Impaired driving is a leading criminal cause of death and injury in Ontario, efforts have been made to strengthen impaired driving and boating laws. These laws are not limited to common motor vehicles and boats – they also apply to railway equipment, aircraft, jet skis and non-motorized recreational vessels including sailboats, canoes, kayaks and even rafts.
Cases involving impaired operation of vehicles and vessels can be complex in nature, and also can carry very serious consequences. As such, it’s imperative to have a firm understanding of the laws, penalties, potential defences, and the importance of securing effective legal representation.
The Criminal Code of Canada prohibits driving while impaired in any capacity by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. Penalties for impaired driving range from mandatory minimum fines; licence suspension or loss; the installation of an in-vehicle alcohol breath screening system that prevents the engine from starting if it detects alcohol in your system; and depending on the severity of the offence, life imprisonment. Having specified prohibited levels of alcohol, cannabis or other drugs in the bloodstream within two hours of driving is a separate offence that also carries significant penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment for life.
In alcohol related cases, the prohibited blood-alcohol concentration, or BAC, is 80 milligrams or more of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Where cannabis and its primary psychoactive element THC are concerned, two prohibited levels exist; having five nanograms or more of THC in the bloodstream is considered a more serious offence than having between two and five nanograms of THC in the bloodstream.
When combined, the prohibited levels of alcohol and cannabis are 50 milligrams or more of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, with 2.5 nanograms or more of THC in the bloodstream.
Drinking and boating penalties mirror those that apply to drinking and driving on land. Financial penalties are severe, incarceration is a possibility, and offenders receive a criminal record. Boating licences are at risk of being suspended or lost.
Careless operation of a vessel also applies to boating, and while it’s not a criminal offence, it’s a very serious regulatory offence that carries stiff penalties in the same way careless driving does.
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, the penalties for operating a boat or a car while impaired in Ontario are as such:
- First offence: minimum one thousand ($1,000) dollar fine
- Second offence: minimum sentence of thirty (30) days imprisonment
- Third offence: minimum sentence of one hundred twenty (120) days imprisonment
When facing impaired driving charges, individuals have legal options and potential defences available to them. It’s critical to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defence lawyer to examine the specific circumstances of the case, and prepare the appropriate defence.
Challenging the evidence is a common defence in an impaired charge. Reliability and accuracy of breathalyzer tests and blood samples can be contested for validity. Because there are a number of variables involved, such as the use of potentially inferior equipment, improper testing procedures, or a mishandling of samples, these factors can be brought to light in defending against the prosecution’s case.
An invalid vehicle stop or arrest is another potential defence. Reasonable grounds may have been lacking in stopping a vehicle or making an arrest, and as a result, evidence obtained during these circumstances may be deemed inadmissible. As well, any violation of an individual’s rights protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such as unreasonable search and seizure, can also provide grounds for a defence.
For more information with regards to impaired driving and boating in Ontario please visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/impaired-driving
When facing impaired driving charges, it’s crucial to enlist the assistance of a skilled criminal defence lawyer with experience in defending these types of cases. A strong lawyer can guide clients through the legal process, while ensuring their rights are protected and a robust defence strategy is built with respect to their unique circumstances. Experienced criminal lawyers can negotiate with the prosecution, challenge the evidence against their clients, and explore all available options to achieve the best possible outcome.
If you’ve been charged with impaired driving or boating, contact me immediately for a free consultation. My approach is a blend of solid professionalism and more than a decade of successful criminal defence experience, and I get the very best results for my clients. While I predominantly provide representation throughout the Greater Toronto Area, including Newmarket, Markham, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, King City, Aurora, Burlington, Oakville, and Milton, I also represent individuals across the entire province of Ontario, from Thunder Bay to Ottawa, and as far south as Windsor.