Driving while impaired (DUI), or impaired driving, is an offence that has an immediate and drastic effect on those involved. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), an average of 10 criminal charges or licence suspensions are laid for DUI every hour. Impaired driving is also the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada, according to the Government of Canada.
Due to the severity of DUI, the fines and penalties that result from a conviction can be severe. The effects of licence suspensions, fines, mandatory treatment programs, and, most notably, a criminal record can wreak havoc on individuals’ lives for years to come.
What is a DUI (Impaired Driving)?
Overview of the offence
Unlike 80 or over, impaired driving includes operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two. An individual may be impaired even if their consumption of alcohol or certain drugs is below the legal limit.
Over 80-plus mgs
Under subsection 320.14(1) of the Criminal Code, individuals found “driving over 80”, or more accurately, “driving over 79”, must have a BAC that is equal to or over 80 mg of alcohol in 100mL of blood are operating a vehicle over the legal limit.
To determine that an individual is driving over 79, they must have:
Operated a vehicle
Been given a breathalyzer test
Their BAC was over 0.79 mgs
Refusing to provide a breath sample
Even where you are not impaired, it is a criminal offence to refuse to provide a breath sample when requested to do so by the police. Refusing to give a breath sample may lead to further charges of impaired driving as the police cannot ascertain your BAC.
Care and Control
Even where you are not physically driving, you may still be in care and control of a vehicle. If, for example, you are sitting in the driver’s seat or standing nearby the vehicle, that may be considered care and control.
An individual may be charged with driving while in care and control:
If you are in care and control of that vehicle; and
If alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two impair your ability to operate the vehicle.
Underage impaired driving
It is no secret that youth drivers have higher rates of accidents than other driver classes. This statistic is in part due to a greater prevalence of DUI incidents among youth drivers.
Drivers under 21 or a person of any age with an M1, M2, G1 or G2 licence cannot have any alcohol or drugs in their system. Ontario takes a “zero tolerance” or “zero BAC” approach to underage impaired driving, meaning drivers will be subject to additional fines and penalties in addition to those applicable to impaired driving.
Does a DUI give you a criminal record in Canada?
How Long Does a DUI Charge Stay On Your Record in Canada?
Unfortunately, if convicted of a DUI, you will receive a permeant criminal record unless you apply for and the Parole Board grants a record suspension (pardon).
Even if you are not convicted of a DUI offence, the fact that you were charged will remain in the police system. If the police stop you in a vehicle in the future, they will see that you were previously charged with a DUI offence.
Is DUI a Summary Conviction or Indictable Offence?
When you are charged with a DUI offence, the Crown Attorney has the option to proceed by:
Indictment: Indictable offences are more serious (like a felony offence in the U.S.)
Summary conviction: Summary offences tend to be less serious. The Crown Attorney generally elects to proceed by summary conviction.
The penalties that will result from conviction vary greatly depending on whether the Crown Attorney proceeds by indictment or summary conviction.
For imprisonment, you may face the following penalties:
Indictment: Imprisonment for up to 10 years
Summary conviction: Jail time of no more than 2 years less a day
Penalties Upon Arrest
Immediate Roadside Prohibitions (IRP) or Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS)
7-day vehicle seizure: The vehicle owner will be responsible for the costs of the police towed and storing the vehicle for the 7-day period.
90-day licence suspension: Following the 90-day period where the individual cannot drive any motor vehicle on roads in Ontario, the driver can apply to have their licence reinstated. In Ontario, this will cost $280 plus applicable free for written and road tests if you are required to take them.
No accident coverage: Given that insurance policies prohibit drivers from committing criminal acts while operating a vehicle, any individual who is arrested for impaired driving will not be able to claim accident coverage.
Penalties Upon (First) Conviction
Fines: Mandatory minimum fine of $1000-$2000
Possible jail time: Maximum of 10 years imprisonment
Mandatory education or treatment programs: In Ontario, drivers must complete the Back on Track program at a minimum.
Licence suspension: 1 year
Ignition interlock device: Once the Ministry of Transportation reinstates your licence, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle to drive. This device has a built-in alcohol breath screening device which will preclude your engine from starting if it detects alcohol in your system.
DUI and Insurance
Does a DUI affect your insurance rates?
Yes, it does. First, you must disclose your DUI to your insurance carrier, or they will have the right to refuse your claims or cancel your policy. Upon learning that you have a DUI, your insurance carrier generally has the right to cancel your policy regardless.
With a DUI on record, you will now be considered a “high-risk driver.” If your carrier decides to maintain your coverage, it will be at a higher monthly/annual premium than it was before your DUI. According to multiple online insurance quotes, high-risk auto insurance premiums in Ontario tend to be $5,000 to $10,000 more annually.
In addition to higher rates, high-risk insurance tends to provide more limited coverage and payment options.
How Long Does a DUI stay on your record for insurance?
A DUI can remain on your permanent record for three years following conviction. If the Ministry of Transportation suspends your licence, the suspension will stay on your record for at least six years.
In Ontario, drivers must complete the Back on Track program following a DUI conviction under the Highway Track Act in order to get their license back.
This program requires participants to:
Not Use or show signs of odour of alcohol or drugs within 24 hours of any day you participate in the program.
Attend and participate fully in all scheduled sessions of the program.
Provide 24 hours notice if you cannot attend a session due to serious illness, a death in your immediate family or severe weather. Proof of your reason for absence may be required. You will be required to make up the missed session at a later date.
Demonstrate respect for the program and its administrators.
Give accurate information during the program.
Where will my DUI record appear?
Once convicted of a DUI, a criminal record will appear in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and local police databases. With your record in these databases, you are ever stopped in a vehicle by police in the future, they will be able to see your DUI record. A criminal record for a DUI will also appear in police background checks.
How do you get a DUI off your record in Canada?
A DUI conviction will remain on your criminal record permanently unless you apply for and are granted a record suspension (pardon). A DUI on your criminal record can hinder job searches as many employers will require you to disclose criminal convictions during the application process.
There are several ways that you can help bring down the cost of your insurance:
Make and Model of Your Car: To offset the initial higher cost of insurance that you will experience following a DUI, driving a smaller, non-sport vehicle that costs less to insure may be beneficial in the meantime.
Deductible: If possible, try to change your policy to a higher deductible to offset the cost of higher premiums.
Clean Driving Record: While you wrestle with higher insurance, you must keep your driving record clean following the DUI conviction.
Fines: Promptly pay any fines that you receive.
Rehabilitation Programs: Besides the mandatory Back on Track program, drivers should take any recommended class or programs to demonstrate their commitment to driving safety following their DUI conviction.
Does a DUI stay on your record in Canada?
A DUI conviction will remain on your driving (motor vehicle) record for 3 years.
However, a DUI conviction will remain on your criminal record permanently unless you apply for and are granted a record suspension (pardon). A DUI on your criminal record can hinder job searches, as many employers require you to disclose criminal convictions during the application process.
Any imprisonment, conditional sentences (including parole and statutory release) have been served.
Any probation orders have lapsed.
If your DUI conviction was a summary (less serious) offence, you may apply 5 years after you have completed all your sentences.
If the DUI conviction was an indictable (more serious) offence, you may apply 10 years after you have completed all of your sentences.
However, you are not eligible to apply for a record suspension if:
You have been convicted of an offence under Schedule 1 of the Criminal Records Act.
You have been convicted of more than 3 indictable (more serious) offences.
Will a DUI show up on background checks?
As a DUI conviction is on your criminal record, any background check that an employer or volunteer agency runs through the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) will show your DUI conviction. The presence of your record in police databases extends to background checks that immigration officers at the United States border may run.
In certain fields, such as medicine, law, and education, professional codes of conduct may restrict, if not prohibit, the employment of individuals with a criminal record, including a DUI conviction.
For those seeking to engage in volunteer opportunities, particularly those which involve working with children or other vulnerable populations, organizations may have policies which strictly prohibit volunteers with criminal records.
Here’s how we can help.
We conduct a detailed review of the documents you have received from the police as well as the circumstances of the DUI.
We will be sure to also explain the court process, our flexible fee structure, and what we can do to help. That way you can make an informed decision about next steps.
DUI Defence Strategy
We formulate an action plan designed to protect your rights and interests and to achieve the best possible outcome in your impaired driving case.
The specific strategy employed will depend on the unique circumstances of your case, the evidence available, and your goals.
Resolution or Trial
We work with the Crown Prosecutor to review the facts of your case and to seek a resolution that is in your best interests.
If we can’t convince the prosecutor to agree to the result we desire, we will present every defence possible at trial.
If you have been charged with Impaired Driving, or a related offence, anywhere in Canada hiring an experienced legal team is your best defence. Contact our criminal defence lawyers for a free consultation to discuss your case.