The main difference between “DWI” and “DUI” lies in their informal usage within the Canadian context, particularly when it comes to impaired driving offences in provinces like Ontario.
While these acronyms are often used interchangeably, it’s noteworthy that the Canadian legal system does not officially adopt these terms. Instead, to encompass all impaired driving offences, the Criminal Code of Canada uniformly employs the term “impaired driving”.
Impaired Driving vs DUI vs DWI: Clarifying the Terms
In colloquial language, “DWI” stands for “driving while impaired,” while “DUI” stands for “driving under the influence.” Despite their widespread use in Canada, including Ontario, neither of these acronyms holds any legal significance under Canadian law.
The appropriate legal term for impaired driving in Ontario and overall Canada is “impaired driving” or “driving while impaired” (DWI). Nonetheless, Canadians frequently employ DWI or DUI informally to describe impaired driving charges.
Difference Between DUI and DWI: Historical Context
The terms “DUI” and “DWI” are commonly associated with American terminology, particularly in the context of impaired driving. In Canada, “driving under the influence” (DUI) has never been a part of the Criminal Code.
Instead, the original offence for drinking and driving was referred to as “driving while intoxicated”, enacted in 1921 as a summary conviction offence with a minimum penalty of 7 days in jail.
Over the years, the legal system evolved its understanding of “intoxication,” shifting its focus from mere influence to significant inebriation. This led to an important amendment in 1925, changing the “intoxicated” in the DWI terminology to “impaired”, broadening the scope of the law to include intoxication by narcotics as well.
Interestingly, the acronym “DWI” was never widely adopted in Canada to describe the offence, with Canadians often using “drunk driving” or, more recently, “DUI” in its place. While most American states adopted the “driving under influence” terminology, resulting in the “DUI” acronym, Canada followed suit informally, despite the absence of these terms in codified law.
What is the difference between DUI and impaired driving in Ontario?
The main difference between “DUI” (driving under the influence) and “impaired driving” in Ontario lies in their legal status:
- “DUI” is an informal term used colloquially to refer to the offence of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. However, it does not hold any legal significance under Canadian law.
- On the other hand, “impaired driving” is the appropriate legal term used in Canada, including Ontario, to describe the offence of driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both, leading to impaired driving abilities. It is the term recognized and codified under the Canadian Criminal Code.
What Is Impaired Driving Meaning in Canadian Law
Impaired driving in Ontario and throughout Canada refers to the act of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both, to the extent that it impairs the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle safely. There are also Ontario blood alcohol limits for different categories of drivers.
It is a serious criminal offence that poses a significant risk to public safety, and it is strictly enforced and prosecuted by law enforcement authorities. By the way, did you know that DUI offence can transfer from province to province in Canada?
In impaired driving cases, police may rely on visible signs of impairment, such as bloodshot eyes, unsteady movements, or erratic driving patterns, rather than requiring a blood or breath sample.
Types of Driving While Impaired (DWI) in Ontario
In Canada, driving while impaired is governed by the Criminal Code, section 320, which sets out the legal framework and penalties for impaired driving offences. The code outlines several provisions related to impaired driving, including various types of DUI charges that individuals may encounter.
These charges are as follows:
- Impaired Driving: This offence occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle while their ability to do so is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. The impairment may be evident through physical signs or erratic driving behavior, and it does not require a specific blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level for conviction.
- Over 80 Charge: Also known as “operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 80 mg of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood,” this over 80 charge occurs when a driver’s BAC exceeds the legal limit of 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. Driving with a BAC over the limit is a criminal offence, regardless of whether signs of impairment are evident.
- Refusal to Provide a Breath Sample (or Refusing Breathalyzer): If a police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that a driver has alcohol in their body, they may demand a breath sample. Refusing a breathalyzer is a criminal offence.
- Care and Control: This offence pertains to individuals who are not actively driving but have care and control over a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs at the time of arrest. This charge is applicable when a person is found in the driver’s seat of a vehicle with the capability to operate it, such as having the keys in the ignition or being able to start the engine.
- Driving While Impaired by Drugs: This charge is applicable when a person operates a vehicle while impaired by drugs, as determined by a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) evaluation, approved roadside drug screening equipment (ADSE), or blood sampling.
- Underage Impaired Driving: If a driver is under 21 years old and shows any level of impairment, they may be charged with underage impaired driving, regardless of whether a breath sample is provided or not.
- Zero Tolerance Impaired Driving: This offence is specific to novice drivers (G1, G2, M1, or M2 licence holders) and commercial vehicle operators. Any detectable concentration of alcohol or drugs in their system while operating a vehicle is considered an offence.
These violations carry severe impaired driving penalties, including criminal records, licence suspensions, fines, and potential imprisonment. The aim is to discourage impaired driving and ensure the safety of all road users. It is essential to understand the gravity of these violations and make responsible choices when it comes to operating any type of vehicle.
While the terms “DWI” and “DUI” are commonly used to refer to impaired driving in Canada, it is essential to recognize that the Canadian legal system officially uses the term “impaired driving” to encompass all impaired driving offences. Regardless of the terminology, impaired driving is a serious criminal offence with severe consequences that may have long-lasting effects on your life.
If you or someone you know is facing impaired driving charges in Ontario, it is crucial to seek legal assistance from experienced DUI lawyers.
At X-COPS, our team of skilled lawyers has a proven track record of defending clients against impaired driving charges. We can help you navigate the legal process, understand the potential consequences, and provide a strong defence to protect your rights.
Don’t hesitate to contact X-COPS for a FREE consultation and the best possible representation in your impaired driving case.