Charged with Impaired Driving? What Happens Next?

Summertime is the greatest time to be in Toronto.  The weather is beautiful, kids are on vacation from school, and the overall sentiment across the province seems to be just a little bit better.  The hot summer weather is also a great time to enjoy a few ice-cold drinks with friends and family by a patio at one of the prime bars or restaurants across the city.  However, if you choose to drink, make sure that you have set up an alternative means to get you home safely.

This would be the ideal way for us all to enjoy the summer here in the city.  However, every year, there are thousands of people across the city and country who make the mistake of getting behind the wheel after drinking.  Unfortunately, many of them eventually get arrested and charged with drinking and driving.  If you find yourself in this situation, you may be left with many questions of what will happen next?

  • Is my license suspended just for being charged? When will I get it back?
  • Do I have a criminal record?
  • What do I tell my employer? Do I have to tell them that I have been charged?
  • Will I lose my job?
  • This is my first offence; can I go to jail for something like this?
  • Should I hire a lawyer? How much will it cost?

The purpose of this article is to help answer some of these questions and perhaps provide some guidance and clarity about the situation you find yourself in.

The first issue you will likely need to deal with is understanding what you have been charged with.  In Canada, if the offence involves drinking and driving, it is likely that you have been charged with Impaired Operation and/or Driving Over 80.

Impaired Operation (contrary to s. 320.14 (a) of the Criminal Code of Canada 1) refers to the criminal offence whereby an individual operates a motor vehicle while their ability to drive is impaired by alcohol.  Driving Over 80 (contrary to s. 320.14 (b) of the Criminal Code of Canada) refers to the criminal offence whereby an individual operates a motor vehicle while they have over 80mg of alcohol per 100mL of blood (0.08 on a standard breathalyzer).

Practically speaking, both offences are considered “drinking and driving” offences.  The criminal repercussions or sanctions for both charges are very similar.  The difference between the two charges mainly relates to proof and the elements of the offence.  In Driving Over 80, the prosecution typically must introduce evidence from a breathalyzer machine showing your exact blood alcohol content.  Conversely, in Impaired Operation, the prosecution must still prove driving while impaired by alcohol, however, no breathalyzer readings are necessary.

If you are charged with Driving Over 80, the police officer will likely seize your license.  S. 48.3 of the Highway Traffic Act 2 leads to an automatic 90-day license suspension in the case of Driving Over 80.  Keep in mind this is not part of any criminal sanction, but rather an automatic process due to the Highway Traffic Act (HTA).  This means that YOU DO NOT HAVE A CRIMINAL RECORD YET, you have simply been charged with a criminal offence.  However, this also means any criminal sanction that results if you are found guilty in court will be in addition to this 90-day suspension.  It is important to note that any driving prohibition that results from a criminal conviction can be served concurrently to this 90-day suspension.

If you decide to take your matter to trial, you may not get a trial date for over a year.  This is mainly due to the busy criminal justice system and the lack of availability of trial courts.  Therefore, while you are waiting for your trial date, you will be able to get your license back after the 90-day HTA suspension has been served.  However, keep in mind if you are found guilty after trial, you will lose your license once again as there will be an even longer driving suspension and prohibition due to the criminal conviction.

The main complaint I hear from clients with respect to the inability to drive is the impact it has on their employment.  Most of us drive to work.  Unfortunately, if you are charged with Driving Over 80, alternative arrangements for transportation will be necessary for at least the 90-day HTA driving suspension.  The charge itself should not interfere with your employment unless you are required to drive as part of your employment.    Keep in mind you are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, therefore, what you tell your employer is completely at your discretion.  There are certain professions which have regulatory requirements where you must advise your employer of any pending criminal charges.  This is an issue you should canvass with your defence lawyer if this situation applies to your profession.

If you are convicted after trial for Impaired Operation or Driving Over 80, the criminal sanctions you face are similar.  Unless there are specific aggravating circumstances, most DUI prosecutions proceed by way of summary conviction and face a maximum punishment of 2 years in jail 3.

It is also important to note, that in addition to a maximum sentence, Impaired Operation and Driving Over 80 also have a minimum sentence:

  • For a first offence, each carries a minimum sentence of a $1000 fine and a 1-year driving prohibition.
  • For a second offence, each carries a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail and a 2-year driving prohibition.
  • For a third offence, each carries a minimum sentence of 120 days in jail and a 3-year driving prohibition 4.

Therefore, the consequences of a DUI conviction can be quite significant, even for a first offence.  In addition to the fine and driving prohibition, it is possible for a first offender to go to jail upon a DUI conviction.  This will especially be true with the presence of aggravating circumstances, such as extreme intoxication or the involvement of a motor vehicle accident.

Given the seriousness of the potential consequences, it is highly recommended that if you are charged with a DUI, that you make an appointment with an experienced criminal lawyer (dui lawyer) to represent you.  The law in this area is constantly evolving, with changes to the legislation and case law.  The defence for these types of cases have become highly technical.  Through constant legislative lobbying by organizations such as MADD (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving), the government has taken away many of the common defences previously used by many defence lawyers in the past.  Therefore, hiring a lawyer who specializes in these types of offences becomes an invaluable asset.

The cost for hiring a defence lawyer to represent you in relation to this type of offence will vary depending on the experience of the lawyer and the complexity of your case.  However, as a rough guideline, expect the cost to range anywhere from $5000 – $10,000.  While this may seem expensive, trials in these matters are complicated and can often last multiple days.  The decision you must make is whether you want an experienced specialist in this area to be on your side when dealing with these charges in a court of law.  This decision can impact your future in a dramatic way.  Therefore, if you decide that you want the experience and expertise of a DUI trial lawyer on your side, please contact Nadi Law today!



Adib Nadi   H.B.Sc., J.D.
Barrister & Solicitor
Criminal Lawyer
Nadi Law




1             Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46
2             Highway Traffic Act, RSO 1990, c H.8
3             Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, S. 320.19
4             Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, S. 320.24

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