Impaired Driving And Highway Traffic Act Offences

Impaired Driving Lawyer

For most of us, driving is a vital part of our lives. Anything that interferes with our ability to drive will have a far-reaching impact. Unfortunately, people make mistakes, and impaired drivers are rampant on the road today. Additionally, with substance abuse issues being a significant problem, drug-impaired driving is also very prevalent in Canadian society.

Clients who come to us with driving offences are many and varied. For some, this is a one-time occurrence. Others may be seeing us for a second, third, or fourth time. At Bernstein Law Group, our job is to protect our clients from excessive negative consequences and get them back to driving as soon as possible.

The consequences of a driving-related charge may be more severe than you realize. Our lawyers will ensure that you know the consequences of pleading or fighting your charge, so that you can make informed choices about your defence.

As you are probably aware, drunk driving is illegal in Ontario, and in the rest of Canada, and is contrary to the Criminal Code. Often times when someone is charged with impaired driving, they are also charged with blowing over the legal limit with a blood alcohol level of over .08 blood alcohol concentration (or also referred to as BAC). These readings are done by the Police administering the breathalyzer by a licensed Breath Technician at the police station. You will likely take a screening device at the roadside which is similar to the breathalyzer but less accurate. The Crown Attorney takes a serious approach when it comes to these charges, which means many of the cases go to trial.

Impaired Driving

There are many kinds of impairment, including by alcohol, drugs, and prescription medication. How serious your charge is may depend on whether this is your first, second or fifth charge as well as the circumstances of the case.

The Canadian government takes drinking and driving very seriously, and in turn; our laws in Canada are strict when it comes to driving under the influence. Unfortunately, impaired drivers kill hundreds of people every year. In Ontario, the Crown Attorney has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drinking and driving or drug-impaired driving which means they take a aggressive approach.

Driving with a blood alcohol concentration or BAC of .08 or higher is a criminal offence and contrary to the Criminal Code. For drug impairment, you must not have more than two nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

We will discuss many aspects of your situation at the initial consultation, including:

  • Ignition Interlock: For first-time charges, you may be able to get an interlock device installed in your car and get back to driving much sooner than you think. This may be a priority for clients for whom driving is indispensable, or even part of their job. The ignition interlock program can be very important for many people. The ignition interlock device ensures that the driver has zero alcohol in their system prior to driving.
  • Your record and other consequences: It may be tempting for you to take the Interlock program, but before you make any decisions, you need to know exactly what it means. There may be long-term consequences to pleading guilty, including a criminal record, the expenses associated with the interlock program, and higher insurance rates. If you have been involved in an accident, you should also know that a guilty plea might affect any lawsuit against you.
  • The circumstances of your arrest: It may be that the actions of the police in stopping you, asking for a breath sample or administering the breath sample could give us grounds to challenge the evidence against you. We may also be able to change your charge from a criminal offence to a Highway Traffic Act offence.

Impaired driving laws are constantly changing and the government makes it more and more clear that drunk driving will not be tolerated. This means it has become increasingly important to have an experienced criminal lawyer advocate for your rights and get you the best results possible.

If this is not your first charge, your options may be somewhat more limited, but we can still talk about how to minimize the negative consequences and protect you from excessive penalties such as losing your licence. We understand that keeping your driver's licence is usually a priority, and we will work tirelessly to determine whether there are any triable issues that we can bring forward to the Crown Attorney to have your charges thrown out or have you plead to a lesser offence such as a charge under the Highway Traffic Act. Police officers sometimes get it wrong, and breach your Charter rights and this may happen at the roadside, or at the police station. It is critical that you hire a skilled criminal lawyer to investigate whether the Police have made an error.

It is not uncommon for an accused to be charged with over .08 or impaired with simply being in the motor vehicle but not driving. This is known as “care and control” of a motor vehicle. Many people are shocked to find out that they can be criminally charged for sitting in their motor vehicle, even if they had no intention of driving. Impaired driving and driving over the legal limit is codified in the Criminal Code of Canada and if convicted, will result in a driving prohibition. The Crown Attorney takes a hardline approach to drinking and driving in an effort to reduce drunk drivers on the road. Criminal charges must always be taken seriously. Impaired driving charges could result in a criminal record which should be avoided at all costs if this is your first offence. Impaired driving offences are common but if you are not represented properly, it could result in jail time depending on the facts of your case. If there is bodily harm involved such as from a motor vehicle accident, the Crown Attorney could very well be looking at jail. It is also not uncommon for the Crown Attorney to look for jail time if it is a second offence or any subsequent offence of driving impaired. To that end, regardless of the situation, you should seek sound legal advice as soon as possible.

New Impaired Driving Laws in Canada

As of December 2018, there are new impaired driving laws in Canada. The law with respect to drinking and driving is constantly changing. For instance, it used to be that Police would have to have reasonable suspicion to make the breath demand. The changes give law enforcement new powers, by making it more difficult for those charged with drinking and driving to beat the case.

Police now have the authority to demand a breath sample from anyone they pull over. As mentioned, they no longer need to have reasonable suspicion. Additionally, you can be charged if you refuse to take the roadside test. You can also be charged if you refuse to blow into the breathalyzer at the station.

A common defence to drinking and driving would be that the accused had just consumed alcohol immediately before driving and that it was not absorbed. This defence is no longer available.

Police are now permitted to take an oral fluid sample if they suspect you may be impaired by drug. Depending on the results, they may do further testing, such as a blood test.

There are also new laws when it comes to having both alcohol and THC in your system at the same time. Having a BAC of 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood plus 2.5ng or more of THC per 1 milliliter of blood within two hours of driving will classify as impaired driving.

In Ontario, fines and penalties range for impaired driving. If you have a blood alcohol concentration of .05 to .08, you are considered to be in the "warn" range and will face administrative penalties such as a 3 day license suspension and a $250 fine.  Surprisingly, there are no demerit points for impaired driving in Ontario since it falls strictly under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Alcohol affects a person's ability to drive a motor vehicle and function in a number of ways. Police will use a variety of tests to assess the sobriety of drivers in Ontario such as the standardized field sobriety test, drug recognition evaluation, and the approved screening device. There is a zero tolerance for drinking and driving and drug impaired driving for novice drivers. New and young drivers are not permitted to have any alcohol or drug in their system.

Ontario, along with Quebec and Manitoba, has the lowest instances of impaired driving among the provinces. Impaired driving rates have declined, however, it still remains one of the most frequent criminal offences and is among the leading criminal causes of death in Ontario. According to a study by Centers for Disease Control, Canada is the leader of drunk driving death rates when compared to other wealthy countries, with 34% of vehicle deaths being related to impairment.

Contact Bernstein Law Group

Being convicted of impaired driving could result in the loss of your driver's license and vehicle impoundment as well as a criminal record. You may be required to attend treatment programs, receive a hefty fine, and even face jail time.  It is critical you have proper representation to ensure your interests are protected.

Call us at 905-546-1990 or contact us online for an appointment. We represent clients charged with impaired driving and DUI in Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Brantford, Milton and surrounding areas. With tireless preparation and meticulousness, we fight every case with the goal to achieve the best results possible.

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Bernstein Law Group



250 James St S, Hamilton, ON L8P 3B3


Our legal team provides services in all languages throughout Ontario.  Our Hamilton criminal defence lawyers specialize in drug offences,  sexual assault, theft/robbery, weapons offences, and youth offences.