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Understanding the Over 80 Rule and Impaired Driving in Ontario

The “Over 80” rule in Ontario means that if you drive with more than 80 mg of alcohol in your 100 mL of blood, you count as driving under the influence of alcohol and can face an impaired driving charge. But what does driving over 80 really mean? Read on to find detailed information about what can put you over this limit and what consequences you might face.

What Does it Mean to Be Over 80?

Depending on your weight, as few as two drinks might put you over the 80 mg limit for impaired driving. When discussing the size of drinks, the term “one drink” refers to the following:

  • One 12-ounce glass of beer (5% ABV)
  • One 5-ounce glass of wine (12% ABV)
  • One 1.5-ounce glass of spirits (40% ABV)

The number of drinks required to put a person over the legal limit depends largely upon weight. Weight and gender play a significant role in the alcohol content of your blood. For women, the following guidelines apply:

  • A woman who weighs 57 kg or less reaches the 80 mg limit in two drinks.
  • A woman who weighs between 57 kg and 80 kg reaches the 80 mg limit in three drinks.

Men can typically handle more drinks before reaching the limit, but not much more:

  • A man who weighs 68 kg or less reaches the 80 mg limit in three drinks.
  • A man who weighs between 68 kg and 91 kg reaches the 80 mg limit in four drinks.

These numbers are not precise, as individual builds and the timespan in which you imbibe can factor into play. Regardless, more than one drink at a sitting often puts you at risk of facing an impaired driving charge.

Don’t Rely on Impaired Judgment

Alcohol affects the judgment portion of your brain first, which means that you become more likely to make poor decisions even after the first drink. For this reason, it’s a good idea to know approximately how much you can drink before going over 80, using the guidelines above.

Don’t assume that you have built up a stronger tolerance just because you are used to drinking. Even if you don’t feel impaired in any way after several drinks, your blood alcohol content will still be affected. This means that you can still get an impaired driving charge, even if you don’t feel that you were under the influence.

If you find yourself at an event where you have access to alcohol, keep track of how much you drink. If possible, wait an hour for the alcohol to leave your system before you drive. If you feel ready to drive but somebody stops you, listen to them and take some more time before getting behind the wheel. It’s better to err on the side of caution before you start driving, because a police officer probably won’t give you the benefit of the doubt.

Impaired Driving in Ontario

Unless you have the ability to test the alcohol level in your blood, you always need to be cautious when getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after having one or more drinks. Err on the side of caution whenever possible, as making the wrong decision can result in a fine, jail time, or even the loss of your license.

In addition to exercising caution, you should always remember that the term “motor vehicle” applies to more than just cars. Getting caught while over 80 in any of the following vehicles can result in impaired driving charges from the police:

  • Trucks
  • Cars
  • Motorboats
  • Snowmobiles
  • Skidoos
  • Off-road vehicles

If police officers stop you during the operation of any of these vehicles, they have the right to question you and ask you to either perform some field sobriety exercises or to submit to other testing that will determine your level of intoxication.

When you get Pulled Over

You might get lucky and avoid an impaired driving charge once or twice, but if you drink and drive you will eventually get pulled over. When this happens, you should make sure to cooperate with the police officer who pulls you over as thoroughly as possible. This will almost certainly involve answering questions, and giving false answers to any of these questions could hurt you down the line if the case goes to court.

If you exhibit behavior that the police officer determines to be suspicious or potentially drunken, the traffic stop might become more involved. In this case, you may be asked to step out of the vehicle to perform a sobriety test. In other situations, the officer might simply give you a breathalyzer test. The breathalyzer can quickly determine how much you’ve had to drink. A police officer can require a breathalyzer test in any of the following situations:

  • You have faced an impaired driving charge in the past.
  • The police officer can smell alcohol, be it on your breath or in the car.
  • The police officer sees an open container of alcohol within your reach, even if the container is currently empty.
  • If you tell the officer that you have consumed any alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
  • If the officer determines that you have been driving erratically or exhibited some other loss of control over your vehicle.

As you can see, many of these situations involve a judgment call on the officer’s part. That means that acting belligerently can bias the police officer against you. On the other hand, your cooperation can get you the benefit of the doubt if you aren’t truly impaired.

How a Police Officer Decides if You are Over 80

To determine whether they should issue over 80 charges, police officers must first bring a suspect into the police station for testing. There you will be subjected to two breathalyzer samples, each taken 15 minutes apart. Time becomes a factor in this situation, since alcohol does leave your bloodstream slowly. That means that if you were careful and waited some time before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, you are less likely to be found guilty of driving over 80.

In theory, you can refuse to provide a breathalyzer sample. However, this carries consequences of its own. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test or a police officer determines that you are trying to “trick” the test by not blowing hard enough to provide a sufficient sample, you can be charged with refusing to comply. This carries a potential fine and could result in more severe consequences if you have an existing record.

Consequences of an Over 80 Charge

If you are found guilty of driving over 80, the severity of your punishment depends on whether this is your first offence or not.

For first-time offenders, you can expect your punishment to include any or all of the following:

  • Being forced to attend a mandatory alcohol treatment and education program.
  • Having your car equipped with an ignition interlock device for a minimum of one year.
  • A $1,000 fine that does not include other traffic-related fines or towing charges.
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for a period of at least one year.

A first-time offence does not come with any jail time. However, for a second offence you can face the following additional punishments:

  • Again attending a mandatory alcohol education and treatment program.
  • Having your car equipped with an ignition interlock device for a minimum of three years.
  • A fine with a final value set by the judge.
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for a period of at least three years.
  • A minimum 30-day jail sentence.

Additional offences are punished even more severely, including the following:

  • Further enrollment in mandatory alcohol education and treatment programs.
  • Lifetime requirement that all vehicles you drive are equipped with an ignition interlock device.
  • Additional fines to be determined by the judge.
  • Possible suspension of your driver’s license for between 10 years and the rest of your life, depending on whether you meet additional criteria set by the judge.
  • A minimum of a 120-day jail sentence.

Why You Need Professional Representation in Court

Very few people think rationally once they receive an over 80 driving charge. Feelings of shame and fear often overwhelm a person, leaving them with no idea on how they should proceed. At the same time, accepting the charges without a vigorous defence in court puts you at risk to lose your license, receive a criminal record, and watch as your insurance premiums skyrocket. By seeking out an impaired driving lawyer, you can get somebody to help anchor you during this confusing and stressful time. The lawyer can provide advice and guidance that will see you through to the end, no matter what the final result might be.

Every drinking and driving case is unique with its own problems and challenges. By speaking with a lawyer as soon as possible after you receive the charge, you can take a large-scale view at the situation as a whole and decide on the best manner in which to proceed. Even if you feel like your case is cut and dried, your lawyer might see different angles that can reduce your sentence or even remove the charge entirely. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, your DUI lawyer can work to keep the long-term consequences to a minimum and ensure that one bad mistake doesn’t ruin your life.

What to Do After Receiving a Drinking and Driving Charge

After your traffic stop, you should seek out an experienced impaired driving lawyer as soon as possible. Prior to meeting with your lawyer, write down an account of what happened from your perspective, taking extra care to mention any unusual interactions with the arresting officer and what happened when you were brought to the police station. You should write this down immediately after the event occurs to make sure that your memories are fresh. Your lawyer will compare this account to the arresting officer’s report, following up on any discrepancies and probably presenting you with some clarifying questions which can help with your case.

How an Impaired Driving Lawyer Helps You

A lawyer can be your greatest ally when it comes to handling a drinking and driving charge. The lawyer with whom you consult knows the procedures for these cases and knows which questions to ask in order to get an appropriate read on the situation. Your DUI lawyer can help you in the following manner:

  • Discuss your legal options and advise which one is the best for your needs.
  • Review all the evidence pertaining to your case.
  • Request additional evidence and reports as needed.
  • Attend court sessions on your behalf.
  • Negotiate with the prosecutor.
  • Make a motion to withdraw charges or seek a resolution that is amenable to you.

Even in the most complex and difficult situations, our Toronto DUI lawyers can help you through this difficult time. We know a great deal about how to build a strong defence against drinking and driving charges, and we can often guide you to the best possible outcome. Our clients number in the hundreds, and we have helped many of them avoid license suspensions, fines, and jail time. With the right defence, you might even be able to get through this matter without a criminal record.

Failure to secure to proper lawyer to help defend your drinking and driving charge can hound you for the rest of your life. You could wind up with a criminal record and potentially lose your license for an unrelated traffic violation in the future. Even if you think the charge is cut and dried, you should still consult with a lawyer to get the big picture and to see what you can do to properly defend yourself.

“I have been charged with DUI! What do I do now?!”

If you find yourself facing a DUI charge, reach out to one of our Toronto DUI lawyers as soon as you possibly can. You can take advantage of a free consultation and learn what moves you should make for the best possible defence. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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