What are the penalties for impaired driving in Ontario?
Impaired driving is a crime under Canada’s Criminal Code and is taken very seriously in Ontario.
We talked to Toronto’s Constable Clinton Stibbe, who explained it from an officer’s point of view: drunk driving is not a mistake you make, he said, it is a choice:
“And it’s a very simple choice - if you drink, don’t drive.”
So if you choose to endanger your own safety as well as the safety and lives of others, be prepared to face the consequences.
For novice drivers and drivers aged 21 and under
If you’re caught with Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) above zero:
- Your driver's licence will be suspended on the spot for 24 hours.
- If convicted, your licence will be suspended again for at least 30 days and you’ll be fined $60-$500.
- If you’re a novice driver and have your licence suspended for drinking and driving, your licence could be cancelled entirely. You’ll have to retake all your driving tests.
For fully licensed drivers
If your BAC tests in the “warn range” (above 0.05 but under 0.08)
- First time: 3-day licence suspension and $150 fine.
- Second time: 7-day licence suspension, $150 fine and a mandatory alcohol education program.
- Third time: 30-day licence suspension, $150 fine, a mandatory alcohol treatment program, and ignition interlock installation.
What is ignition interlock?
An Ignition Interlock Device or IID is like a breathalyzer installed in a car to prevent you from drinking and driving. You’ll have to deliver a breath sample into the device each time you try to start the car. If you blow higher than the set BAC level, the interlock will prevent your car from starting.
If you test over the legal limit of 0.08 OR refuse a drug or alcohol test:
- You face a 90-day immediate licence suspension even before you are convicted of impaired driving.
- $150 penalty
- 7-day vehicle impoundment
If you're convicted of impaired driving:
- First time: You’ll have to join an alcohol treatment or education program, your car will be fitted with an ignition interlock device, you’ll have to pay a $1,000 fine, and your licence can be suspended for up to one year.
- Second time: You’ll be joining that mandatory alcohol program, and your car will be fitted with an IID for 3 years. You could face up to 30 days in jail. Your judge will decide the fine amount and could also suspend your licence for three years.
- Third time: By now you know the drill: alky treatment, a lifetime minimum requirement to drive a car equipped with an IID, 120 days in jail plus fines (which could be up to $50,000) and a possible lifetime licence suspension.
From the Ontario Driver’s Handbook:
“For impaired driving that causes injury or death, the penalties are even more severe. If you are convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm, you may be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison. Impaired driving causing death can carry a sentence of imprisonment for life.”
Convictions stay on your driver's record for a minimum of 10 years. Your insurance rates can be up to $8,000 higher with an impaired driving conviction - and many companies will flat out refuse to insure you.