It’s a scary experience to be pulled over by the police and find yourself facing a DUI charge. If you’re in Canada, the laws surrounding drunk driving can be confusing—so here we aim to answer your questions and provide insight into your legal rights when it comes to DUI in our great nation. Buckle up – let’s go on a journey of knowledge to clear up any confusion!
What is Considered DUI in Canada?
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a serious offense in Canada and can result in serious consequences including hefty fines, lengthy jail terms, loss of driving privileges, and even criminal charges. The Canadian Criminal Code sets out strict Drinking and Driving Regulations that are applicable to all vehicle drivers.
In Canada, it is illegal for a driver to operate or be in physical control of any motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs (or both). According to the Criminal Code, impairment from drugs or alcohol implies that the driver’s physical performance capabilities have been affected — they may be unsteady on their feet, have difficulty understanding directions or sustained speech patterns, an inability to drive efficiently or handle complex motor tasks.
It is also illegal for a driver to exceed the legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit while operating a motor vehicle. According to national standards set out by the Government of Canada, Impairment begins when BAC hits 0.08% — at this level beverages like beer, wine, and hard liquor can begin having an effect on motor skills including depth perception and reaction time. As BAC increases so too will its impact on your physical abilities. Drivers with a BAC above .10% are considered severely impaired and face repercussions from law enforcement as well as charges that could stay with them for life. When facing DUI charges, the best course of action is to hire professional help like Calvin Barry Professional Corporation. That way, you can have the best chances of winning the case.
How high are the penalties?
Penalties for the offense will vary depending on jurisdiction and the number of previous infractions. Common penalties for a first offense include:
- Fines ranging from $1,000 to $2,000
- Suspension of your license for up to one year
- Driver’s license re-examination (for example, vision and road tests)
- Mandatory participation in an addiction program
- Community service or volunteer work
- Potential criminal records check by employers and insurance companies
In some locations you may also face:
- Impoundment of vehicles and associated fees
- Vehicle registration restrictions or revocation.
Recurring or multiple DUI offenses typically carry more severe penalties that can include higher fines, jail time, longer suspensions or revocations of your driver’s license, and prohibitions from owning motor vehicles in certain jurisdictions
Understanding the Legal Process
When it comes to drinking and driving in Canada, impaired driving is defined as having more than the legally specified amount of alcohol in one’s bloodstream (BAC). Different provinces have different BAC limits for the impaired operation of motor vehicles:
- Alberta: Less than 0.08
- British Columbia: Less than 0.05
- Manitoba: Less than 0.08
- New Brunswick: Zero tolerance for young drivers; less than 0.05 adults
- Nova Scotia: Zero tolerance for young drivers; less than 0.05 adults
- Ontario: Zero tolerance for young drivers; less than 0.08 adults; zero alcohol if operating a commercial vehicle
- Prince Edward Island: Zero tolerance for all drivers
- Quebec: Zero tolerance for all drivers below 21 years of age; less than 0.08 for adults 21+
- Saskatchewan: Less than 0.04 or greater with additional evidence of intoxication
Above the legally accepted level, a police officer has the authority to pull over any individual they suspect may be operating an impaired motor vehicle, even if there are no signs that suggest impairment such as swerving or running a red light present. A police officer can perform a Screening Device Test (SDT), an approved breathalyzer test that tests blood alcohol content (BAC) levels at the roadside – it is important to note that doing this test can only provide further evidence that would support a charge by providing an estimated BAC at the time of driving – but does not serve as conclusive proof on its own and does not eliminate other filing charges.
Rights of an Accused Person in a DUI Case
When stopped for suspected impaired driving, officers are obligated to respect the legal rights of an accused individual. Most notably, as a citizen of Canada, you have the right to remain silent when pulled over and arrested for impaired driving. The law states that police must inform you that anything said by you can be used as evidence against you.
Your other rights include
- The right to remain in your vehicle unless ordered out by an officer
- The right to speak to a lawyer before answering any questions or consenting to a search of yourself or your property
- The right not to answer any questions asked by police or make any statement – including answering sobriety tests
- The right not to take part in physical coordination tests such as walking heel-to-toe or standing on one foot
It is also important that no officers make threats or promises as they try to obtain incriminating information from anyone suspected of DUI offenses.
Important Questions to Ask a DUI Lawyer
There are so many questions to ask when faced with the possibility of a DUI conviction and the consequences that come with it. Knowing what questions to ask can be especially difficult, so here are just a few of the key topics that are important to discuss with any DUI defense lawyer:
- What is my charge? A DUI charge can encompass any number of related forms, such as driving while impaired (DWAI), driving while impaired by alcohol (DWI), or driving under the influence (DUI). Having this clarified at your initial consultation is important as each type of charge will have different implications for your lawsuit and possible sentence.
- What evidence is being used in my case? Your lawyer should explain what specific evidence and legal doctrines are involved in your case. This will give you a better understanding of how the prosecution plan is able to prove their charges against you.
- What sentencing options am I facing? Depending on your charge, there may be potential alternatives available, such as a noncriminal disposition or probationary term followed by a reinstatement of your license.
- Do I need additional witnesses? Your lawyer should have experience in collecting witness testimony in addition to statements from any law enforcement officers present at the scene or accident site. It’s also helpful if they already have relationships built with experts like toxicologists who can testify on your behalf in court if need be.
Finally, if any video footage exists from either dashcams or body cameras worn by responding officers, then an experienced DUI attorney will help ensure its admissibility into evidence if necessary for trial proceedings.
It is important to understand the implications of being charged with a DUI in Canada. This guide covered the basics of your legal rights and provided answers to frequently asked questions. It is essential that all persons charged with a DUI consult with a qualified legal representative as soon as possible who can review their individual situation, advise them accordingly and provide an appropriate defense strategy. If convicted, you may be facing high fines, lengthy driving prohibitions, and even jail time so it is important to take these matters seriously.
Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself or your loved one from the disastrous consequences of impaired driving charges is by avoiding drinking or using drugs and then driving altogether.