Impaired driving in Ontario is a serious matter with significant legal and life altering  consequences. At Kruse Law, we provide expert legal assistance to individuals charged with DUI offences. 

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the potential penalties you may face when charged with a DUI in Ontario, and why legal assistance is crucial when facing DUI charges.

Understanding DUI Charges in Ontario

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious criminal offence that encompasses both alcohol and drug impairment. It is important to grasp the legal implications of DUI charges, which can result from operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs, such as cannabis or opioids. 

Refusing a breath sample or having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more will trigger impaired driving charges. You will also face administrative penalties imposed by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation if your BAC falls within the cautionary range of 0.05 to 0.079.

Ontario enforces a zero-tolerance policy for specific groups, including young, novice, and commercial drivers. This means that certain individuals cannot have any alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle. These groups include:

  • Those aged 21 or under

  • Drivers of any age who hold a G1, G2, M1, or M2 licence

  • Individuals operating vehicles that require an A-F driver’s licence or Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR)

  • Operators of road-building machines

The Highway Traffic Act and the Criminal Code govern DUI offences in Ontario.

Impaired Driving Penalties

motorist drinking bottle of beer while driving

Impaired driving, whether influenced by alcohol or other drugs, carries severe penalties in Ontario. These penalties fall into two main categories: immediate administrative penalties upon arrest and more substantial Criminal Code penalties upon impaired driving conviction.

Administrative Penalties – At Time of Arrest

Administrative penalties are imposed by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation as per the impaired driving laws found in the Highway Traffic Act. They are the following:

7-Day Vehicle Seizure

Upon arrest for impaired driving, the police have the authority to seize and tow away the vehicle. The owner is financially responsible for all towing and storage costs during the 7-day impoundment period.

90-Day Licence Suspension

Drivers face a mandatory 90-day licence suspension, prohibiting them from operating any motor vehicle on Ontario roads. After the 90-day period, the driver can apply to have their licence reinstated until their trial date or unless they have pled guilty to the offence.

No Collision Coverage

In the event of an accident involving an impaired driver, collision insurance coverage is nullified. Insurance providers argue a violation of the policy, citing the commitment to refrain from criminal acts while in control of the vehicle.

Further Consequences:
  • License Reinstatement Fee: After the suspension period, a fee is required to reinstate the driver’s licence.

Criminal Code Penalties – Upon Conviction

Once convicted, the following are the penalties which are imposed by a judge for impaired driving according to the Criminal Code:


Upon conviction, first-time offenders face a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 with the amount subject to increase significantly for elevated blood alcohol levels or other aggravating factors such as bad driving or an accident. Refusal or failing to comply with a demand for alcohol or drug testing  results  in a fine of at least $2,000. The maximum fine for impaired driving or refusal is $5,000. A first time offender could face a jail term for particularly aggravated factual situations. The maximum jail term is 2 years less a day if the Crown elects summarily and 10 years if the Crown elects by indictment.

Criminal Records

Convicted individuals receive a criminal record, which has lifelong implications.


Depending on the case specifics, jail time may be imposed. Second offences carry a mandatory minimum 30-day imprisonment, while third and subsequent offences entail a minimum jail term of 120 days. Jail terms can often be far greater than the mandatory minimums depending on the factual circumstances. In cases involving bodily harm, or death, the jail term will be many months or even years in jail. For impaired driving causing death, there is no doubt that upon conviction a person will face many years in a penitentiary. 

Mandatory Driving Prohibitions Under the Criminal Code and Licence Suspensions under the Highway Traffic Act (“HTA”)

  • First Offence: One year mandatory driving prohibition/licence suspension under both the Criminal Code and HTA. The driving prohibition can be up to 3 years in the judge’s discretion.

  • Second Offence: Three-year licence prohibition under the Highway Traffic Act and 2-10 year driving prohibition under the Criminal Code.

  • Third Offence: Lifetime suspension under the HTA, with potential reinstatement after 10 years. Mandatory minimum 3 year driving prohibition under the Criminal Code.

  • Fourth Offence: Lifetime licence suspension under the HTA with no possibility of reinstatement. Mandatory minimum 3 year driving prohibition under the Criminal Code.

Education and Treatment Programs

Convicted individuals will be required to undergo an education program. They may also be required to attend a treatment program for substance abuse problems.

Mandatory Interlock Device

After licence reinstatement, the driver must install an ignition interlock device, which prevents the vehicle from starting unless the driver blows into a mouthpiece as a means of inhibiting alcohol impaired driving.

Mandatory Back on Track Program

The Highway Traffic Act mandates completion of the Back on Track program before licence reinstatement for drivers with more than one administrative suspension. Participants must pay a fee of $894.

Additional Costs

In addition to the above penalties, the accused bears the financial responsibility for reinstatement fees, interlock devices, testing, and participation in the Back on Track program.

Comparing Penalties for Impaired Driving – Administrative vs Criminal Code

Penalties Administrative Penalties Criminal Code Penalties
Vehicle Seizure 𐄂
License Suspension
Denial of Collision Coverage 𐄂
Criminal Record 𐄂
Jail 𐄂
Education and  Treatment Programs 𐄂
Ignition Interlock Device 𐄂
Back on Track Program 𐄂
Financial Responsibility for Penalty Measures (seizure, impoundment, interlock, Back on Track, etc.) 𐄂

The severity of the administrative and Criminal Code penalties that result from alcohol and drug impaired driving underscore the importance of working with a criminal defence lawyer. Note, the penalties detailed above become more severe with each subsequent offence and as the degree of impairment, level of blood alcohol or drugs, aggravated nature of the driving, and damage caused increases.

Legal Assistance for Impaired Driving Cases

Seeking legal counsel is key when charged with a DUI. Experienced DUI lawyers have the knowledge and expertise to analyze your case and guide you along the best course of action for your situation. They understand the complexities of DUI cases and can develop a strong defence strategy to help you win an impaired driving trial, should it come to that. A good impaired driving lawyer can also often negotiate with the Crown to plead guilty to a lesser non-criminal charge under the HTA, such as careless driving or obtain the lightest sentence possible.    

From gathering evidence to cross-examining witnesses, they will ensure your rights are protected throughout the legal proceedings. 

Kruse Law – Your Partner in Navigating DUI Charges

DUI offences can have far-reaching consequences, impacting your freedom, driving privileges, and future opportunities. Seeking legal representation is the first step in navigating these challenges effectively.

Contact Kruse Law today for a free consultation and let us help you protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome for your case. Don’t face DUI charges alone; trust the legal experts at Kruse Law to guide you through the process.

Want to inform yourself further ahead of your consultation? Take a look at our Overview of DUI Charges and FAQs About Impaired Driving resources.

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