Drinking and driving is a serious criminal offence, and in Ontario, more court resources are devoted to drinking/driving charges than to any other type of offence. The majority of fatal snowmobile crashes involve alcohol.

Current resourcing levels

In 1997/98, spending on the Criminal Law Division reached the highest level of the last decade. For the current fiscal year, the government has committed $89.4 million, the highest level of funding ever, and the number of Crown attorneys is currently 537, also the highest number ever.

Crown Policy on prosecuting drinking/driving charges
The Ministry of the Attorney General aggressively prosecutes drunk driving charges. If there is evidence to support an impaired driving charge, the Crown will not substitute a lesser charge for the charge as laid. It is important to note that when Crowns do substitute a lesser charge for an impaired driving charge, the decision is based on the merits of the case. It is not done as part of a plea agreement. Crown attorneys are explicitly instructed not to withdraw drinking and driving charges in exchange for guilty pleas to charges such as careless driving. Also, Crowns do not withdraw drinking and driving charges to deal with court pressures.

According to a recent survey of police officers conducted for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, almost 90% of persons charged with drinking and driving offences in Ontario are convicted. The ministry is currently working to make the prosecution process even more efficient.

Comprehensive Road Safety Act
When the new Comprehensive Road Safety Act is implemented, Ontario will have the toughest sanctions against impaired driving in North America. The government will invest approximately $35 million in this initiative over the next four years. Twelve new judges, 22 additional assistant crown attorneys and approximately 40 other staff will be hired and assigned to those court centres which have been identified as having the greatest need for additional resources. A monitoring system will be established to ensure that these resources are sufficient to provide for timely prosecutions.

The Act provides for increased periods of driver's licence suspension for those convicted of driving-related Criminal Code offences, and increased fines and sanctions, including vehicle impoundment, for those who continue to drive while suspended.

First time offenders
Will continue to receive 12-month licence suspensions, but their licences will be reinstated only after they attend a mandatory remedial measures program.

Second time offenders
Suspensions will increase from two years to three.

Third time offenders
Will receive lifetime suspensions, but may apply for licence reinstatement after 10 years, if they have completed a remedial measures program and have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicles.

Fourth and subsequent offenders
Will receive lifetime suspensions with no possibility of reinstatement.

The legislation will not allow a driver's licence suspension period to be reduced, and licence reinstatement is no longer automatic upon expiration of the suspension.

Crown Education and Training
The ministry is committed to providing ongoing training for Crowns in the prosecution of drinking and driving offences.

The continuing education program of the Ontario Crown Attorney's Association and the Ministry of the Attorney General has made the education of Crowns on the issues of drinking and driving a top priority.

This year's spring and summer education forums for Crowns feature sessions addressing drinking/driving. The Crown Summer School includes an extensive two-day session on the Crown policy and current legal issues of prosecuting these offences.

Government committed to safer communities
This tough new approach to impaired driving is part of the government's commitment to creating safer communities and improving the criminal justice system through prosecuting crime, preserving public order and safety, and supporting victims of crime.