Toronto DUI, Impaired Driving, and Over 80 Offences Lawyers
What to do if you’re charged with a DUI or Driving Offence in Ontario?
A conviction for any driving offence has serious consequences. Some driving offences carry mandatory minimum jail sentences. And any driving offence – no matter how serious or trivial – carries the real risk of a permanent criminal record, which can have life changing consequences. A criminal record can make it harder to enter certain professions, to get a job, or to travel to the United States. Driving offences often lead to automatic driver’s lience suspensions that can last for years.
Our firm has a lot of experience defending people charged with driving offences all across Ontario. We know how to craft a defence to these charges, to find and preserve the evidence needed to back it up, and to marshal that evidence in court to provide the best defence possible to the charge. We also use our experience in the court system to successfully negotiate withdrawals and other resolutions to many charges before they ever get to trial. Sometimes, trials can’t be avoided, and in that case having a lawyer with a proven track record in Court is the most important thing you can do to help your case. You need a lawyer who can persuasively tell your story and present your defence through cross-examination, by preparing you to testify, and by using the law and the facts to persuasively argue your defence in closing submissions.
If you have been charged with a DUI or a driving offence, or believe that you might be, contact us using the form on this web page immediately for a free consultation about your case.
DUI Offences in Canada
In Ontario, drinking and driving charges are criminal offences governed by the Criminal Code. Some examples of driving offense in Canada include driving while impaired by alcohol, driving with more than 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 mililitres of blood (Over 80), and refusing to provide a breath sample.
Section 320.14(1) of the Criminal Code criminalizes impaired driving. In order to prove impaired driving, the Crown must prove not only that the accused had alcohol in their system, but also that their ability to drive was impaired by the alcohol. To assess whether someone was impaired, the court examines evidence about the accused person’s driving, their coordination, and their comprehension. Evidence of erratic driving, weaving through traffic, crossing the centre line, or crashing the vehicle can all be used to support an inference of impaired driving. Evidence of signs of impairment like bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and the odour of alcohol will also be considered.
Section 320.14(1) of the Criminal Code also makes it an offence to drive with a blood concentration equal to or above .80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. Unlike impaired driving, this offence does not require any proof of impairment. The Crown simply needs to prove that the accused’s alcohol concentration in their blood exceeded the legal limits. This concentration is usually proven through an analysis of the breath samples obtained by the police through a breathalyzer.
Refusing to provide a breath sample:
Section 320.15(1) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to fail or refuse to comply with a breath demand made by a police officer. The consequences of a conviction for this offence are similar to impaired driving or over 80. All of these offences lead to a criminal conviction, licence suspension, and insurance consequences. The offence requires the Crown to prove that the police made a legal demand for the breath sample, and that the accused intentionally failed to provide the required sample.
What are the defences to a DUI or drinking and driving offences?
Defending against DUI’s is complicated. Parliament has made a series of amendments to the Criminal Code that are all designed to reduce an accused person’s rights and to make it harder to defend against these charges in court. Some of those amendments are being constitutionally challenged in court. However, there are still many defences to DUI offences. These range from challenging the evidence of impairment at trial, discrediting the validity of the breath test results, to challenging the conduct of the police throughout the investigation. Undermining an officer’s grounds for the initial breath demand is a common way of defending these types of charges. In addition, after the initial breath demand is made, the police must comply with the accused’s Charter rights and ensure that the breath test is conducted within a reasonable time. It is important to carefully examine the police conduct at every step of the investigation to determine if the police have provided a truthful account of their investigation, and whether the investigation complied with the Charter and the unique rules around investigating driving offences.
Frequently asked questions about DUI and driving offences:
When are the police allowed to pull someone over and request a breath sample?
Provincial legislation sets out when the police are allowed to stop and investigate drivers for driving offences. In Ontario, the Highway Traffic Act governs these powers. It empowers the police to stop people to investigate driving offences, including drinking and driving. It also allows police to set up stop checkpoints to pull vehicles over in order to check for signs of drinking and driving (these are known as R.I.D.E. programs).
The police do not need any basis to pull a driver over to investigate a driving offence. The police do not need to suspect someone has consumed alcohol or is impaired in order to start their investigation. However, this does not mean that the police are allowed to demand that anybody provide a breath test at any time. Before the police can require someone to provide a breath sample, the officer must reasonably suspect that the person has alcohol in their system. Once the police have that suspicion, they can require the driver to provide a breath sample.
At the roadside, the testing device will either return a “pass,” “warn” or “fail”. Evidence of a failed test is not itself evidence of the alcohol concentration in someone’s blood. However, it is used to justify demanding another breath sample into an “approved instrument” that provides a more precise reading. The police will arrest a driver who fails the roadside test. This will lead to the police bringing the accused to the police station for additional tests, which will usually form the key evidence against the accused at trial.
What is the punishment for driving offences?
The Criminal Code sets out the same punishment for impaired driving, over 80, and failing to provide a breath sample. All of these offences carry a minimum $1,000 fine for a first offence, 30 days in jail for a second offence, and 120 days in jail for any subsequent offence. These offences carry a maximum punishment of 5 years in jail, and if impaired driving or over 80 result in bodily harm, the maximum punishment is 10 years’ imprisonment.
All of these offences also come with an automatic one year driving prohibition under the Highway Traffic Act for a first offence. This prohibition is often the most onerous consequence for first offenders, who depend on their cars and the licence to take care of their family, to work, buy groceries, and take children to and from school and other events. Of course, a conviction also results in a permanent criminal record.
The consequences of a drinking and driving offence are so significant that it is crucial to hire an experienced lawyer to represent you if you are charged with one of these offences. For a free consultation, contact us through the website immediately.
When can I speak to a lawyer?
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees everyone the right to speak to a lawyer upon their arrest or detention. In practice, this means that people in Canada are entitled to speak to a lawyer and get advice before they provide a breath sample at the police station. If the police fail to properly tell people about their right to counsel, and give them an opportunity to exercise that right, the subsequent evidence the police obtain (like the breath sample) may be excluded from evidence at trial.
Whether or not there is a right to counsel at the point the police demand a breath sample at roadside is more complicated. The right to counsel is not absolute, and the police have been given some latitude to delay allowing someone to call a lawyer until they get to the police station. However, some case law has held that in some cases, a person who is required to provide a roadside breath sample should be permitted to speak with a lawyer if there has been a delay in getting the breath test device to the roadside.
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