You continue to blow into the portable breathalyzer unit as the officer encourages you to keep going. Just when you feel you’re running out of breath, the unit emits a beep. The officer examines it and says: “The unit has registered a ‘fail’,” as he turns it around to show you the red light. “I’m therefore placing you under arrest for driving an automobile when an alcohol level in your system that’s greater than the legal limit.”
After he reads you your rights, he advises you will now be transported to the closest station, where a more thorough test will be performed. “Please turn around and place your hands behind your back,” he says. You are handcuffed and placed in the back seat of his vehicle.
Your mind is now swirling and you can’t believe this is happening. “I only had two drinks,” you think. “How is this possible?”
There’s a common belief that if you consume one alcoholic beverage per hour, you will be legally able to drive, however, there’s really no true formula for drinking and driving. Many factors come into play including: your height, weight, what you drank, how quickly you drank, the time since your last drink and your metabolism.
When you consume an alcoholic beverage, its immediately absorbed into your bloodstream and it takes a while for your system to break it down. While eating food or drinking non-alcoholic beverages can slow the absorption rate, the alcohol you consumed will still enter your system. According to the website Responsible Driving, your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) peaks within 30 minutes after consuming an alcoholic beverage; then slowly lowers as your system breaks down the alcohol. The more you consume, the longer it takes.
Therefore, the worst time to drive a vehicle is right after consuming an alcoholic beverage as your BAC level is rising. Since you had two drinks and immediately got behind the wheel of your vehicle, the alcohol level in your system was still rising, resulting in the ‘fail’.
When you arrive at the station, you’re led through the back door and the officer removes your cuffs. “You have the right to contact a lawyer or legal aid,” he says, but you decline. He then leads you to table and asks you to sit down. “With this equipment, we’ll take two breath samples,” he explains, “and the lowest reading of the two will be your blood alcohol level.”
Unfortunately, the lowest reading is .09 and you are formally charged. You are led to a cell and asked to remove your belt and shoes. “Processing should take about two hours,” the officer says, “I’ll be back when it’s completed.” As you sit in your cell, you wonder what you will say to your spouse when you call home and ask to be picked up at the police station.
Two days later, you meet with a criminal lawyer who insists he can reduce your license suspension with a meeting with the Crown Attorney. His retainer is $5,000 and you hand over your credit card.
After seven days, your vehicle can be released from the impound. Your spouse and daughter agree to take time off work to go with you, since your license is now suspended for 90 days. The total cost for towing and impoundment is $600.
It’s agreed that your spouse and daughter will drive you around as much as they can. In order to travel to work each day, you’ll be using the services of Uber. The cost is approximately $200 per week.
Two months later, your court date arrives and your spouse takes the day off work to attend with you. When you enter the court room, you immediately see your lawyer speaking to the Crown Attorney. He then approaches you with a smile on his face and says: “I have good news. Since this is your first offence, the Crown will ask the Justice of the Peace (JP) to consider you for the ‘Back on Track Remedial Measures Program’.” This will reduce your license suspension from 12 to six months.
When your name is called and the charges are read, you plead guilty and receive a 12-month license suspension and a $1,000 fine. Luckily, the JP allows you to enter the program.
You immediately sign up and pay the $634 registration fee to participate in the three-day workshop and assessment. Two-months later, you attend the workshop and complete the program.
Three months later, a letter arrives confirming you successfully completed the Back on Track Program, and your license suspension has been reduced to six months. To meet the final requirement, you still need to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for a six-month period. You have it installed at a $170 cost, which includes a monthly rental fee of $119.00.
The day finally arrives to have your license reinstated and you are driven to the local Service Ontario office. You pay the $1,000 court fine and another $281.00 to reinstate your license. But who cares about the cost- you finally have your license back.
Two months later, you receive a letter in the mail from your insurance company. “What can this be?”, you wonder, since your auto policy doesn’t renew for another two months. You tear open the letter and your jaw drops –your insurance company won’t be renewing your policy.
You contact your insurance broker for an explanation. You’re informed that your insurance company had ordered motor vehicle abstracts on everyone in your household, and yours reported two license suspensions and an alcohol-related conviction. Therefore, they are not offering a renewal.
Your broker advises she will obtain new quotes for you, but they will be through high-risk markets with a much higher premium. You are shocked when you hear the news – your new annual premium will be $4,500 per year, up from $1,350 last year. It’s the best they can do, you’re told, and the alcohol-related conviction will stay on your driving record for the next three years. With no other options, you accept the new policy.
Looking back, you realize it’s a privilege to drive an automobile and you don’t truly appreciate the freedom it offers until it’s been taken away. One thing is for certain: you will never drink and drive again. You’re also thankful that you didn’t hurt anyone, as the costs and outcome could have been much worse.