What are the implications of a first offense and what should you do?

There are all kinds of firsts in life. Some are cause for celebration, while others carry grave consequences. For example, driving under the influence is a serious violation, even when it’s only your first offense. The current trend of toughening drunk-driving laws in Canada has resulted in stiffer fines and punishments from the outset if you’re convicted. However, there are a number of dos and don’ts that can help lessen the impact.

Playing the cooperation card

Within the space of approximately thirty years, the incidence of driving under the influence has declined markedly (by 65 percent), keeping pace with the decline in government tolerance of these types of offenses.

This means that, first offense or not, it’s vital to cooperate with the authorities from the beginning, starting the very moment you’re arrested. In fact, the police can suspend your driver’s license even if a judge hasn’t yet convicted you. This suspension is generally for a term of 90 days.

If you’re arrested, you’re allowed to provide explanations and to call a lawyer. You still have rights. However, it’s imperative to follow the directions of the police, especially if it’s your first offense. Unless you have a reasonable excuse, you’ll be committing a violation by refusing to take a breath test, saliva test, sobriety test or blood test, or by simply refusing to follow the police officer.

Real implications

If you’re found guilty of driving under the influence, your driving privileges will be automatically revoked and your driver’s license will be suspended. Having a cooperative attitude can work in your favor when it comes to getting a restricted license or not.

On the other hand, you should be aware that a first offense carries a mandatory minimum fine in an amount stipulated in the Criminal Code. Moreover, the higher your blood-alcohol level (mg/100 ml), the worse the consequences will be.

For blood-alcohol levels between 0.08 and 1.18, there’s a $1,000 fine and suspension of your driving privileges for one year. If your blood-alcohol level is between 1.20 and 1.59, the fine goes up to $1,500, along with the one-year suspension of your driver’s license. And if your blood-alcohol level is 1.60 or higher, the fine will be $2,000, and your license will be suspended for one year in the case of a first offense. In the case of repeat offenses, your license may be suspended even longer.

Nevertheless, in all three scenarios, if the judge allows it, you may be eligible to enroll in a driving program with periodic testing. In Quebec, the SAAQ issues restricted licenses that allow you to drive a vehicle equipped with an approved breath alcohol ignition interlock device. However, if driving under the influence (which includes illegal blood-levels of THC) results in bodily injury or death, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be allowed to drive anytime soon, and the maximum punishment is 14 years to life in prison.

If you’re arrested, getting good legal advice can make all the difference in the world. That’s why you need to contact Martine Thibodeau to ensure that your rights are rigorously enforced.

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