The Criminal Code of Canada does not include the term DUI. Other jurisdictions such as the United States do use this terminology, and in Ontario, it is common for people to talk about DUI when what they really mean is the offence of operating a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. This offence can include driving a vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of over 80 or driving under the influence of any amount of drugs or alcohol that adversely affect the ability to safely operate a vehicle. Please read our articles on impaired driving and over 80 for more information on these offences.
In addition to using the term DUI, the public often holds other mistaken beliefs about what impaired driving charges. For example, impaired driving is not limited to automobiles, operating a boat, train or aircraft while under the influence can also lead to an impaired driving charge. Another common misconception with impaired driving charges is that the vehicle must be running or in motion. These offences apply to any person who has control or care of a vehicle, which can include sitting in the driver’s seat.
The punishments for DUI vary depending on prior offenses and whether an accident caused by the impaired driving led to bodily harm or death. A first offence where no injuries are present carries a minimum fine of $1,000, later offences have required prison terms ranging from thirty days to five years. Regardless of prior offences, if an accident occurs that results in bodily injury, the maximum sentence increases to ten year or in the case of a death, life imprisonment.
In addition to possible fines and prison sentences, a DUI conviction leads to an automatic prohibition of driving. For the first offence, the suspension of driving privileges lasts at least one year and no longer than three years. For a second offence, the minimum is two years and the maximum is five years. For subsequent offences, the minimum is five years and there is no maximum time period for the prohibition on driving. It is possible to have driving privileges restored prior to the end of the minimum prohibition period by installing and using an ignition interlock device.