DUI in Ontario

Drinking and Driving Laws in Ontario

 Ontario’s impaired driving laws are especially extensive. According to Ontario’s Criminal Code, not only is driving while impaired illegal, but anyone having “care and control” of a vehicle while intoxicated may lose their license. “Care and control” can mean napping in the driver’s seat while you try to sober up after a night of drinking. Vehicles covered under the Highway Traffic Act include but are not exclusively limited to boats, aircraft and automobiles .

If an officer suspects you have been drinking while or shortly before getting behind the wheel, they may stop you and ask you to breath into a portal device called a breathalyzer to measure your BAC. To be charged with impaired driving, you must show visible signs of impairment or register a BAC of more than 0.08 – either is sufficient for a conviction.

However, police officers have the right to suspend a driver’s license on the spot if the driver registers a BAC of 0.05 or higher. Refusing to blow into a breathalyzer is legally considered the same as blowing a 0.08 and results in the same consequences.

License suspension

License suspensions are effective immediately at the time a charge is issued, before a hearing or trial. The charging officer will take your license and send it to the Ministry of Transportation. You must find a way home without driving yourself. Depending on your location, you may be able to leave your vehicle where it is or choose to have it towed at your own expense.

If you register a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08, the consequences are as follows:

  • First offense: 3 day license suspension and $150 fine
  • Second offense within five years: 7 day license suspension and enrollment in a compulsory alcohol education class
  • Third offense within five years: 30-day license suspension, mandatory alcohol treatment program, $150 fine and a six-month ignition interlock condition
  • All subsequent offenses within five years: all of the above in addition to a mandatory medical evaluation

If you register a BAC of greater than 0.08, show obvious signs of impairment or refuse to blow into a breathalyzer, you will face a 90 day license suspension before any court sentence is implemented.

If you are convicted in court of impaired driving, you will face the following consequences:

  • First offense: 1 year license suspension, $1000 fine and one year enrollment in the ignition interlock program
  • Second offense: 3 year license suspension, a fine up to the judge’s discretion, 30 days of jail time and 3 year enrollment in the ignition interlock program
  • Third and subsequent offenses: 10 year to lifetime license suspension, a fine up to the judge’s discretion, 120 days of jail time and lifetime enrollment in the ignition interlock program if your license is ever restored

To retrieve your license, you must pay for and participate in an alcohol education program and pay a $100 fee.

Note that Ontario, like most other Canadian provinces, has different rules for novice drivers. If you do not have a full drivers license, you are not allowed to have any alcohol in your body while operating a vehicle. If caught with with a BAC above 0, you will face the following consequences:

  • Immediate 24 hour license suspension
  • If convicted, a fee of $60-$500
  • If convicted, your current license will be revoked and you must begin the application process for a license anew, starting at the bottom of the GLS

Drivers whose license have been suspended may visit their local Driver and Vehicle License Issuing Office to petition for the reinstatement of their license after the suspension period has lapsed.

Ontario’s Alcohol Education Program

Once convicted of driving while impaired, you must register for an alcohol education course called “Back on Track, Ontario’s Remedial Measures Program” before you are eligible to have your license reinstated. You must pay the full enrollment cost of $475 plus tax. The course may take up to ten months to complete.

Can I go to Jail?

First offenders serve no jail time; however, a second impaired driving conviction will result in a 30 day jail sentence, and all subsequent offenses will merit a 120 day sentence.

Fines, Vehicle Impounding and Additional Conditions

The fee to reinstate a license after a conviction is $100. Criminal traffic convictions stay on driving records for ten years. Some car insurance companies may refuse to insure you, and those that will may charge a much higher premium.

For all suspension of 30 days or longer, you must have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle for six months. Ignition interlock is a breathalyzer for which the driver must provide a clean breath sample and register a BAC of zero before the vehicle will start. Convicted impaired drivers may not drive any vehicle without such a device. You can choose not to install the ignition interlock, however, you sacrifice your driving privileges for an additional six months.

Drivers who violate any license suspension or ignition interlock conditions will face steep fines of $5,000-$50,000. The vehicle they are caught driving will also be impounded for 45 days, regardless of who the vehicle belongs to, and the driver is responsible for all costs incurred.