Yes, you should talk to a lawyer after any DUI arrest. The legal system in Ontario is very complex when it comes to impaired driving and DUI charges. While alcohol is the basis for many DUI charges, impaired driving also includes the impairment of the ability to operate a motor vehicle or other conveyance by alcohol, such as cannabis, street drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and prescription medications. To best understand your rights and build the strongest defence, you need to retain a skilled Toronto DUI lawyer.
Can You Represent Yourself?
Technically, you may represent yourself in a Toronto DUI case. But this would be a mistake. The average person does not have intimate knowledge of Ontario’s impaired driving laws or the ability to navigate the complexities of the criminal court system. To be able to defend yourself properly, you need to know:
- What charge is being laid?
- What are the possible courses of action?
- What evidence is available?
- What evidence can you obtain and present to defend yourself in court?
- What are the potential penalties?
- How can evidence be dismissed?
- How can you reduce charges?
- How can you introduce a reasonable doubt?
- Can the case be dismissed on technical grounds?
- What are the complex provisions of the Criminal Code regarding impaired driving that I need to know?
- How does the extensive body of Canadian impaired driving case law affect my case?
- How can I effectively cross-examine the police and other witnesses at my trial?
- What other details are important in my case?
For example, many people in Toronto don’t know the difference between an “exceed” charge and an impaired driving charge:
- An exceed charge indicates that someone who is operating a motor vehicle or other type of “conveyance” (i.e., an airplane, boat, train, golf cart, or electric bicycle, etc.) has 80 or more milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood. This is sometimes known as an “over 80” charge.
- An impaired driving charge is when someone shows signs of impairment that indicate their ability to operate a motor vehicle or other type of conveyance is impaired by alcohol. For example, they may be weaving on the roadway, slurring their speech, or showing balance or coordination problems.
Someone with a lower alcohol tolerance may be very impaired, even if they are under the legal limit. By contrast, someone with a higher tolerance may blow 80 or over but show no signs of impairment. Fighting each charge requires a different legal strategy. Every case is unique.
So, while you can defend yourself in a DUI case, it is not in your best interests. In order to maximize your chances of successfully defending your case or getting the best result possible, it is far smarter to lean on the legal expertise and experience of a skilled DUI lawyer.
Potential Criminal Penalties for a DUI Charge in Toronto
If you choose to defend yourself against a Toronto DUI charge, you put yourself at risk of severe criminal and administrative penalties. The court is responsible for sentencing a person convicted of a DUI to criminal penalties. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (“MTO”) also imposes severe administrative penalties, including licence suspensions. Even for a first impaired driving or over 80 conviction, criminal court sentences are very harsh. In Ontario, a conviction for impaired driving results in mandatory minimum fines, mandatory jail terms (i.e., for second or subsequent convictions), and driving prohibitions. Depending on the facts of your case, you could be facing a jail term even if it is your first offence.
If found guilty, you will end up with a criminal record that will show up on all criminal background checks. As a result, this could impact employment, rental applications, immigration, volunteer opportunities, travel, and more. A criminal record will have far-reaching effects which can last a lifetime. In addition to receiving a criminal record, a first offence will result in:
- An immediate administrative roadside suspension for 90 days
- Vehicle impoundment for 7 days upon arrest (even before a conviction)
- Extensive fines or a significant jail term depending on the facts of your case
- 1-3 year driving prohibitions for first-time offenders
- The mandatory requirement and expense of taking the Ministry of Transportation’s Back on Track Program
- Mandatory ignition interlock requirement in order to get your licence back early
- Substantial increase in motor vehicle insurance rates.
Even if you are below the legal limit, but fall within the “warn” range on a roadside Alcotest of 0.05 to 0.10 (i.e., the Alcotest roadside screening device is calibrated to fail at 100 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood) and the police do not charge you with a criminal offence, you will still face stiff MTO administrative penalties:
- License suspension for three days
- towing and impoundment of your vehicle
- A $250 penalty
- A MTO record for an administrative licence suspension
In both cases, you will also need to pay a license reinstatement fee to get your driver’s license back. The penalties increase significantly on subsequent offences. There are mandatory minimum jail sentences if you have prior DUI convictions and increasingly lengthy driving prohibitions. The MTO will also automatically suspend your licence for three years after a second conviction and for life for a third conviction within 10 years. If bodily harm or death occurs as a result of an impaired driving conviction, you will face up to many years in jail. If someone is hurt, the maximum jail term is 14 years in the penitentiary. If you are convicted of impaired driving causing death, you can face up to life in prison.
Ontario has a zero-tolerance law for young drivers. Anyone aged 21 or under cannot have any alcohol in their system when they are operating a motor vehicle and faces severe penalties if they do. If you are convicted of a DUI charge, your insurance company may decide to cancel your insurance, and at the very least, your insurance rates will skyrocket. An impaired driving charge in Toronto has serious repercussions and is not to be taken lightly.
You Are Facing Serious Charges and You Need a Serious Lawyer
A skilled Toronto impaired driving lawyer will know the ins and outs of Ontario DUI law. Even if the odds feel stacked against you, a lawyer can often prepare a strong defence. They may be able to dispute Intoxilyzer test results, for instance. This can exclude evidence from your case. Remember that the Crown must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your lawyer can often create reasonable doubt in your case.
A good criminal lawyer can often convince the Crown to reduce the charges to a minor traffic ticket and have the criminal charges withdrawn. This may result in a conviction under the Highway Traffic Act for careless driving or some other minor traffic offence which will avoid a criminal record. Technicalities, such as breaches of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, can result in the breath tests being excluded from the evidence at trial and a dismissal of your charges. The skilled criminal law team at Kruse Law will exhaust every avenue in your defence and leave no stone unturned.