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What Happens if Impaired Driving in Canada Causes Bodily Harm or Death?

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Impaired drivers frequently injure and kill people on Ontario highways and roads. Google something like “impaired driving causing bodily harm in Ontario,” and you can review dozens of sad accounts. For example, the Toronto Woman who was charged last month with multiple DUI-related offences after rear-ending three vehicles at a stop light, causing three injuries and one death. Or, for a more “explosive” story, consider the Kitchener woman who was sentenced to three years in prison for a DUI-related crash in London that resulted in a natural gas explosion that injured four first responders and caused $15 million in damages.

While such local stories provide good anecdotes highlighting the dangers of impaired driving, the numbers injured and killed by impaired driving on the national level is perhaps more sobering. Of the 1,745 motor vehicle accident fatalities recorded nationwide in 2020, Transport Canada believes that 17.6%—or about 307—were caused in whole or in part by impaired driving. While the agency did not run estimates in its report relating to injuries, if the same 17.6% fatality percentage were applied to the 101,572 motor vehicle accident injuries in 2020, it would mean that almost 18,000 were caused in whole or in part by impaired driving. For the record, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Canada believes that Transport Canada numbers are “conservative” and estimates that impaired drivers injure more than 63,000 and kill another 1,250 to 1,500 Canadians every year.

Meanwhile, a review of Statistics Canada’s incident-based crime statistics suggests that either MADD estimates are exaggerated or police aren’t doing their job—Transport Canada’s fatality numbers aren’t too off the mark, but our transference of their percentages to injuries would be. According to the 2020 incident data, just over 400 people across the country were charged with DUI offences causing injuries in 2020. The number of 2020 DUI-related arrests for causing death was 70. While these figures seem exceptionally low, we should point out that an indeterminate number of impaired drivers who caused injury or death in 2020 probably died of injuries sustained in their accidents.

No Matter the Impacts, Impaired Driving is a Criminal Offence

No matter the apparent discrepancy between DUI-related fatality/injury estimates and the number of people arrested for causing them, every incident is a tragedy that could have been avoided. Simply put, if you’ve consumed alcohol or drugs, don’t get behind the wheel.

Should you fail to follow this advice, the Canadian government stands ready to punish you severely, whether your actions cause injury or death or not. And should your impaired driving cause injuries and/or death, we assume that your conscious will punish you, as well.

The Greater Toronto Area criminal defence lawyers of TorontoDUI know everything about the penalties that can be imposed on those convicted of DUI and will tell you that the punishment is severe, even absent causing injury or death. Let’s examine for a start the consequences of being convicted of a simple DUI, whether based on blood alcohol concentrations over .80, visible impairment, refusing a breath/blood sample, care and control, or drug-based. At a minimum, you can expect the following:

  • A permanent criminal record
  • License suspension
  • A $1,000 fine and numerous other fees
  • Mandatory educational or treatment programs
  • Mandatory ignition interlock upon driver’s license reinstatement
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • Hefty DUI-based insurance premium hikes

If the court convicts you for subsequent DUI-related offences, you will face increasingly harsher versions of these first-time penalties, including longer license suspensions, higher fines, and likely jail time. Additionally, all of the above represents the bare “minimum.” Should your judge be in a particularly bad mood or be disgusted by the details of your DUI-related actions, they have the discretion of hitting you with maximum penalties. When charged as a summary conviction offence, DUI maximum penalties include a $5,000 fine or a jail term of not more than “two years less a day,” or both. The maximum penalty when the DUI is charged as an indictable offence is 10 years imprisonment.

Whether first-time or subsequent offence, judges can also enhance penalties if the DUI was committed with aggravating factors, such as excessive blood alcohol concentrations, driving with a minor, driving a commercial vehicle, engaging in dangerous driving behaviour, and others as determined by the judge. Additionally, aggravating factors may encourage the Crown to pursue a conviction as an indictable offence with its more severe imprisonment potential.

Causing Injury or Death is Especially Aggravating

When it comes to the aggravating factors of causing injury or death, though, specific provisions in the Criminal Code include enhanced penalties. Section 320.2 of the Code allows judges to sentence those convicted of DUI causing bodily harm as an indictable offence to a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. However, the minimum sentence is only a $1,000 fine as a first-time offence. Minimum penalties for subsequent DUI offences are sequentially longer jail terms starting at 30 days.

As a summary conviction offence, DUIs causing bodily harm can result in a maximum sentence of a $5,000 fine and/or two years less a day in prison. The minimum penalties as a summary conviction offence are the same as they are for an indictable offence. Whether charged as an indictable or summary conviction offence, the penalties also include loss of license and other penalties imposed for a standard DUI conviction.

DUIs resulting in death are solely charged as an indictable offence and carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The minimum penalty is the same as the minimums provided under DUI causing bodily harm. However, we are unaware of any judge who has handed down such a lenient minimum sentence on a DUI offender who caused a fatality.

If Police Charge You With a DUI-Related Accident, Consult with TorontoDUI

With over 15 years of DUI criminal defence experience in the Greater Toronto Area, the criminal trial DUI lawyers at TorontoDUI have successfully helped clients address all types of DUI charges. To learn about our DUI-case-winning strategies, contact the criminal defence lawyers at TorontoDUI for a free consultation.

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