Know Your Rights: Understanding Drinking and Driving Charges in Ontario

The current federal limit for a driver’s BAC is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; anything over that number qualifies as a criminal offence, known more commonly as an “over 80.”

However, drivers needn’t be over 80 to need get a DUI. If an officer believes that your ability to drive is impaired by any amount of alcohol in your system, you will be charged.  In fact, you don’t even have to be driving for this to happen.  You can be charged with impaired “care or control” even if your car is turned off and you are just sleeping inside or if you are trying to get a tow truck to pull it out of the ditch or a snow bank.

Understanding the Difference Between a DWI, DUI, DWAI, OUI, and Impaired Driving Charge

  • Impaired driving: A common term referring to the operation, care or control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. “Impaired driving” is a chiefly-Canadian term; if you Google “impaired driving lawyer Toronto,” you’ll get mostly Canadian results. These other acronyms are derivatives that essentially mean the same thing.


  • DWI: Driving While Intoxicated.
  • DWAI: Driving While Ability Impaired.
  • DUI: Driving under the Influence.
  • OWI: Operating While Impaired.


What if I refuse a breath test?

Your drinking and driving lawyer will always caution you against refusing or failing to provide a breath sample. If you refuse or fail to provide a breath sample, you will be charged with “Refusing or Failing to Provide a Breath Sample.” This charge carries the same penalties as an impaired driving charge.

What are the license suspensions when found guilty in Ontario?

If you are convicted of drinking and driving or “over 80,” you will face the following suspensions, along with other repercussions, including jail time:

  • 1st offence: 1 year suspension.
  • 2nd offence: 3 year suspension.
  • 3rd offence: indefinite suspension.
  • Subsequent offences: indefinite suspension.


Those convicted of drinking and driving may also be required to attend Educational or Rehabilitative Care programs before they are able to drive again.

If you would like to learn more from an experience drinking and driving lawyer in Toronto, or require a free consultation, please visit, or call (416)-363-3612 to speak directly with John Erickson.