Impaired Driving and the Back on Track Program
Blog by Arun S. Maini
I have been charged with a DUI and my licence was suspended at the scene for 90 days. Can I get my licence back?
When the police arrest you in Ontario for impaired driving or driving over the legal limit (called an “over 80”), they will automatically issue you a ticket for what is called an Administrative Driver’s Licence Suspension (ADLS). This suspension prohibits you from driving for 90 days.
Unfortunately, an ADLS suspension cannot be shortened or cancelled, and you must wait the 90 days before getting your licence back. In order to drive again, you will need to pay a fee of $281 to the Ministry of Transportation at a ServiceOntario office.
Reinstatement of your licence after an ADLS suspension will permit you to drive again even if your DUI charge is still pending before the court.
If, following the ADLS suspension, the court prohibits you from driving due to a conviction for a DUI, then you will need to complete the requirements of the Ministry of Transportation’s Back On Track program (see details below).
What penalties am I facing for a DUI conviction?
Because drinking and driving is considered a “zero tolerance offence”, there are serious penalties if you are found guilty. If you are convicted of impaired driving, being over the legal limit, or refusing to provide a breath sample, you will automatically have a criminal record; you will have to pay a fine (minimum of $1,000) and the court will prohibit you from driving for a minimum of a year.
If this is your second offence, the penalties are higher: a minimum fine of $2,000, and your licence will be suspended by the court for a minimum of 3 years. Depending on the facts of the case, the court can increase these penalties, but cannot reduce them.
Note that the financial consequences of a DUI conviction are severe. Beyond the fine imposed by the court, you will have to pay the following:
Legal fees, if you hired a lawyer;
A court-imposed victim fine surcharge of 30% of your fine (if your fine is the minimum $1,000, then the surcharge will be $300);
The fee for the Ministry’s Back on Track program, which is a prerequisite to getting your licence back ($1,000);
The licence re-instatement fee ($281);
The cost to install and lease an Interlock device in your car ($1,500-$2,000 per year);
Increased insurance rates (often 3-5 times what you were paying before the incident).
How can I avoid a driving prohibition in a DUI case?
Because a driving prohibition is mandatory, the only way to avoid this outcome is to win the case. That means either being found Not Guilty after a trial, or persuading the Crown to drop the criminal charges against you. However, because these are zero tolerance offences, the Crown is under strict policy limitations and will not withdraw the charges unless you can show that they will be unable to prove the case against you. Your lawyer can advise you as to whether that might be a possibility in your case.
Is it true that the government has made it harder to win DUI cases?
Yes. Over the years, and especially since 2018, the government has changed the law to make it more difficult to defend DUI cases. They have closed off avenues that you were once able to use to raise reasonable doubt, and allowed police and prosecutors to use procedural shortcuts. As a result, the Crown now has a greater chance of proving the case against you.
To know what your chances are of avoiding the automatic penalties that come with a DUI conviction, you will need the help of an experienced lawyer who can review the evidence, often with the input of a toxicologist, and advise you.
What is the Back on Track program?
Anyone found guilty of a drinking and driving offence in Ontario needs to complete the Ministry of Transportation’s Back on Track program. The program consists of the following:
An initial interview/assessment (1 hour);
A workshop, either for education (8 hours) or treatment (16 hours), depending on the results of the initial assessment;
A follow up interview 6 months later (half an hour).
See the MTO’s website for more information at www.remedial.net
What is the Interlock program?
If you are convicted of a DUI for the first time, you are eligible to drive before the court-ordered prohibition expires. You will need to have an Interlock device installed in your car. You will need to breathe into this device in order for your car to start. If you have alcohol in your system, your car will not start.
When can I have an Interlock device installed so I can drive again?
It depends on when you are found guilty and sentenced. If you are a first offender and are sentenced within 3 months of the offence, then you can have the Interlock installed 90 days after the conviction. This is known as “Stream A”.
If you are a first offender and found guilty and sentenced more than 3 months after the offence, then you can install the Interlock 6 months after the conviction. This is known as “Stream B”.
If you are a second offender, you can still register for the Interlock program. If you are found guilty and sentenced within 3 months of the offence, you can have the Interlock device installed 9 months after the conviction. This is known as “Stream D”.
How long will I need to keep the Interlock device in my car?
For a Stream A first offender with the minimum 12 month prohibition: 9 months on the Interlock;
For a Stream B first offender with the minimum 12 month prohibition: 12 months on the Interlock;
For a Stream D second offender with the minimum 3 year prohibition: 18 months on the Interlock.
I don’t want the Interlock device installed in my car. Can I just choose not to drive until my prohibition expires and then get my licence back?
No. The Ministry will still require that you have the Interlock device installed before getting your licence back, even if you wait until the prohibition expires.
Where can I find out more about the Interlock device?
The Ministry of Transportation’s website has a page about the Ignition Interlock program at www.ontario.ca/page/reduced-suspension-ignition-interlock-conduct-review-program
Should I hire a lawyer to defend my DUI case?
Because drinking and driving is a zero-tolerance offence, the penalties are severe. If you are found guilty, you will have a criminal record, be prohibited from driving, and face enormous costs. A lawyer will be able to advise you of your chances of avoiding this outcome by analyzing the evidence in your case; reviewing the issues with a toxicologist, and negotiating with the Crown. If you are going to face the high cost and inconvenience of a conviction, you may want to know that you have obtained the best advice you can about your situation. Given the consequences, it might be some of the best money you ever spend.
Arun S. Maini at the Defence Group has been a criminal lawyer for over 25 years. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges and need the advice of an experienced and skilled lawyer to help you through the legal process, call The Defence Group for a free consultation at 877-295-2830 or email us through the Contact Us link throughout our website.