If you have been charged with driving with a suspended licence in Ontario that had been suspended due to driving-related Criminal Code offences such as drinking and driving (as opposed to having had your licence suspended for a Highway Traffic Act offence), you will face the following penalties: Your vehicle will be impounded for a minimum of 45 days. On conviction, you are liable for a fine between $5,000 and $25,000 for the first offence, a fine between $10,000 and $50,000 for each subsequent offence within five years. There will also be another licence suspension under the Highway Traffic Act: one year for a first offence and two years for subsequent offences and up to two years in jail and a three-year licence suspension under the Criminal Code. (If you are charged with driving with a licence that had been suspended for a Highway Traffic Act offence, you are facing a seven-day vehicle impoundment, a fine of between $1000 and $5000 for a first offence and between $2000 and $5000 for a subsequent offence within five years. You may also get up to six months in jail or a fine or both. As well, six months will be added to your current suspension.)

For detailed information about immediate driver’s licence suspension under the HTA for driving-related Criminal Code convictions, please refer to “Mandatory HTA Suspensions.”

A conviction for driving under suspension will be kept on record for at least five years. Your insurance premiums will be increased for several years and you might even be disqualified from your existing insurance coverage. For information about how traffic tickets impact your insurance premium, please refer to the section  “Insurance Premiums.”

It is always recommended to fight the charge. Although this offence is one of absolute liability, meaning you do not have to intend to do the act to be found guilty, and due diligence is not available as a defence, the prosecution still needs to prove the violation beyond a reasonable doubt. There are some general defences available on a case-by-case basis. For detailed information, please refer to the section “General Defences for Traffic Tickets”.

Driving under “Prohibited Range” (BAC: > 0.08) (s.48.3)

If you drive a vehicle while your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above 0.08 (Prohibited Range), your driver’s licence will be suspended at the roadside for a period of 90 days under the Highway Traffic Act. The suspension takes effect from the time notice of the suspension is given by the police. You should be requested to surrender your driver’s licence to the officer. The vehicle will be impounded for seven days on the roadside.

On conviction for impaired driving under s.253 of the Criminal Code, you will immediately receive a suspension of one year for the first conviction, three years for the first subsequent conviction, indefinite suspension for additional subsequent convictions under the HTA. The vehicle may be impounded by a court order for three months.

This is a Criminal Code offence and a prosecution could be initiated under the Criminal Code against you later. The following is a further explanation about the penalties both under the HTA and Criminal Code:

Driving while BAC: >0.08 (Impaired Driving) Penalty (HTA) Penalty* (Criminal Code)
Licence Suspension (Roadside) Licence Suspension (on Conviction) Fine Imprisonment (summary conviction) Note: Interlock requirements will apply
1st Conviction 90 days 1 year More than $1,000
2nd Conviction 90 days 3 years 30 days
Any Subsequent Convictions 90 days Indefinite 120 days
* the penalty under the Criminal Code: only for where there was no bodily harm or death
Determining a subsequent conviction: within a 10-year period

If you are convicted, you can get your suspended licence back sooner by attending the Reduced Suspension with Ignition Interlock Conduct Review Program, effective since August 3, 2010. For detailed information about how this program works, please refer to “Reduced Suspension with Ignition Interlock Conduct Review Program”.

You will be assigned to the conduct review programs – Back on Track and the Ignition Interlock Program. For more information about the programs, please refer to “Additional Consequences Regarding Drinking and Driving”.

The Administrative Monetary Penalty ($150) will also need to be paid before the reinstatement of your driver’s licence.

Driving under the “Prohibited Range” has very serious legal and financial consequences both under the HTA and Criminal Code. The conviction will be kept on your HTA record for, at least ten years and on your criminal record until you receive a pardon. It will dramatically increase your Insurance Premiums.

The following table focuses on the financial consequences you may face before and after you are convicted:

Driving while BAC: >0.08
Financial Consequences
Suspension (Roadside Impoundment (Roadside) and Tow Administrative Monetary Penalty Back on Track Ignition Interlock
1st 2nd 3rd
Length 90 days 7 days 3 parts (8 or 16 hours) 1 year 3 years Indefinite
Estimated Cost Tow and Impound $150 $578 Installation: $155De-Installation: $50 + taxMonthly: $105
Estimated Cost (Total) $800 $150 $578
Increased Insurance Estimate: initially 2x current rate.
Minimum of $1,000 fine under the Criminal Code conviction, 15% or more Fine Surcharge.

Under the HTA, the 90-day Administrative Driver’s Licence Suspension can be appealed under the following grounds:

  1. you are not the person whose breath or blood was tested;
  2. you failed to give a sample of breath or blood due to a medical reason and have proof of same.

The best thing to do is to choose either to drink or to drive, but not both. In reality, good people make mistakes. So, once you made a mistake, it is always advisable to obtain some legal advice. With experienced legal representation, your rights will be better protected. By better understanding the procedure, you could get the suspended driver’s licence back sooner.

Driving under “Warn Range” (BAC: 0.05 to 0.08) (s.48)

Driving while the BAC is in the “Warn Range” is a serious issue under the Highway Traffic Act. You will face a roadside suspension for three days for the first time, seven days for the second time within a five-year period and 30 days for the third time and other subsequent offences with a five-year period.

Administrative Monetary Penalty in the amount of $150, mandatory alcohol education program, or longer time suspension and other consequences you will bear for subsequent offences.

The following table gives a detailed explanation about penalties and financial consequences:

Diving while BAC: 0.05 to 0.08 First Time Second Time Third Time Subsequent Offence
Roadside Suspension 3 days 7 days 30 days 30 days
Alcohol Education Program: Education Course ($178) Treatment Course ($178) Treatment Course ($178)
Ignition Interlock 6 months
(Installation: $125
De-Installation: $25
Monthly: $95)
6 months
(Installation: $125
De-Installation: $25
Monthly: $95)
Medical Evaluation Mandatory
Administrative Monetary Penalty $150 $150 $150 $150
Estimated Insurance Increase ($3,000 per year for 3 years) $9,000 $9,000 $9,000 $9,000
Total Estimated Cost (Excl. Taxes) $9,150 $9,328 $10,048 $10,048
A subsequent offence is an offence with a period of five years.
Other penalties such as discretionary suspension, fine, etc may be imposed by the court.

These roadside licence suspensions are short-term suspensions and not subject to an appeal. Suspensions will be recorded on the driver’s record. For up to five years, these roadside suspensions will be considered when determining consequences for subsequent infractions.

Recent Successes With Impaired Driving Charges

Acquittal – Operation of Motor Vehicle While Impaired by Alcohol (Case Study)

Sometime very early one mid-August morning, the Ministry of Transportation cameras capture a scene of a male talking on his cell phone sitting on the grass beside a vehicle in the ditch on the shoulder of Highway 401. A witness had reported seeing a car that had been in an accident. Ambulance and police were dispatched to a personal injury single motor vehicle collision. When police arrived they found a young man fitting the description from the camera footage. The young man said he that he had fallen asleep on his way home from his girlfriend’s. He did not need the ambulance. The police, believing that they observed signs of intoxication, demanded that he give a breath sample into the roadside alcohol screening device. He did so and registered a “fail.” He was arrested. The handcuffs that they put on him were tight and hurt his wrists. Later at the police station, he gave a breath sample into the device there and registered a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. The police charged him with impaired driving and with “Over 80.”
Read More

Acquittal – Care or Control While Impaired and Over 80 (Case Study)

Mr. H. Was found sitting in the driver's seat with his head slumped to one side. He appeared to be sleeping or passed out. The keys were in the ignition and the vehicle was not running but the ignition was switched on. The officer spoke to Mr. H. and asked him to exit the vehicle. Once outside, the officer noted an odour of alcohol on Mr. H.’s breath.
Read More

Acquittal – Impaired and Over 80 (Case Study)

The officer formed a suspicion that Mr. T. had alcohol in his body and told him that he would require him to give a screening sample of his breath. The officer then went off to find a roadside breath screening device.
Read More

Acquittal – Care or Control Over 80 (Case Study)

In the very early, dark hours of a winter’s morning, a white Toyota crashed into a hydro pole, then into a mattress and box spring that had been left on the curb, and then a second hydro pole. Debris was scattered all over the road and the lawns of the nearby houses. The mattress was halfway up a tree. Another driver witnessed the Toyota hit and wrap around the second hydro pole.
Read More

Impaired, Over 80 & Novice Driver BAC Over 0 (Case Study)

About an hour after dawn on a clear, dry Sunday morning in May, in the heart of Muskoka, police were dispatched to a vehicle roll over. They arrived at the scene to find the vehicle on its roof. The driver Mr. N. and his passenger were standing nearby as was a bystander. Mr. N. was 20 years old and was in cottage country for a weekend away with a buddy. The officer questioned Mr. N. who reported swerving to avoid a rabbit. The officer then questioned him on his recent alcohol consumption and Mr. N. admitted to drinking the night before, approximately five hours prior. The officer therefore demanded that Mr. N. give a breath sample into the roadside breath screening device. He provided a breath sample, registered a “fail” and accordingly was arrested for having over 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood – a criminal offence.
Read More

Acquittal – Impaired and Over 80

Two civilian witnesses came upon Mr. M.’s vehicle immobilized in a ditch with two wheels off the ground. They stopped to assist and believed that Mr. M., who was in the driver’s seat, was intoxicated. They called 911. The police officer who arrived at the scene arrested Mr. M. for Impaired Operation of that vehicle.
Read More

Guilty of Failing to Yield – Not Over 80mg (Case Study)

Counsellor Nadarajah centred her focus on three main charter arguments: (i) that the demand for Mr. T. to provide a sample into an approved screening device did not follow forthwith from the officer forming the suspicion that Mr. T. had alcohol in his body and thus breached sections eight and nine of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (ii) that the arresting officer’s failure to establish a firm time of Mr. T.’s last driving rendered both his ASD and Intoxilyzer demands invalid, thus also breaching both sections eight and nine of the Charter. (iii) that Mr. T. was not provided with his rights to counsel or the opportunity to exercise them prior to complying with the ASD demand when circumstances dictated that he should have been, amounting to a breach of section 10(b) of the Charter.
Read More

Appeal – Rights Violated (Case Study)

Mr. J. was a 22 year old Canadian student entering into his 4th year of university in the United States on a golf scholarship. After attending a party in Toronto, he was stopped by the police and arrested for driving with over 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood (over 80).
Read More

Over 80 – Police Misconduct (Case Study)

Ms. M. had been at a local bar having a few drinks with a friend of hers. As a result of being sexually harassed by a fellow patron (a tow truck driver), our client left the bar and drove to McDonald's for a snack. The tow truck driver followed her out, and called the police to report a possible DUI. The reality is that the tow truck driver was hoping that our client would be arrested so he could tow the car and impound it for seven (7) days - perhaps earning $1,000 in the process.
Read More

Careless Driving Instead of Impaired Driving & Over 80mg (Case Study)

Mr. N. is a military teacher who had generally demonstrated a high degree of responsibility in our community. As so many before him, Mr. N. had a momentary lapse in his judgment and decided to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after having a few too many drinks. The arresting officer noted that he had witnessed Mr. N.’s vehicle cross the centre line on several occasions and briefly drive south in a northbound lane. Upon the review of Mr. N.’s disclosure package, as provided to defence counsel by the Crown, Mr. Aitken identified multiple Charter breaches. While the matter was set for a four hour trial, the trial itself never began as a result of the Crown making a deal with Mr. Aitken and Mr. N. to a plea of guilty to a lesser charge.
Read More

Over 80mg – Stay of Proceedings (Case Study)

Ms. B. had just recently arrived back to Canada. Her plane had only just landed not long before she was stopped by the Ontario R.I.D.E. program as she drove home from the airport. She explained to the officer that she was feeling jetlagged but the officer could smell an odour of alcohol coming from her breath. She was placed under arrest after failing the approved screening device test.
Read More

Care & Control and Over 80 Acquittal (Case Study)

Mr. G. had been watching the CFL Grey Cup while he hung out with a few of his friends on the night of Sunday November 25 to Monday November 26, 2014. At the time, he was facing a serious financial burden as he was supporting his new, young family. After entering the car with his friends, he turned towards the street from the parking garage but shortly made an additional turn to return to the parking garage. An officer, who was located across the street, grew suspicious that he should be entering the vehicle so late on a Sunday night / early Monday morning on Grey Cup day and decided to investigate.
Read More

Acquittal – Impaired by Drugs and Dangerous Operation (Case Study)

Mr. B is quite a presentable man but was struggling through some difficult times. He wanted to get a routine medical examination done but possesses a great phobia when a physicians use needles. Ultimately, there was miscommunication between the doctor, pharmacist and our client, which resulted in Mr. B. taking far more Ativan anti-depressants than a normal person should take, given the nature of the drug. Following this mishap regarding our client being advised to take an incorrect dosage of Ativan, the Durham Regional Police Service stopped Mr. B.'s vehicle as a result of erratic driving but, fortunately, before any accidents had occurred.
Read More