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Criminal Law

Driving Under The Influence

Impaired driving is defined as operating or having control or care of a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. Impaired drivers can be charged with impaired driving, driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, or both. Although the allowable blood alcohol concentration differs from province to province, in Ontario the warn range is between 0.05 and 0.08.

Impaired driving has been considered a Federal Criminal Offence since 1921 and it is the most common criminal offence in Canada. In an effort to discourage the prominence of impaired driving in Canada and curb the dangers associated with driving under the influence, the Canadian Government imposed more rigid restrictions and serious penalties for this crime in 2008.

If you are driving while impaired, a police officer can impose immediate penalties such as impounding your vehicle. If you are convicted of a DUI, additional consequences are applied based on your age, license type, the amount of alcohol or drugs in your system, how many times you have been convicted and whether any harm was caused to others. 

Although most DUI’s are still prosecuted as summary convictions, being convicted of driving under the influence will result in a criminal record, large monetary fines and the possibility of jail time for multiple offenders. It will also affect an individual’s right to operate a motor vehicle in a number of ways, up to and including the loss of your driver’s license indefinitely. 

If a police officer has reasonable grounds to pursue a breath, blood or urine test and you refuse the test without a reasonable excuse, this can be considered a criminal offence.  

Refusing testing can lead to a 90-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle impoundment, mandatory attendance at an education or treatment program for those with second and multiple occurrences and/or the implementation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for third and subsequent occurrences.

Young and Novice Drivers

In accordance with the “zero tolerance” or “zero BAC” rule introduced by the Government of Canada in 2008, individuals under the age of 21 and novice drivers of any age (holding a G1, G2, M1 or M2) cannot have any presence of alcohol or drugs in their blood while driving. This includes having alcohol or drugs that have remained in the blood well after they were consumed (i.e. depending on the amount consumed, alcohol or drugs can remain in the body after a night of sleeping and while you drive in the morning). 

As recreational marijuana becomes legalized in Canada, it is also illegal for drivers under the age of 21 and novice drivers to have any traces of cannabis in their system while operating a vehicle. Police and other authorities have been given the right to detect drugs through an oral fluid screening device if the grounds for such a test are deemed reasonable. 

If you are a young or novice driver that operates a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, cannabis or other drugs and this is detected by a police officer, the consequences will be severe and could result in criminal charges and loss of driving privileges.

Medical Canabis Users

There are individuals who are legally allowed to obtain and consume marijuana for medical reasons. These individuals are not subject to Ontario’s zero tolerance rule for young and novice drivers. However, criminal charges may still be sought if a police officer determines that your ability to drive while under the influence of medical marijuana has been impaired.

A criminal record caused by a DUI can have damaging consequences that extend outside of your ability to drive. A DUI can affect potential or current employment by way of background checks, your ability to travel outside of Canada as well as your ability to secure insurance. 

DUI charges for drivers of any age and holding any license are hinged on the discretion of the police officer who determined your level of intoxication and the reasonable grounds through which they pursued a field sobriety test. With the right professional guidance through your Charter rights, a DUI charge does not have to lead to a conviction and a conviction does not have to lead to the harshest sentence. If you have been charged with impaired driving of any kind, a call to Vishal Sharma can help you figure out your rights and the potential outcomes of your case.

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