuse.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: This device is installed in your vehicle and requires you to provide a breath sample before starting the engine.
  • Mandatory Medical Evaluation: You may be required to undergo a medical evaluation to assess your fitness to drive.
  • Lifetime Driving Prohibition: In cases of multiple offences or extreme impairment, you could face a lifetime driving prohibition.

These penalties reflect the seriousness with which Canadian law treats impaired driving, emphasizing both punitive measures and preventive steps to deter future offences. 

At Pyzer Criminal Lawyers, we aim to provide our clients with a comprehensive understanding of these penalties and the potential impact on their lives, while working diligently to mitigate these outcomes through skilled legal representation.

Defending Against Impaired Driving Charges in Toronto

Facing an impaired driving charge in Toronto can be daunting, but there are numerous defences available that can be utilized to challenge the allegations. At Pyzer Criminal Lawyers, we are experienced in exploring all potential legal defences to help our clients navigate the complexities of their cases.

Challenging the Police Stop

Challenging the legality of the police stop is a critical defence in cases of impaired driving. Under Canadian law, a police officer must have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a driver is impaired or has committed a driving offence before initiating a traffic stop. This requirement is designed to protect individuals from arbitrary or unjustified police actions. 

Examples of reasonable grounds include observable violations of traffic laws, erratic driving patterns, or information from a credible source about the driver's behaviour. However, if it can be demonstrated that the police acted without reasonable and probable grounds, the evidence gathered during the stop, including any breathalyzer results, may be deemed inadmissible in court. 

Faulty Breathalyzer Test

A faulty breathalyzer test can be a significant factor in defending against impaired driving charges. Though widely used, breathalyzers are not infallible and are susceptible to a range of errors, from mechanical faults to operator mishandling. 

This defence strategy often involves questioning the reliability of the breathalyzer results presented in court. This can include probing the device's calibration and maintenance records, the operator's training and proficiency, and the actual procedure followed during the testing. Errors such as the use of outdated or improperly maintained equipment, improper test administration, or even environmental factors affecting the device can all lead to inaccurate readings.

Insufficient Evidence of Impairment

When defending against impaired driving charges, highlighting the insufficiency of evidence regarding actual impairment is a key strategy. In Canadian law, the burden of proof rests on the Crown to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was impaired at the time of operation. This requires not just showing the presence of alcohol or drugs, but also demonstrating how these substances affected the individual's ability to drive. This approach involves challenging any ambiguities or weaknesses in the prosecution's evidence, arguing that without clear and convincing proof of impairment, the charges should not stand.

Charter Rights Violations

Violations of Charter rights can play a critical role in defending against impaired driving charges. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees certain protections upon arrest or detention, such as the right to be informed of the reasons for arrest, the right to legal counsel without delay, and the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. 

If it is determined that your Charter rights were violated, such as not being promptly informed of your right to a lawyer, or if there was an unreasonable delay in providing access to counsel, these violations can significantly impact the admissibility of evidence or even result in dismissal of the charges.

Testing Delays

Testing delays in administering breathalyzers or blood tests can be a significant defence in impaired driving cases. According to the Criminal Code of Canada, to ensure accuracy and reliability,  any BAC test must be conducted within two hours of the time the accused was last operating the vehicle. Tests conducted outside this window may not accurately reflect the BAC at the time of driving, which is crucial for a valid impaired driving charge.

Contact an Experienced DUI Lawyer Today

If you or someone you know is facing impaired driving or adjacent charges, it is crucial to seek professional legal assistance immediately. At Pyzer Criminal Lawyers, we are dedicated to providing robust legal representation for those charged with impaired driving and impaired driving offences. Our team understands the complexities of impaired driving laws and employs a thorough, detail-oriented approach to each case.

Contacting an experienced DUI lawyer early can significantly influence the outcome of your case. Our lawyers are prepared to evaluate your situation, guide you through the legal process, and develop a strategy to achieve the best possible result given the particulars of your case. Remember, the choices you make immediately following an impaired driving charge can impact your future.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when a person is arrested for impaired driving?

When a person is arrested for impaired driving, the process typically begins with the police stopping that person’s vehicle based on reasonable suspicion of impaired driving. The individual is then subjected to sobriety tests and may be asked to provide a breath sample to measure BAC. If the officer has sufficient evidence of impairment, the person will be formally arrested and taken to a police station for further testing. 

Upon arrest, the individual has the right to be informed of the reasons for arrest and their right to legal counsel. However, refusing sobriety tests or providing breath/fluid samples is itself a criminal offence in Canada. It can lead to the same penalties as those for impaired driving convictions.

What are the chances of getting an impaired driving charge dismissed?

The likelihood of getting an impaired driving charge dismissed depends on various factors, including the specifics of the case and the quality of the defence strategy. While Crown attorneys typically vigorously pursue impaired driving charges, dismissals can occur if there are procedural errors, insufficient evidence, or violations of the accused's Charter rights. These might include mistakes during the police stop, unreliable evidence of impairment, or breaches in the rights to legal counsel and protection against unreasonable search and seizure. 

Will an impaired driving conviction affect my auto insurance?

Yes, an impaired driving conviction will significantly affect your auto insurance. Following a conviction, insurance providers may increase your premiums dramatically, often doubling or more compared to standard rates. Additionally, some insurers might choose not to renew your policy at all, making it challenging to find affordable coverage. This increase reflects the higher risk associated with insuring someone who has been convicted of impaired driving, as insurers view them as more likely to be involved in accidents or other liability issues.

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