What are the consequences of pleading guilty to a first time DUI or refusal to provide a breath sample in Ontario?
First and foremost, you are going to get a criminal record. That is never a good thing. You are always going to get criminal record if you plead to any type of drinking and driving charge. There are mandatory minimum fines which depend on the level of blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) in a person’s blood stream. First of all, for a straight impaired driving charge, the mandatory minimum fine is $1,000.00. For readings from 80 up to 119 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood, the mandatory minimum fine is also $1,000.00. If the BAC reading is 120 to 159, the mandatory minimum fine is $1,500.00. For BAC readings of 160 and above, the minimum fine is $2,000.00.
For a refusal charge (i.e. failing or refusing to comply with a breath demand), the mandatory minimum fine is $2,000.00. Will you face a jail term for a first time DUI or refusing a breath demand? Yes, you could, assuming it is an aggravated situation. For example, if there was a motor vehicle accident on a 400 series highway or if you were transporting a child in your vehicle at the time you were charged, a judge could sentence you to a shorter jail term. Of course, this assumes you were not charged with impaired driving causing bodily injury or death, where you could obviously face a multi-year jail term.
You are also going to be required to pay a victim fine surcharge which is 30% of the fine amount. A judge has discretion not to order a victim fine surcharge if you can show financial hardship. A first time DUI or refusal offence could qualify for the Ministry of Transportation’s (“MTO”) Stream A Ignition Interlock Program, if you are able to negotiate that with the crown and the Judge allows you to make an application to the MTO. I have covered the MTO’s Stream A Ignition Interlock Program in detail in one of my other videos. Stream A essentially means if you plead guilty within 89 days of the date of your arrest and the judge allows you to apply for the ignition interlock program with the MTO, the Ministry will hopefully approve you to drive 3 months’ days after the date of your sentencing.
Let’s do a quick recap regarding how Stream A works. Of course, there is an initial 90 day MTO administrative licence suspension commencing on the date of your arrest for impaired driving, 80 or over BAC or refusal. The 90-day administrative suspension will stop on the date you plead guilty. if you plead within 89 days from the date of your arrest. The MTO will then suspend your licence for 1 full year, but if the MTO allows you to install an ignition interlock in your vehicle, you can commence driving 3 months after the date of your sentence with the interlock. There are 2 separate “suspension systems’ by the way for DUI and refusal case. Mandatory driving prohibition can be found in the Criminal Code. The mandatory minimum driving prohibition for a first time offender is 1 year. A Judge is going to prohibit you from driving for at least 1 year up to a maximum of 3 years for a more aggravated situation, such as an accident on a 400 series highway, for example. The MTO is also going to automatically suspend your licence under the Highway Traffic Act for 1 year which runs at the same time (“concurrently) as the court ordered driving prohibition. However, as per above, the judge can prohibit you from driving for up to 3 years. A first time impaired driving, 80 or over BAC or refusal conviction will cost you at least $25,000.00 in total fines, MTO Back on Track program and ignition interlock and increased motor vehicle insurance rates over 6 years, assuming you can even get insurance. Lawyer’s fees would be on top of this. One good reason to hire a lawyer is to try and win your case and avoid all these negative repercussions. You should at least consider retaining a good DUI lawyer to provide you with a complete legal opinion. There are a lot of DUI cases that are winnable. There are also a lot of great deals being offered by the crown during the Covid-19 pandemic. Crown attorneys have become motivated to move DUI files through the system and avoid cases being thrown out for trial delay during the Covid-19 pandemic. There are especially great careless driving pleas being offered for BAC readings below 120, where the facts are not aggravated. However, even for BAC readings above 120, we are getting a lot of great careless driving deals. There are a lot negative implications for this type of offence and it really pays to hire a lawyer to defend your charges or at least obtain a full legal opinion regarding whether your charges are defendable.