The Real Financial Costs of a DUI

Posted on September 04, 2018 in Uncategorized


By Lavinia Inbar

Aitken Robertson Professional Corporation

Ontario, Canada

It is common knowledge that if a person is convicted of a drinking and driving offence, the financial costs to that person will be high. But just how high? This article provides a breakdown of most of the direct financial costs of a drinking and driving conviction in Ontario.

The Indirect Financial Costs

But before examining those direct costs, we pause here for a moment to consider that following a drinking and driving charge and conviction or even just a charge without a conviction, there will be indirect financial costs arising from the driver's licence suspensions, and (if there is a conviction), the criminal record. There is also the possibility of jail time. While these indirect costs are not easily quantifiable, they nonetheless can cause significant financial hardship.

For example, if charged (just charged and not yet convicted) with the offence of "over 80" your driver's licence will be "administratively" suspended immediately for 90 days. So even if you eventually have a trial and beat the charge so that you are not convicted, you will still have spent three months without a driver's licence. For some people that would mean three months of lost pay or the actual loss of a job if they rely on driving for their work or even just to get to work.

Then, if you are convicted, there are additional and longer driving suspension periods ranging from one year for first offences to lifetime suspensions for repeat offenders. If it is not your first drinking and driving conviction and it has been less than 10 years since your last one, you will be going to jail. On a second conviction the minimum jail sentence is 30 days and the minimum licence suspension is three years followed by three years of having the Ignition Interlock device. On any subsequent convictions the jail sentence is a minimum of 120 days with a lifetime licence suspension, which may be reduced to 10 years but would be followed by a lifetime requirement for the Ignition Interlock device. Will your job still be there for you if you have to leave it to go to jail for a month? For four months? Will your rent or mortgage get paid during the time you are in jail?

If you have to use the Ignition Interlock device (more on this below) during part of your licence suspension period, everyone who uses your vehicle will have to use the device. So if you have family members who drive your vehicle, they too will have to blow into the device to start the vehicle and while driving be subject to the random demands for breath samples that the device makes. They would have to use it for the entire time that you have to use it. In a sense, they get punished for your drinking and driving offence. It is hard to calculate the financial cost of this hardship to one's family. There may be lost opportunities as family members avoid using the vehicle to avoid the embarrassment of being seen blowing into the device. Or family members may resort to other expensive solutions such as using taxis or buying another vehicle, just to avoid having to drive with your Interlock device.

And finally, there is the indirect cost that will result from the criminal record that comes with a drinking and driving conviction. It may cost you your job and will most certainly limit your job prospects. Your ability to work may also be jeopardized if your job requires you to travel outside of Canada as the criminal record may also limit your ability to travel.

The Direct Financial Costs

The estimated average cost of a conviction arising from a RIDE program stop is $18,000. This includes towing, car impound fees, legal costs, court-imposed fines, and increased insurance premiums.[1]

Note that the above estimate of $18,000 is for one of the simplest types of drinking and driving cases, a charge arising from a RIDE stop. Many cases are more complicated and the costs accordingly higher.

The direct financial costs to a driver charged with a drinking and driving offence arise from:

– the fine and victim fine surcharge;

– the costs of the remedial measures program (called Back on Track);

– the cost of the lease of the Ignition Interlock device;

– increases in insurance;

– towing and vehicle impound fees;

– administrative monetary penalties;

– and legal fees.

Novice or young drivers, because of their special driver's licences, face additional penalties.

Following is a category by category breakdown of these costs.

Fine and the Victim Fine Surcharge

There are legislated amounts for the fines for drinking and driving convictions. The legislation sets minimum amounts for these fines which means that no matter how sympathetic a judge may be to your plight, he or she cannot lower the fine amount below the minimum.

For a first-time conviction for impaired driving, "over 80" or refusing or failing to give a breath sample, the minimum fine is $1000. No matter what the circumstances, the judge cannot impose a lower fine – but can, and sometimes must, impose a higher fine. For example, if the driver registered a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) more than two times the legal limit of 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood, so over 160 mg of alcohol, then the judge must impose an elevated fine above the $1000 minimum. Other "aggravating" factors that will result in elevated fines include evidence of bad driving or bad behaviour. For someone for whom it is a second or subsequent offence the fine amount is up to the judge, but the bigger problem for this convicted driver is the mandatory jail sentence (see above).

All fines are accompanied by a mandatory Victim Fine Surcharge of 30%. So on a minimum fine of $1000, you must pay an additional $300. If there are aggravating factors in your case and the judge imposes a higher fine, the Victim Fine Surcharge will increase accordingly. For example, on a $2000 fine, the surcharge will be $600.

Remedial Measures Program: Back on Track

All drivers convicted of a drinking and driving offence in Ontario, regardless of how long they are suspended from driving and regardless of whether or not they participate in the Ignition Interlock program (see below), must successfully complete Ontario's Back on Track remedial measures program before their driver's licences can be reinstated.

First time offenders in Ontario may be able to take part in the Stream A program which allows such drivers, after a three month licence suspension, to drive again provided they have the Ignition Interlock device installed in their vehicle. However, these drivers must complete the Back on Track program within certain time lines. Failing to meet these time lines results in the loss of the opportunity to participate in the Stream A program. Getting bumped from the Stream A program means enduring longer licence suspensions and longer periods of driving with the Ignition Interlock device – which means possible additional costs for the extra time spent unable to drive and additional costs for the longer period leasing the device.

The RMP, better known as "Back on Track", and ignition interlock lease arrangements / installation take time and can be subject to growing wait lists as the popularity of the program increases. RMP completion can take as much as 11 months meaning a client who does not enroll in the program almost immediately following his conviction will find himself serving extra time with an ignition interlock device in his car over and above the minimum requirements. Counsel are well advised to urge their clients to begin the process ASAP upon conviction to ensure that they meet all the relevant deadlines to gain full access to Stream A's benefits.[2]

The cost of the Back on Track program to participants convicted of impaired driving or of having a BAC over 80 is $578 (+ HST). Driver's receiving a warn range suspension (for having a BAC over 50) after a second suspension within five years, pay $178 (+ HST).

Ignition Interlock

How long you must have the Ignition Interlock device in your vehicle depends on your sentence, but at minimum, for a first-time conviction for an impaired or over 80 charge, you will have to have it for nine months at an over-all cost of approximately $1,500.

The device screens you for alcohol before allowing you to start the vehicle. You have to blow into the mouthpiece to give the breath sample. Additionally, while you are driving it will randomly require you to provide samples and if it reads alcohol on your breath the device will record it and will cause your vehicles lights to flash and horn to honk until the ignition is switched off.

Tampering with the device or driving without it while under suspension also have expensive consequences: "The fines imposed on suspended drivers for tampering with ignition interlock devices or driving while under suspension can run as high as $50,000."[3]


According to The Insurance Hotline.Com:

The effect of drinking and driving on your car insurance premium is dramatic. A 19 year old driver convicted of drinking and driving can expect to pay between $12,000 and $20,000 per year for insurance depending on whether or not they were involved in an accident as a result while a convicted 40 year old can expect to pay $7,000 to $11,000 annually.[4]

Your insurance coverage will be affected if you, or anyone to whom you lend your car, is found to be at fault in a crash and is convicted of a drinking and driving offence (impaired driving, over 80, or refusing to provide a breath or blood sample). Your insurance company will not be required to compensate you for the repair or replacement costs of your vehicle if you caused a single-vehicle crash. If you are involved in a multiple-vehicle crash, you can only recover collision damages to the extent that the other party was at-fault. Additionally, you will be denied some no-fault accident benefits, including lost wages coverage, non-earner benefits, and compensation for lost education, visitor and housekeeping expenses. And, although your insurance company will pay the third-party liability, it could sue you to recover what it has paid and the injured third parties could also sue you for any additional losses.

A bad driving record can also mean life and disability insurance premiums for new policies that are 20 to 25 per cent higher, says Investors Group life insurance agent Zael Miransky. If you are involved in an "at-fault" accident and convicted of impaired driving, a subsequent application for individual life insurance may be refused altogether.[5]

Most Canadian insurance companies will not insure you for three years after a drunk driving conviction. Drivers who can't get insurance from a regular company have to move to facility insurance, "the market of last chance for drivers who cannot find insurance elsewhere . . . . That coverage comes with a price. It can cost up to $8,000 more a year than regular insurance."[6]

The bottom line on the insurance question is that: "In Ontario, a typical impaired conviction will move your insurance premiums from around $2,000 to between $8,500 and $10,000 a

year . . . ." [7]

Towing and Vehicle Impoundment

Since December 1, 2010 police have been able to impound for seven days the vehicles of drivers found driving under suspension, having a BAC over 80, refusing to give a breath sample or not having a required Ignition Interlock device. Under these rules vehicles can be taken off the road with drivers paying the towing and storage fees. The Hamilton Spectator reported on this change in the law a few days after the December 2010 rules came into effect:

Constable Claus Wagner, Hamilton police traffic safety and centralized breath testing unit co-ordinator, says the changes are a "police authority and will be done right at the roadside with a cost to the owner (which could be) over $500 to have their vehicle returned to them."

In Hamilton, the towing costs sanctioned by the police services board add up fast.

The accepted charges for a car or light vehicle are $169 for the first tow, another $80 if there is a secondary tow, then there's $35 day for storage times seven which adds up to $245 for the week. If there is more than an hour's work involved with the tow, the fee goes $40 for each half-hour over.

Charges are higher for heavier vehicles, with the initial tow starting at $310.[8]

Administrative Monetary Penalty

Drivers must pay a $150 Administrative Monetary Penalty following an Administrative Driver's Licence Suspension, which is the automatic 90 day driver's licence suspension imposed when a driver is charged with over 80 or, with refusing or failing to provide a breath sample (before the matter actually goes to court).

The $150 Administrative Monetary Penalty is also imposed when a driver is given a "warn range" suspension for blowing over 50 (the "warn range") but not over 80.

Note that the Ontario government is currently seeking to increase this amount to $180.

You may also have to pay to retake your driver's tests at your own cost. According to the Ministry of Transportation, to get your licence reinstated you will have to satisfy the following requirements:


$150 reinstatement fee (does not apply if your licence was suspended for a medical reason)

Plus applicable fees for the written test and road tests, if you need to take them.


If your full class licence has been suspended for more than one year, you need to take certain tests.

1-3 years suspended: you need to take an eye test.

3-10 years suspended: you need to take:

  • a written knowledge test
  • an eye test
  • two road tests (G1 and G2)

o you can book your first road test as soon as you pass your knowledge and eye tests

o you can book your G2 road test, as soon as you pass your G1 road test

10+ years suspended: you need to re-apply as a new driver and re-take all required tests. You cannot fast-track and need to serve all mandatory waiting periods.[9]

The Ministry's fees are as follows[10]:

Licence Fees

Please note that fees for Driver Examination Services are set by the Government of Ontario

Effective September 1, 2014

G1 Licence – cost includes knowledge test, G2 road test and five year licence. This fee is payable at the time of application.$146.00
Knowledge Test$15.25
Class G2 Road Test$50.75
Five Year Licence

*This amount includes the portion of the fee required to be paid by the licence applicant into the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund under the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act. Currently, this amount is $15.00 for applicants receiving a 5 year licence.

M1 Licence* – cost includes knowledge test, M2 road test and 90 day licence$74.00
Knowledge Test$15.25
Class M2 Road Test$50.75
90 Day Licence

**If an applicant is completing a Ministry of Transportation-approved motorcycle safety course, only the Knowledge Test and 90 Day Licence fees are required.

**Applicants holding a class M(L) licence and who wish to upgrade to a full-class M licence must obtain an FST TDL (Full-speed Training Temporary Driver's Licence).

G or M Road Test$86.25
Five Year Licence (Drivers from Reciprocating Jurisdictions)$80.00
Controlled Class ("Commercial") Licence: Class A, B, C, D, E, F Test FeesCost
Complete Controlled Class Test – cost includes knowledge test and road test$101.50
Knowledge Test$15.25
Road Test$86.25
Aged 65-79 Complete Controlled Class Test- cost includes knowledge test and road test$29.25
Knowledge Test$15.25
Road Test$14.00
Complete Air Brake (Z) Endorsement Test$65.25
Air Brake (Z) Endorsement Practical Test$50.00
New Entrant Education and Evaluation Program (NEEEP)$32.00
Driving Instructor Fees:

Complete Driving Instructor Application – cost includes knowledge test, G road test and administration fee

Original Driving Instructor Licencing Fee – this licencing fee will vary depending on date of application and applicant's date of birth


$1.33/month to date of expiry

Legal Fees

It is difficult to put a number on the cost of legal fees for a drinking and driving case. Fees will vary from law firm to law firm and will also depend on the complexity of the particular case and what the client's instructions are. In general, costs will be lower when a matter resolves with a guilty plea than when a matter goes to trial. Some law firms bill by the hour, while some offer block fees. A few law firms offer payment plans.

MADD Canada on their website gives an estimate of $2000 to $10,000 for legal costs.[11] You must also pay the 13% HST on legal fees. As well, you have to factor in time lost from work to attend meetings with lawyers and to attend court.

A Final Word About Novice and Young Drivers

Novice drivers of any age and all drivers 21 and under, regardless of licence class, must have a blood alcohol level of zero when operating a motor vehicle. These rules came into effect in 2010 and as reported in the Globe and Mail at the time:

Drivers breaking the new zero tolerance rules for alcohol will have their licence suspended immediately for 24 hours, and face a further suspension of 30 days plus a fine of up to $500.

A second offence could bring a 90-day suspension, and young drivers could lose their licence if caught with any alcohol in their blood a third time.

Manitoba and New Brunswick have similar legislation, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving predicted the new rules in Ontario would lead to a significant drop in the fatality rate among young people.[12]

If you are a novice driver and are caught with any amount of alcohol in your blood, even an amount below the legal limit or below the "warn range," you will receive an immediate 24-hour roadside driver licence suspension. If convicted, you will be subject to a fine from $60-$500 and receive a suspension period as per the Novice Driver Escalating Sanction scheme, up to and including cancellation of the novice licence. You will also have to return to the start of the Graduated Licensing System.

If you are a fully licensed driver who is 21 and under and you are caught with alcohol in your blood, you will receive a 24-hour roadside driver licence suspension. If convicted, you will be subject to a fine of $60-$500 and a 30-day licence suspension. [13]

If you are convicted of impaired driving or over 80, or of being in the "warn range," all the sanctions and costs discussed previously in the article will apply as well.


This article has only dealt with the financial costs that you personally would face if charged and/or convicted of a drinking and driving offence. It is beyond the scope of this article to attempt to quantify the societal costs and in the case of drinking and driving cases involving injury or death from a motor vehicle accident, to consider the immeasurable human costs.


[1] Cheney, Peter, "10-things-every-motorist-should-know-about-ride,"The Globe and Mail, Published Wednesday, Dec. 24 2014,

[2] Prutschi, Edward, "Ontario's Ignition Interlock Program" post in Slaw: Canada's Online Legal Magazine,

[3] "The Hidden Costs of Drinking and Driving," In Your Neighbourhood, Inside Halton.Com, July 11, 2014,


[5] Smolkin, Sheryl, "The high cost of bad driving," Toronto Star's Moneyville, September 11, 2012,

[6] Tchir, Jason, "DRIVING CONCERNS, How an impaired driving conviction can affect your car insurance rates," Special to The Globe and Mail, Published Tuesday, Jun. 10 2014, 3:15 PM EDT, Last updated Friday, Jun. 13 2014, 3:07 PM EDT,

[7] Ibid.

[8] Hamilton Spectator, Dec. 02, 2010




[12] Leslie, Keith"Ontario toughens licence rules for new and young drivers," Toronto — The Globe and Mail, Published Monday, Jul. 26 2010, 9:44 AM EDT, Last updated Thursday, Aug. 23 2012, 3:20 PM EDT.


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