Is DUI a Criminal Offence in Canada?

If you’ve been convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), you should know that in Canada, DUI has been considered a Federal Criminal Offence since 1921. In Canada, the term impaired driving is used when referring to the criminal offence of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A DUI offence is the most common type of criminal charge in the nation.

It’s punishable under the Criminal Code if your blood alcohol level exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol in one hundred millilitres of blood (.08)..

DUI Basics

If an officer pulls you over and has reasonable grounds to suspect you are under the influence of alcohol within the last three hours, they may ask you first to perform a physical coordination test. If after performing the physical coordination test the officer believes you are under the influence, you may be requested to provide a breath sample.

Reasonable grounds include observations such as erratic driving or smell of alcohol on your breath. If for some reason you’re not able to provide a breath sample, a blood test may be performed by a medical professional.

If you’re suspected to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol, you may then be referred to an evaluating officer who will determine if there are reasonable grounds to request a blood or urine sample.

Committing a DUI

If an officer has reasonable grounds to believe you committed an offence, you may be arrested. Or if you fail to comply with a breath sample, you can still have your license suspended for 90 days. In Alberta, this time period expands to 6 months if you cause any bodily harm.

Being Convicted of a DUI

Each province and territory have its own suspensions and fines. Some rehabilitative courses may also be required to be taken. If you fail to comply with the tests without a reasonable excuse, and the officer was operating on reasonable grounds to pursue breath, blood or urine samples, this is considered a criminal offence.

If however, it’s later determined that the officer did not have reasonable grounds, then the case may go to trial, and the taking of breath samples may be in violation of Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Grey Areas

What if you submit a breath sample that is not quite at .08 but is still a considerable amount? You may still be subject to penalties including suspension of your driver’s license for a period of time. The allowable blood alcohol concentration (BAC) differs for each province and territory, and each jurisdiction has differing penalties ranging from 12 to 24 hours suspension.

Canada Cracks Down on Impaired Driving

Since 2008, the Government of Canada has introduced more rigid restrictions and stiffer penalties when it comes to impaired driving. This was introduced in the Tackling Violent Crime Act. The new measures include:

  • A BAC of zero for all new drivers in all provinces.
  • Allowing the use of field sobriety tests by officers under reasonable grounds.

Increasing penalties to:

  • First offence: $1000 fine
  • Second offence: 30 days in jail
  • Third offence: 120 days in jail

What Happens if I Have a DUI Record?

  • You may be turned away from a potential employer after failing a background check.
  • You may lose your current job if they decide to do a background check.
  • You may be turned away at the US border. While a single DUI is not necessarily grounds to turn you away, multiple DUI convictions or a combination of lesser offences may make you inadmissible. You might need to attain a waiver to gain entry to the US with a DUI.
  • You may have difficulty getting bonded (insured) as the cost of insurance goes up if you have a criminal offence.

Can I Receive a Pardon/Record Suspension?

It’s important to pay your fine as soon as possible because you may apply for a pardon five years after the date your fine is paid. You don’t have to wait five years before you begin your application process. With Pardons Canada, we can help you gather all necessary paperwork beforehand and begin the process as the entire procedure may take between 10 to 20 months. Any information you provide to a counsellor at Pardons Canada is kept confidential.


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