The term ‘impaired driving’ is used when referring to the criminal offence of operating a motor vehicle while your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by alcohol or a drug. If your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by alcohol or a drug to any degree, you could be charged with impaired driving. Secondly, if you are driving a motor vehicle and your blood alcohol is equal to or greater than 80 milligrams of alcohol in one hundred milliliters of blood, this is another type of offence under the Criminal Code which you could be charged with. 

Worst Case

The worst case scenario is you receive a conviction for a DUI offence. Your driving insurance rates would skyrocket; a first offender would face a mandatory minimum fine and victim fine surcharge; you would be prohibited from driving for a minimum period of 1 year:  you might be subjected to an ignition interlock being installed in your car, which you would have to pay for, and you would have a criminal record.

The consequences of a DUI conviction are severe. A first-time impaired driving conviction will result in a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. A first-time “80 or over BAC” conviction will result in a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000, depending on the level of blood alcohol. For a second DUI conviction where the Crown files a Notice of Application for Increased Penalty, you would receive a mandatory minimum 30-day jail term.  A third DUI conviction will result in jail time of at least 120 days. Additionally, the consequences of a conviction can lead to severe collateral damage, such as loss of employment.

If you are facing a DUI conviction in a courtroom, the problem began well before you arrived there. When you are pulled over and suspected of driving while impaired or over the legal limit, it is important to exercise your right to remain silent. Be cooperative with officers in terms of identifying yourself and providing them with your driver’s licence, vehicle ownership, and insurance.  However, you should not offer any additional information.   If an officer suspects that you have been drinking or using drugs and are now behind the wheel of a car, assume that you will likely be arrested and do not offer any additional information to help convict you in the future. Be polite, but be quiet. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you as evidence in court.

While hiring a lawyer will not automatically result in a dismissal of your DUI charges, having an experienced advocate on your side can mitigate the damages during the negotiation and trial phase. A surprising percentage of DUI charges can be won if you hire an experienced and competent impaired driving trial lawyer. 

Best Case

If you have been pulled over for allegedly driving under the influence, the best-case scenario you could hope for is that the officer(s) failed to gather enough evidence against you or made procedural, technical, or constitutional mistakes before, during or following your arrest. These types of errors can often lead to the crown withdrawing your charge or reducing the charges to a lesser offence under the Highway Traffic Act.

If the police demand that you provide a roadside breath sample or demand that you perform standard field sobriety tests ( i.e. a series of three tests), you are required to do so. However, you are not required to answer any of their questions other than identifying yourself and providing your licence, etc. It is a safe practice to follow a police officer’s instructions and remain as quiet as possible during roadside interaction.

If the police demand that you provide an Intoxilyzer breath sample at the police station, you are required to accompany them to the police station and provide two breath samples into an Intoxilyzer approximately 17 minutes apart.  You should also exercise your right to remain silent in the police cruiser on the way to the police station and during the entire period of time you are in custody at the police station.  In other words, do not answer any questions and do not say anything at any time.  Simply stay silent.  If you refuse to provide an approved screening device breath sample or Intoxilzyer breath samples, you will be charged with refusal to provide a breath sample which carries the same criminal consequences as an impaired driving charge.

If you retain a DUI lawyer, they may be able to point out substantive, technical, procedural, or Charter defences to the crown, which may prompt the crown to offer a careless driving plea or withdraw the charges. The Crown may also agree to withdraw some of the charges against you in exchange for a guilty plea. The goal of a lawyer’s plea discussions with the crown is to obtain their agreement to withdraw the charges or reduce the charges to a lesser Highway Traffic Act offence. Alternatively, the goal is to lighten the sentence as much as possible i.e., reduce the fine or jail time, as the case may be and reduce the length of the driving prohibition to the mandatory minimum, and allow the accused to apply to drive with an ignition interlock.

Finally, if you are acquitted of a DUI after a trial, or the charges against you are dropped, then you certainly have achieved the best-case scenario.  However, most clients would consider a prosecutor’s offer of a careless driving guilty plea in exchange for withdrawing the DUI charges to be an absolute win. 

Contact a Lawyer

If you are facing charges of driving under the influence and want to land on the best side of things rather than the worst, it is a safe bet that contacting a lawyer will help you navigate through the course of your interaction with the justice system. Contact us today for more information.

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