Should I Plead Guilty to a DUI?

Last Updated: September 19, 2023

Should I Plead Guilty to a DUI

Should I Plead Guilty to a DUIThe pressure of having an impending driving under the influence (DUI) charge can wreak havoc on people’s lives.  Many individuals want to plead guilty purely to get the matter over with due to the lengthy criminal justice system process.  While the process will be long, you should always consult an attorney before acting.

A DUI conviction can have numerous ramifications on your life, including a criminal record, difficulty gaining or retaining employment and possible immigration consequences to name a few.  Nevertheless, in some cases, it may be beneficial to plead guilty to a DUI charge, such as in order to plead down to a lesser charge.  Every case is unique, so it’s important to consult a lawyer before deciding to plead guilty.

Benefits of an effective defence strategy

Having a knowledgeable lawyer on your side can make or break your defence.  A good lawyer will be able to negotiate with the Crown to hopefully secure a plea to a lesser charge or get the charges dropped altogether.  In the event that your case does go to trial, an effective defence strategy will enable your lawyer to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.

To learn more about the most effective defence strategy for your case, Book A Free Consultation today.

Penalties and Consequences of pleading guilty to impaired driving

Individuals who plead guilty to a DUI are subject to many of the same penalties as those who are convicted.  However, individuals who plead guilty may receive some leniency.

The following are the punishments you will receive as a result of pleading guilty to a DUI:

  • Licence suspension: Your driver’s licence will be suspended for at least one year. After the suspension period ends, you may apply to reinstate your licenceThe fee for doing so will vary by province.  However, in certain provinces, you may be able to get your license back sooner if you enroll in the Ignition Interlock Device Program.
  • Fine: If this is your first DUI, you will receive a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000-$1,500 depending on the offence.
  • Additional fines for young drivers: If you are a driver under the age of 21 or with a learner’s or probationary driver’s licence, you may receive an additional fine on top of the mandatory minimum.
  • Ignition interlock device: Following your first DUI, you will likely be required to install and utilize an ignition interlock device in any vehicle you wish to drive. In most provinces, drivers must use the device for at least one year. Drivers must pay for all program costs, including installation, operation, maintenance, and de-installation.
  • Educational or treatment program: Depending on the province, you may be required to enroll in an educational or treatment program before you can reinstate your licence. Drivers are responsible for all costs associated with the applicable program in their province.
  • Insurance: Your car insurance will increase dramatically after pleading guilty to a DUI. You will be considered a “high-risk” driver for several years, resulting in annual premiums three to five times higher than before your DUI.
  • Criminal Record: You will have a permanent criminal record, affecting your employment and immigration status and your ability to travel.
  • Employment: In addition to the possibility of losing your job, it will be challenging to gain new employment, given that you must disclose your criminal record.
  • Immigration: You may face possible deportation.
  • Travel Restrictions: You may be unable to travel to certain countries with a criminal record.
  • Publicity: Your case may be reported publicly, affecting your personal and professional life.
  • Probation: Even if you don’t serve jail time, you may be subject to a probationary period with certain conditions

Defences to an Impaired Driving charge

There are several defences that can be used to beat your DUI offence.  While it will ultimately depend on the facts of your case, there are several defences available for impaired driving charges.

Some of the most common defences include:

  • Disputing reasonable suspicion
  • Demonstrating you were not behind the wheel or in care and control of the vehicle
  • Submitting a Charter application

Disputing Reasonable Suspicion

Under section 320.27 of the Criminal Code, a police officer must have reasonable grounds to suspect that the individual is impaired and has been operating a vehicle within the preceding 3 hours. The officer may try to form reasonable suspicion by asking the driver some questions or observing the driver’s behaviour. If the officer has reasonable suspicion, they may demand further tests, such as a breath sample. If the officer did not have reasonable suspicion, there may be grounds to challenge the demand.

Lack of Evidence of You Behind the Wheel or in Care and Control of the Vehicle

The police may come upon the scene of an accident but not witness you behind the wheel of the vehicle. In this situation, the police may not be able to demonstrate that you were driving while impaired unless the police can collect some other evidence, such as statements from witnesses, that you were the driver of the crashed vehicle.

Even if the police cannot demonstrate that you drove while impaired, they might attempt to show that you were under the care and control of the vehicle while impaired. If this is the case, you might demonstrate that there was no realistic risk of danger to the public because the vehicle was inoperable.

Charter Application

Typically, your Charter rights kick in from the moment of your detention.  However, some of your Charter rights are suspended during impaired driving road stops.

Nevertheless, one or more of the following Charter rights may have been violated:

  • Section 8: Right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure
  • Section 9: Right not to be arbitrarily detained
  • Section 10(b): Right to counsel
  • Section 11(b): Right to be tried within a reasonable time

Section 10(b): Right to Counsel

In impaired driving cases, immediately upon arrest, the police must inform the individual of their right to counsel and allow them to exercise that right.

If the police did any of the following, then you may be able to exclude any evidence that they collected during the course of the transaction:

  • Failure to Provide Rights: The police did not inform you of your right to counsel
  • Delay in Providing Rights: The police waited too long to inform you of your right to counsel.
  • Failure to Provide Opportunity to Exercise Rights: The police did not allow you to contact counsel.
  • Delay in Providing Opportunity to Exercise Rights: The police waited too long to allow you to contact counsel.

The police cannot use any statements you make against you at trial before they inform you of your rights. However, they may use your statements to form the reasonable suspicion necessary to demand roadside tests.


If I plead guilty to impaired driving will I lose my license?

Unfortunately, yes.  Regardless of which province you are in, pleading guilty to impaired driving will result in your licence suspension for at least one year.

What happens if I plead guilty to DUI?

After you plead guilty to a DUI, there will be a finding of guilt.  The next step is to wait for the sentencing hearing where your lawyer will try to get you the best sentence possible.  Before the hearing, your lawyer and you will collect various documents to support your position, such as character references, a counselling report, or an immigration opinion letter.

How long does impaired driving stay on record?

A DUI will remain on your criminal record permanently unless you receive a discharge at sentencing or apply for a record suspension (pardon).


At sentencing, you may receive an absolute or conditional discharge, both of which will not give you a permanent criminal record.  However, your DUI will show up on background checks for the following period of time:

  • Absolute discharge: 1 year from the date of sentencing;
  • Conditional discharge: 3 years from the date of sentencing.

Record Suspension

If you do not receive a discharge at sentencing, you will receive a permanent criminal record.  In that event, you may apply for a record suspension through the Parole Board.

You are eligible for a record suspension (pardon) when you meet the following requirements:

  • All of your fines and penalties have been paid.
  • Any imprisonment, or 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.

If I plead guilty to a DUI will I have a criminal record?

In most cases, yes you will have a criminal record when you plead guilty to impaired driving.  However, you may be able to avoid a criminal record depending on the type of sentence that you receive.  For example, if you receive an absolute or conditional discharge, you will not have a criminal record.  However, the DUI will still show up on background checks for a period of time.  More specifically, the DUI will show up on a background check for one year from the date of sentencing for an absolute discharge and three years from the date of sentencing for a conditional discharge.

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