Every province in Canada uses the same legal standard for intoxication. You’re judged intoxicated if you’re caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or more. At that level you can be prosecuted for DUI.
Ontario has a second standard, all its own. In that province you don’t have to have a BAC of .08 percent on arrest to face punishment. Ontario has a what’s called a warn range: if you register a BAC of between .05 and .08 percent, the province can impose its own penalties.
- First time: 3-day licence suspension, and a $150 administrative penalty
- Second time within 5 years: 7 day suspension, $150 administrative penalty, and mandatory alcohol education program
- Third time within 5 years: 30 day suspension, $150 administrative penalty, mandatory alcohol education program. In addition, an interlock must be installed on the vehicle for six months . An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
Note that the suspensions are immediate, and cannot be appealed. The fines are administrative penalties, not legal fines. That means that they are imposed by the Ministry of Transportation, not the courts, and not because a the offense has been proven, but because the MOT has judged that it has taken place. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room. If you’re caught with a BAC in the warn range, you can expect one of the penalties above.
Naturally, those arrested with a BAC of .08 or more face stiff legal fines (starting at $1,000), long suspensions (minimum of one year), one-year ignition interlock requirements, and more.
The idea of the warn range is a good one. There are those who protest against stiff DUI penalties for first offenders. The reduced penalties in the warn range give problem drinkers a chance to address their alcohol issues before those people become a danger to society. Gradually increasing the penalties help drinkers get the idea that there is a line – called impairment – that they must not cross if they are to drive.