Understanding DUI Laws in Ontario


DUI laws seem complicated, but the practical outcome is simple: if you get caught driving under influence — you won’t drive as simple ever again, and you may need a DUI lawyer such as Jonathan Lapid. Here’s how it works. 

What DUI Means

DUI, short for “driving under influence” is when you’re driving a car and your blood alcohol level is over the legal limit. That’s right, you don’t have to be behind the wheel to get caught.

What are the Legal Limits? 

In Ontario right now, it’s not more than 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (about 0.08%). In Canada as well as in several US states, low-level DUI is when your BAC is between .05% and .08%.

That means, you can be charged with either DUI or low-level DUI. If you consume more alcohol than the legal limit, you’re impaired and could be charged with DUI. If your BAC is 0, then you have no alcohol in your body and can’t legally drive even when not under the influence. There are special tests for that.

What about Blood Test Results? 

Cops use two different ways to check your BAC:  Standard and Preliminary. They first consult the prosecution of drunk driving, who will verify if your blood alcohol level was over .08% and also use a blood-alcohol test. The latter is used when there are no breathalyzer devices in the police car.

  • Standard Blood Test: This is done both on an officer’s own authority and in the presence of a transport inspector. The general standard of a blood-alcohol test is 125 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. That means if you have 0, you will pass the test. (Please note that this amount is CANONICAL and not actual BAC)
  • Preliminary Blood Test: This is done by a nurse in the presence of an officer and if the results are positive, then the charge is added to your file. That makes the test conclusive, even if you’re not under arrest.

What are the Consequences? 

Being charged with drunk driving means losing your driver’s license for a year and a day. That suspension can be appealed to the Ontario Court of Justice, with good chances of succeeding. However, you will also have to pay a fine of between $250 and $2,500. This doesn’t take into consideration other penalties related to traffic infractions or other laws like driving without insurance or causing bodily harm.

What About Ignition Interlock? 

Ignition interlock is a device that prevents you from starting a vehicle if you have been drinking. It actually requires the person driving to blow into the machine every time he or she wants to start up the car. Without it, you can’t take the wheel.

Fines for Ignition Interlock are the same as for regular drunk driving fines: between $250 and $2,500 with good chances of being appealed. Keep in mind that these are the bare minimums. These fines can be higher and you could lose your license for one year, or even more.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, it costs $950.00 to install a device. The cost of installation is $280.00, with another $150.00 for licensing and maintenance (which is actually free). In the end, ignition interlock comes costly, and you don’t always have a chance to uninstall it legally by the end of the term. 

How to Defend Yourself Against DUI Charges?

Remember that if you were driving under influence, you are STILL responsible for any damages that you caused either to a person or a property. However, it’s still possible to fight these charges and get off the hook.

  • Where it happened — matters the most. You should check out the laws in your province, because they may be slightly different. For example, Alberta has zero tolerance (BAC = 0) rules on a person under 21 years of age, while Quebec has no BAC limits at all.
  • Know your rights as well as your legal limits. So make sure you find out the facts BEFORE you drive yourself into trouble. It’s not always easy to fight against a system that is supposed to be helping you, but if you know your rights, and those of the cops, you may get some perks.
  • Cooperate with Law Enforcement! That’s the worst thing you can do. Don’t resist arrest. Don’t refuse a breathalyzer test. Don’t try to bribe the police officer. Be aware that the cop may be manipulated by having a first-time offender in their hands, but don’t be fooled. DUI laws are strict and if you break them, you’ll find yourself in trouble. That much is true.
  • Get a good lawyer for your case. DUI lawyers are professionals who can help you beat the charge and take away some of your fines and penalties. It may be expensive, but it will all be worth it if you get yourself out of trouble and get back to driving as simple as before. Hopefully — with no drinking. 

The Final Advice

DUI laws are strict, but they’re aimed — mostly — at those who can’t control themselves. At people that are chronically ill, severely dependent on drugs, or drink way above moderation. The police know it, the court system knows it, and you should be aware of it too. 

If you have no criminal background, just had a glass of wine and got pulled over on your way to a hospital because of an emergency — you, technically, were driving under influence. That’s true. However, is it the same thing as a careless alcoholic causing a major car crash with casualties for the third time this week because he had to buy more beer before the store closes? There is a difference. 
At the end of the day, the main aim of DUI laws in Ontario is to protect people. If you possess no threat to the public and just accidentally got in trouble, for the first time, because of literally anything — from stress to medical conditions and pure unfortunate coincidence or mistake — you should not suffer from the consequences. Retain a professional lawyer and let them fight for a fair decision in court, not the one that would disrupt your whole life.