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Underage DUI: Consequences and Penalties in Ontario

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Legal penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) in Ontario are severe, but underage and newly licensed drivers face tougher DUI-related restrictions that result in additional penalties if broken. Ontario Drivers under the age of 21, as well as newly licensed drivers of any age (those with G1, G2, M1, or M2 graduated driver's licenses), cannot have the presence of any alcohol or drugs in their blood when driving. While older and fully licensed drivers typically avoid arrest with a low blood alcohol volume or minor signs of drug impairment, younger drivers and those with graduated licenses face charges and penalties for any sign of impairment.

Known as the "zero BAC" or "zero tolerance" rule, Ontario's zero tolerance approach adds an additional tier of penalties to the long list of potential DUI-related penalties. Underage and novice drivers who are arrested and charged for DUI with the higher standard blood alcohol volumes and/or noticeable drug impairment additionally face the same consequences as fully licensed drivers if convicted. This also applies to charges based on failure to provide a breath sample or care and control.

Zero Tolerance Borne of Impairment-Related Crashes by Youth

According to MADD Canada statistics , young drivers in Canada have the highest rates of traffic death and injury per capita among all age groups and the highest death rate per kilometer driven among drivers age 75 and under. Canadian youth ages 16-25 make up only 13.6 percent of the country's population, but account for more than 33 percent of all impairment-related motor vehicle accident fatalities. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death overall for this demographic, and alcohol and/or drug impairment is a factor in more than 55 percent of fatal accidents.

In light of these sobering statistics, Canadian provinces have been enacting or otherwise strengthening zero-tolerance regulations on their books for the past decade. In light of the country's 2018 legalization of marijuana, Ontario most recently strengthened its zero tolerance rules to ensure that cannabis and its derivatives were covered.

Harsh Penalties for Criminal DUI in Ontario

No matter what the age or experience, all drivers face standard criminal DUI charges if arrested based on blood alcohol concentrations above .08, refusing to comply with a demand for alcohol or drug screening, and similar DUI offences. This means going to court to challenge the charges or plead guilty, and, if convicted, facing the full slate of potential consequences this entails, including:

  • A permanent criminal record
  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Extensive fines and associated fees
  • Mandatory educational or treatment programs
  • Mandatory ignition interlock upon driver's license reinstatement
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • Hikes in insurance premiums
  • And more.

Warning Range Penalties Similar to Zero Tolerance Penalties

Young and novice drivers charged with driving with alcohol and/or drug impairment levels that fall below standard criminal DUI impairment thresholds, are penalized in a similar fashion to experienced adult drivers who receive warning range penalties. Like the warning range DUI penalties, zero tolerance penalties are not considered a criminal offence, but are treated as administrative charges. However, zero tolerance penalties are more severe than the warning range penalties. Warning range penalties for driving with a blood alcohol concentration of between .05 and .08, or otherwise given in the case of potential drug impairment include:

  • First Offence— immediate three-day license suspension, $250 penalty, and $287 license reinstatement fee.
  • Second Offence— immediate seven-day license suspension, $350 penalty, mandatory attendance in alcohol/drug education or treatment program, and $287 license reinstatement fee.
  • Third Offence— immediate 30-day license suspension, $450 penalty, mandatory attendance in alcohol/drug education or treatment program, six-month use of vehicle ignition interlock device, and $287 license reinstatement fee.

Zero Tolerance Penalties Harsher than Warning Range Penalties

Compared to zero tolerance penalties, the above warning range consequences are mild. Zero Tolerance penalties for driving with a blood alcohol concentration below .08, or otherwise given in the case of potential drug impairment below standard criminal DUI thresholds include:

  • First Offence— immediate three-day license suspension, 30-day license suspension upon conviction, $60-$500 fine, $250 penalty, and $287 license reinstatement fee.
  • Second Offence— immediate seven-day license suspension, 30-to-90-day license suspension upon conviction, $60-$500 fine, $350 penalty, mandatory attendance in alcohol/drug education or treatment program, and $287 license reinstatement fee.
  • Third Offence— immediate 30-day license suspension, cancellation of G1, G2, M1, and M2 licenses or 30-day license suspension for fully licensed drivers under the age of 21, $60-$500 fine, $450 penalty, mandatory attendance in alcohol/drug education or treatment program, six-month use of vehicle ignition interlock device, and $287 license reinstatement fee.

In addition to these penalties, anyone charged with a zero-tolerance offence may have their vehicle impounded if there is no one available to drive it away. A zero-tolerance charge is also recorded on your driving record, which means that your insurance rates will likely see a dramatic increase.

Consider Challenging Your Zero Tolerance Case by Consulting with TorontoDUI

While a conviction for a zero-tolerance charge is not as detrimental as a conviction for criminal DUI, it still may be worth challenging in court. Skilled Ontario DUI lawyers are highly adept at strategizing a defence that can lead to such favorable outcomes as withdrawn charges, reduced charges, mitigated penalties, dismissal or acquittal. Your DUI lawyer can determine whether the issue of reasonable doubt can be raised with regard to the alleged presence of alcohol or drugs in the blood or determine whether police made any procedural mistakes. Such findings by your lawyer can often lead to withdrawal of charges, dismissal, or outright acquittal. Depending upon the unique circumstances of the case, your DUI lawyer may suggest a negotiated plea bargain for reduced charges.

With more than 15 years of successfully defending Greater Toronto Area DUI defendants, the criminal trial DUI lawyers at TorontoDUI have proven highly effective at securing favorable outcomes for their clients. If you or someone you know has been charged with a zero tolerance or other DUI-related offence in the GTA, contact the highly skilled lawyers at TorontoDUI for a free consultation.

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