What is “impaired driving”? Is it the same as “DUI” or “drunk driving”?
“Impaired driving” is a common phrase to describe a very common offence in criminal law. Many non-lawyers call it “drunk driving” or “DUI” but most an impaired driving lawyer, who practices in this area of law in Canada, refer to it is “impaired driving” or “over 80”.
This is because the relevant sections of the Criminal Code of Canada reads as follows:
253. (1) Every one commits an offence who operates a motor vehicle or vessel or operates or assists in the operation of an aircraft or of railway equipment or has the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment, whether it is in motion or not,
(a) while the person’s ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or a drug; or
(b) having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person’s blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred millilitres of blood.
(2) For greater certainty, the reference to impairment by alcohol or a drug in paragraph (1)(a) includes impairment by a combination of alcohol and a drug.
As one can see, section 253 of the Criminal Code captures what most people refer to when they are speaking of a drinking and driving charge. It also includes driving while under the influence of a drug (such as marijuana, cocaine, LSD, etc.)
What happens if I just plead guilty to impaired driving or refuse breath sample?
Many people wrongly believe that that impaired driving is not a true “criminal offence” in the same way that robbery or drug dealing is. Although it’s true there may not be the same sort of stigmatization as other types of criminal offences, impaired driving / dui charges have very serious consequences that are often far more severe the “true” criminal offences. Regardless, impaired driving, refusing to provide a breath sample, (or DUI) are all criminal offences that, if convicted, will result in a criminal record. Speaking to an experienced impaired driving lawyer may prevent that from happening.
More importantly, it carries very unique and severe consequences on a person’s life. The most significant for most is the driving prohibition for a minimum of one year. The other most significant aspect to most is the massive increases in insurance premiums.
Here is one article from an insurance company explaining that rates could double, or even triple after an impaired driving conviction. Many insurance companies will simply refuse to insure a person with an impaired driving record, forcing that person to go with high risk brokers and paying the corresponding high rates.
The Criminal Code Sections on Impaired Driving in Canada:
The specific penalties under the Criminal Code are as follows:
255. (1) Every one who commits an offence under section 253 or 254 is guilty of an indictable offence or an offence punishable on summary conviction and is liable
(a) whether the offence is prosecuted by indictment or punishable on summary conviction, to the following minimum punishment, namely,
(i) for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $1,000,
(ii) for a second offence, to imprisonment for not less than 30 days, and
(iii) for each subsequent offence, to imprisonment for not less than 120 days;
(b) where the offence is prosecuted by indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; and
(c) if the offence is punishable on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term of not more than 18 months.
259. (1) When an offender is convicted of an offence committed under section 253 […] the court that sentences the offender shall, in addition to any other punishment that may be imposed for that offence, make an order prohibiting the offender from operating a motor vehicle on any street, road, highway or other public place, or from operating a vessel or an aircraft or railway equipment, as the case may be,
(a) for a first offence, during a period of not more than three years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, and not less than one year;
(b) for a second offence, during a period of not more than five years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, and not less than two years; and
(c) for each subsequent offence, during a period of not less than three years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment.