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Does a DUI Count as a Criminal Offence in Canada?

By: Alberta Legal Team

Under Canadian law, drunk driving is a serious crime that can have equally serious consequences. In fact, committing a DUI offence in Canada can be punishable by up to 10 years in prison. What’s more, a DUI conviction on your record can result in significant collateral consequences, such as problems getting a job, loss of your current job, and inability to travel to the U.S. As a result, anyone accused of drunk driving should retain an experience defence lawyer to represent them as soon as possible.

Even when an American citizen has a conviction for a misdemeanour DUI, driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating under the influence (OUI), operating while intoxicated (OWI), or driving while ability impaired (DWAI), Canada may deem the crime a felony and a person will need the help of an Alberta criminal defence lawyer to overcome any obstacles.

Committing a DUI offence in Canada can be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Does a DUI Go On Your Criminal Record?

Any DUI conviction will go on your criminal record, both in Canada and the U.S. Canadian officials have no limits on how far back they can go into the criminal records of American citizens, so it is not uncommon for some people to have DUIs held against them even when the offences are several decades old.

If a person is arrested for a DUI committed within Canada, the offence will stay on that person’s criminal record essentially for the remainder of their life. A pardon from the Parole Board of Canada is about the only way a person can get a DUI off their record.

In Canada, a serious crime is an indictable offence, while a less serious crime is a summary offence. These distinctions are loosely analogous to felonies and misdemeanours in the U.S., respectively. Since a DUI is a hybrid offence under Canadian law, Canadian officials treat it as a serious crime.

How Long Does a DUI Stay On Your Record?

The general rule is that a DUI can stay on a person’s criminal record for as many as 80 years. A DUI arrest never goes away automatically.

Different provinces and territories in Canada can have different rules about when a person could be eligible for a pardon to get a DUI off their record. This means that while Ontario might allow a DUI to stay on a person’s record for three years after they pay a fine before applying for a parson, many other provinces can require five years.

Can a DUI Be Removed from Your Record?

Obtaining a pardon is about the only way a person can get a DUI removed from their criminal record in Canada. In general, a person becomes eligible to apply for a pardon in Canada once they complete their entire sentence, including all terms of probation and any court-imposed suspension of driving privileges, for a minimum of five years.

An American can gain permission to visit Canada with a DUI on their record through either criminal rehabilitation or a temporary resident permit (TRP). The major difference between these two options is that criminal rehabilitation will be permanent, while a TRP only applies for a set amount of time.

Americans seeking entry into Canada can apply for a pardon in Canada from the United States but should prepare for a lengthy wait because they customarily file rehabilitation applications that can take between six to 12 months for government processing. The Canada Border Services Agency and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) can be stringent in their reviews of DUI offences.

How Long Does a DUI Stay On Your Record for Insurance?

When you receive a conviction for a DUI in Canada, you can count on this crime being reflected on your criminal record for six years. Even when a DUI comes off a criminal record sooner, an insurance company may still hold a DUI against an applicant many years after.

Even when a DUI arrest comes off a person’s record, the record of a license suspension for DUI can remain for years afterward. It generally takes six years before people can expect to be able to get car insurance at standard rates again.

Is a DUI a Criminal Record in Canada?

A DUI will most definitely be viewed as being a criminal record by most Canadian border officials because the crime is treated as an American felony even when it was charged as a misdemeanour. When it concerns a criminal record, a DUI conviction is a criminal record in both the national Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database and many local police databases.

Not every DUI charge necessarily results in a conviction, as some people may earn acquittals or have criminal charges dropped for other reasons. Avoiding a conviction, however, does not mean that Canadian law enforcement will not be able to see prior DUI arrests because there will still be records of arrests, even after a pardon.

Is a DUI a Felony in Canada?

A DUI in Canada is a sort of hybrid offence that may be a summary offence or an indictable offence. A crown attorney, crown counsel, or crown prosecutor, who is the prosecutor for the legal system of Canada, can elect to prosecute a DUI crime either summarily or as an indictment.

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) states that a single DUI conviction will not be grounds to deny a person entry into the United States, but criminal offences can be factors in whether applications are approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Multiple DUI convictions or a DUI conviction in combination with other kinds of misdemeanour offences could make a person inadmissible and then require a waiver to enter the United States.

Can You Go to Jail for a DUI in Canada?

DUI crimes in Canada carry a serious punishment of possibly up to 10 years in prison. Ten years will be the maximum penalty for first, second, and third or subsequent offences, but there is no minimum imprisonment time for a first offence, a mandatory minimum of 30 days in prison for a second offence, and a mandatory minimum of 120 days’ imprisonment for a third or subsequent offence.

When a person engages in impaired driving causing bodily harm, a summary conviction is punishable by up to two years of imprisonment, while an indictment can be punishable by up to 14 years of imprisonment. Impaired driving causing death could lead to life in prison.

DUI Canada Criminal Code

The Department of Justice for the Government of Canada states that Canada Criminal Code § 320.14 establishes that a person commits an impaired driving offence if they operate a conveyance while their ability to operate the conveyance is impaired to any degree by alcohol, a drug, or a combination of alcohol and a drug, or within two hours of ceasing to operate a conveyance, have a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) that is equal to or exceeds 80 milligrams or more (mg) of alcohol in 100 millilitres (ml) of blood (meaning 0.08 grams), a blood drug concentration equal to or exceeding the blood drug concentration for the drug prescribed by regulation, or a BAC and blood drug concentration equal to or exceeding the blood alcohol concentration and blood drug concentration for the drug prescribed by regulation for instances in which alcohol and that drug are combined.

When it comes to alcohol, the prohibited BAC is 80 milligrams or more (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood. Canada has two prohibited levels for THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis.

The less serious offence is having between 2 nanograms (ng) and five ng of THC per ml of blood. The more serious offence is five ng of THC or more per ml of blood.

The prohibited levels of alcohol and cannabis in combination are 50mg or more of alcohol per 100ml blood and 2.5 ng or more of THC per ml of blood. When it comes to other drugs, having any detectable amount of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin, psilocin (“magic mushrooms”), ketamine, phencyclidine or phenyl cyclohexyl piperidine (PCP), cocaine, methamphetamine or 6-mam (a metabolite of heroin) in a person’s system within two hours of driving is against the law.

The prohibited level for gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is 5mg or more per litre of blood because the body can naturally produce low levels of the drug.

When Does DUI Come Off Record

DUI convictions in Canada remain on your record for 80 years even when you do not face any other criminal charges. Virtually all types of background checks performed in Canada will reveal DUI arrests, even when they did not result in convictions.

The only way for a person to get a DUI off a criminal record in Canada is to obtain a DUI Pardon or Record Suspension. When you receive a DUI Pardon from the Parole Board of Canada, your DUI offence will be removed from criminal record databases.

If a party performs a criminal background check after you receive a pardon, your results should come back clean, and there will be no evidence of a DUI conviction. There are different waiting periods for DUI pardons, so speak to a skilled Alberta criminal defence lawyer when you need to obtain a pardon.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with an Alberta Criminal Defence Lawyer

Are you currently facing DUI charges in Canada, or are you an American citizen needing help gaining admission to Canada after a DUI conviction in the United States? Alberta Legal can fight to help you achieve the most favourable possible outcome to your case and has a team of attorneys with a wealth of criminal defence experience.

Our firm offers both virtual and in-person meetings for our clients, and we will do whatever we can to help you avoid having to plead guilty to any alleged crime. Call (587) 602-5787 or contact us online for a free consultation so we can go over all of the details relating to your case and discuss how we might be able to help you defend against the criminal charges.