Known largely by the American moniker DUI—an acronym for driving under the influence—impaired driving is the charge you’ll face in Canada and Ontario if you’re caught operating a motor vehicle (this includes cars and trucks, boats, off-road vehicles, and snowmobiles) under the influence of alcohol. In Canada, it’s a criminal offense to drive if you’ve been drinking, and Ontario is among the strictest jurisdictions in North America when it comes to impaired driving laws and enforcement.
Blood-Alcohol Level and Impaired Driving
Impaired driving is determined by your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), which measures milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. Ontario has three basic levels for impaired driving: zero, 0.05, and 0.08.
Zero-tolerance policy: This applies to young and novice drivers, and the law states that you can’t have any alcohol and legally drive if you’re under 21, or if you don’t have a G-class license (regardless of your age).
BAC of 0.05 to 0.08: Older and experienced drivers can drive with a small amount of alcohol in their bodies, but a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 (50 to 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood) will result in administrative consequences.
BAC over 0.08: Any BAC over 80 milligrams is an offense under the Criminal Code of Canada, and the consequences can be severe.
What Happens When You’re Charged with Impaired Driving in Canada?
The consequences of an impaired driving charge vary based on your age/driving experience, your blood-alcohol level, and your number of prior offenses. If you’re pulled over and provide a breath sample that puts you in one of the categories of impaired driving, you will face roadside consequences as well as additional consequences if you’re convicted. If you refuse to provide a roadside breath sample, you will be treated the same as if you blew over 80.
Long-Term Impacts of Impaired Driving Charges
One major consequence of impaired driving that people don’t often consider is the financial toll it can take. On top of the fines and penalties, impaired driving can lead to huge legal fees, costs associated with alcohol treatment and the mandatory classes, and the cost of installing the ignition interlock device, all of which can add up to thousands of dollars of debt.
Moreover, depending on the circumstances, an impaired driving charge could lead to a criminal conviction. Having a criminal record can affect your ability to travel, prevent you from getting a job, stop you from being licensed with certain professions, make it difficult to find housing, and can impact your ability to gain custody of your children.
Obtaining a Record Suspension
A Record Suspension, which used to be called a Pardon, is the process of having a criminal record removed from public access. It is possible to obtain a Record Suspension for an impaired driving conviction, but you must first meet all the conditions of your sentence—including serving jail time, completing treatment and educational courses, and paying all fines and penalties—and demonstrate that you are a law-abiding citizen.
Impaired driving is a serious offense, and in Ontario in particular, the repercussions are exceptionally strict. A conviction can result in fines and penalties, jail time, license suspension, vehicle impoundment, a criminal record, and possibly even a permanent suspension of your license.
However, even with a criminal conviction for impaired driving, it is possible to obtain a Record Suspension. If you have been convicted in the past and are looking for a second chance, fill out your application today and start getting your life back on track.