“Can my drinking and driving charge be reduced to careless driving?”— That is a question we often get asked by people charged with drinking and driving in Ontario.

The Crown Attorney’s policy usually requires that all drinking and driving charges proceed to trial. There are exceptions. The Crown may agree to a reduced charge of careless driving, or another HTA offence, when there is something seriously wrong with their ability to prove the case. Usually, such an offer will only come on the date of a trial.

In one of our July 2016 over 80 cases, the arresting police officer was not available on the date of the trial. As a result of this, and other problems with the case, the Crown agreed to reduce the charge to an Ontario Highway Traffic Act offence of careless driving.

“What are the penalties for careless driving in Ontario?”

A careless driving offence avoids a criminal record, which is the main priority of many people charged with drinking and driving. There are still serious consequences for careless driving, including:

Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Demerit points: A conviction carries six demerit points. Demerit points stay on your record with the Ministry of Transportation for two years from the offence date. A fully licensed driver with between 9 and 14 demerits points may be required to attend an interview with a ministry official to provide information or other evidence to show why his or her driver’s licence should not be suspended. At 15 demerit points, the MTO will suspend your license.

Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Fines and license suspensions: A conviction for careless driving is punishable by a minimum fine of $400. The maximum fine is $2,000. If you are convicted, the court also can suspend your licence for up to two years and even put you in jail for up to six months. Under a Provincial Offences Act regulation a victim fine surcharge of is added to the fine (starting at $85 if the fine is $400 and 25 per cent of any fine over $1,000).

Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Insurance: A conviction for careless driving has serious consequences for your car insurance. Insurance companies rank driving offences as minor, major or serious and assign insurance risk points to each category. Careless driving is ranked as a serious offence for insurance purposes. Insurance companies may refuse to renew your insurance, or they may double the insurance rates in some cases.

Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Probation: The Provincial Offences Act allows for probation to be imposed. Sometimes a careless driving agreement with the Crown includes a probation term that requires the offender to have zero alcohol in his or her system while driving.

Ottawa DUI and Criminal Lawyer

Charged with drinking and driving, or breath-sample refusal? Contact Brett McGarry to discuss the best strategy for your case.