What You Should Know About DUI Charges in Canada
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a common phrase we know from American television. But in Canada, a DUI is known as ‘Impaired Driving by Alcohol or Drug,’ or ‘Over 80’ (meaning your blood alcohol level is over the legal limit).
You can be found to be impaired by alcohol or drugs – even marijuana. You can also be charged with a criminal offence for refusing to take a Breathalyzer test if you are stopped by the police.
These are serious offences in Canada, and they can have severe and lasting impact on your life. A DUI is not just a driving offence – it is a criminal offence in the Canadian Criminal Code. If you are convicted, you will have an entry on your criminal record and on your driving record. Reach out to a professional regulations lawyer to get legal help.
How will a DUI/impaired or Over 80 affect my criminal record?
In Ontario, being found guilty of a DUI will cause an entry to appear on your criminal record. This means that when a background check (also known as criminal record checks or local police checks) is requested – for example, by a potential employer), the entry will show up.
Having a criminal record can have very serious consequences: it may impact your job or ability to find a job, it may impact custody or family law arrangements, and it may even affect your ability to travel. If you are not a Canadian citizen, a criminal record may result in you being asked to leave Canada. A pardon is the only way to clear the charge from your criminal record (see below).
How will a DUI/impaired or Over 80 affect my driving record?
DUI/impaired or over 80 charges will result in the loss of your driver’s licence for a period of time. The length of time will depend on the circumstances of the offence on how many times you have been convicted of the offence. The record of the DUI will remain in the database of Service Ontario (the ‘DMV’) indefinitely. If you apply for a job that requires a driving abstract or driving record, this charge will appear on it and you may not be able to get the job.
How will a DUI/impaired or Over 80 affect my insurance rates?
A DUI will almost cause your insurance rates to increase. In fact, some insurance companies may refuse to insure you all together. When setting rates, your insurance company will assess your previous driving record and future risks. That means that if you had a very good driving record before your DUI, and you drive safely for a period of time after (no DUIs or other serious driving infractions), your insurance rates may begin to come back down.
How will a DUI affect my life?
Again, there are many circumstances under which you may be asked for a background check (also known as criminal record checks or local police checks). Very often, employers and volunteer organizations will ask for a records check, especially if you are going to be working with vulnerable people, such as the elderly or children.
If you have a criminal record, it may affect other parts of your life as well. For example, if you are not a Canadian citizen, it can affect your immigration status. Even if you are a Canadian citizen, the United States Customs and Border Patrol may refuse you entry to the U.S. if you have a criminal record.
How long does a DUI stay on your criminal record?
A DUI will remain on your criminal record permanently unless you apply for and receive a record suspension or ‘pardon’ (see below).
How long does a DUI stay on your driving record?
A DUI on your driving record will remain on your driving record for the rest of your driving life.
Can I get a pardon for a DUI?
If you have been convicted of a DUI (driving while impaired) and/or Over 80, the conviction will remain on your record indefinitely unless you apply for a Record Suspension, otherwise known as a pardon.
Different provinces in Canada have different rules about when you can apply for a pardon. In Ontario – generally speaking – you can apply for a pardon three years after you have served your sentence, completed probation, and paid all of the fines related to the conviction. In some provinces, it is five years.
To obtain a pardon, you apply to the Parole Board of Canada and ask them to remove the conviction from your criminal record.
If you receive the pardon, your DUI conviction will be removed from criminal record databases. That means that if someone asks for a records check, your results will not show the DUI conviction.
However, it is important to note that even after a pardon, some authorities may still be able to find a record of the DUI conviction when running a background check.
How long do you have to wait before applying for a DUI pardon?
To apply for a pardon in Canada, you need to have completed any jail sentence or probation period, and paid all related fines. How long you must wait after that can depend on how the court dealt with your charge. In Ontario – generally speaking – you can apply for a DUI pardon three years after completing your sentence and paying your fines.
The process for applying for and obtaining a pardon can be complex, require a lot of documents, and take a long time. It is highly recommended that you work with a lawyer to get this done, and that you begin the process at least a year or 18 months before you will be eligible for a pardon.
What if I was charged for a DUI but not convicted?
If you were arrested and charged with a DUI but not convicted, the charge itself will still show up on a criminal background check – your photo, your fingerprints, and the details of the charge will all still appear on the RCMP database. Again, this can impact your ability to work, volunteer, or travel, as well as your immigration status.
In such cases, a lawyer can help you apply for what is called ‘file destruction,’ which essentially means having the DUI charge removed from your record so that the history of the DUI charge against you will no longer appear on your record – including the fingerprints and photos.