Most people would agree that penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs in Ontario are severe and assume that the even harsher penalties for repeat DUI offenders serve as a deterrent. However, statistics on DUI repeat offenders suggest that despite harsher penalties for subsequent DUI convictions, many people who’ve had a first-time DUI still take the chance of driving while impaired.
According to 2015 Canadian statistics on DUI repeat offenders, one in six Canadians charged with DUI in 2014/2015 had been charged with the same crime within 10 years. The rate for a second DUI within 10 years rises to one in five when the charges include impaired driving causing bodily harm or death. This means that of the 24,276 DUI cases addressed by Ontario courts in 2014/2015, almost 4,000 likely involved repeat DUI offenders.
Not that the ever increasing severity of DUI penalties across Canada hasn’t been having an effect, as the Government of Canada reported in 2015 that impaired driving was at its lowest level in 30 years. The 2015 impaired driving rate showed a four percent year-over-year decline from 2014 and a 65 percent decline from the 1986 rate. Additionally, Ontario must be doing something right, as it had the lowest impaired driving rate in the country as of 2015.
Let’s Start With the Penalties for a First-Time DUI Offence
Before reviewing the penalties for a DUI second offence, and the even harsher ones for third and subsequent repeat DUIs, let’s recap the penalties for those first-timers. We’d like to think that anyone reading about the penalties for a first-time offence would think twice about driving while impaired, but more than 20,000 people in Ontario got arrested for taking the chance in 2018/2019.
No matter how many prior DUIs on one’s record, anyone arrested for criminal DUI charges faces immediate sanctions that include a 90-day drivers’ license suspension, seven-day vehicle impoundment, $550 penalty and a $281 license reinstatement fee. Those with one prior DUI conviction within 10 years also must attend a mandatory education or treatment program. Those with two or more prior DUI convictions within 10 years will also be required to use an ignition interlock device for a minimum of six months.
But the above just marks the start of a DUI suspect’s troubles. If convicted of a first-time DUI offence the penalties include:
- Minimum one-year license suspension
- Mandatory one-year ignition interlock device upon license reinstatement.
- Mandatory medical evaluation to determine your fitness to drive.
- $1,000 to $2,000 fine based on level of impairment
- Potential jail term for up to two years based on mitigating circumstances.
- Mandatory enrollment in Ontario’s “ Back on Track ” education/treatment program before license reinstatement.
And the consequences don’t stop there. Because DUI is a criminal offence, a conviction results in a life-time criminal record. This can impact one’s reputation, employment and educational opportunities, and one’s ability to travel, especially to the U.S. which can and does refuse entry to those convicted of DUI. Additionally, the costs of a DUI—first-time or subsequent—go far beyond the fine. Fees include $281 for license reinstatement (twice for those who already paid it for the 90-day suspension), towing and impoundment charges, $1,500 for the ignition interlock device (along with $100-plus monthly testing fees), and over $650 for the Back on Track program. Last you can expect to pay exceptionally high insurance rates as a “risky driver” for five years after you get your license back.
OK, So What Are the Penalties for Repeat DUI Offenders in Ontario
People convicted of a second offence DUI in Ontario can expect the same consequences as a conviction for a first time DUI with the following harsher penalties:
- Minimum mandatory 30-day jail term (longer prison sentences possible with mitigating factors).
- Three-year mandatory driver’s license suspension.
- A fine amount at the discretion of the judge (better hope they’re in a good mood).
- Potential for court-ordered probation.
Those convicted of a third or subsequent conviction face the same consequences as a second-time DUI conviction, though the license suspension is permanent and the mandatory jail sentence is a minimum of three months.
How Can a Repeat DUI Offender Avoid These Consequences?
With so much at stake with a DUI conviction, whether as a first offence or a repeat DUI offender, those charged with DUI cannot afford to defend themselves alone. Due to the complexities of DUI law and court procedures achieving a favorable outcome in DUI cases almost always depends upon the skills of an experienced criminal DUI lawyer. Every DUI-related case is unique and can involve any number of complicated distinct charges—over 80-plus mgs, impaired driving, refusing a breath sample, care and control—that might call for different defence strategies. Additionally, police often charge suspected drivers with more than one of the DUI offences to boost their odds for getting a conviction. For example, impaired driving is often combined with refusing to provide a breath sample or with an over 80-plus mgs charge. The complexity of such cases is further enhanced when any DUI charges are paired with other traffic violations and/or more serious offences such as hit and run.
Skilled criminal DUI lawyers , such as those within the team of Mass Tsang, have a vast range of strategic tactics they can use to successfully defend DUI clients, whether first-time offenders or repeat DUI offenders. They are adept at finding procedural and evidentiary flaws in the Crown’s case that can be used to leverage it to agree to reduced charges, or, with egregious flaws, secure outright dismissal or withdrawal of charges. During trial, expert DUI lawyers will seek out every opportunity to raise doubts about evidence and witness testimony in order to weaken the “beyond a reasonable doubt” threshold needed to secure a guilty finding. They are also skilled at finding Charter Rights violations that can nullify evidence or otherwise weaken the Crown’s case.
In short, trying to defend yourself against DUI charges alone is like trying to fly a plane without flight lessons.
For your Ontario DUI Defence Needs Consult with Mass Tsang
Mass Tsang has successfully defended 1,000s of DUI defendants in the Toronto area by helping those charged with DUI in Ontario win their cases or otherwise secure a favorable outcome. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI-related offences, in the Greater Toronto Area, the expert lawyers at Mass Tsang today for a free consultation.