Can You Go to Jail For a DUI in Canada?

Many are surprised to learn that being charged with DUI can prevent them from entering Canada. Since DUI is considered a criminal offense, its presence can remain on your record even after completion of probation or parole.

An experienced DUI lawyer may employ various technical, substantive, and procedural defenses in order to convince the Crown to offer you a careless driving plea or withdraw all charges completely – thereby helping reduce or remove inadmissibility issues in Canada.

1. Jail Time

Can You Go to Jail for a DUI in Canada?” is dependent upon various factors. Historically, an American who had one DUI twenty years prior would qualify for Deemed Rehabilitation and could safely travel into Canada without fear of arrest for impaired driving (in Canada defined as operating motor vehicles or vessels while their ability has been diminished due to alcohol, drugs or combinations of both).

Now, since Canada’s federal government passed legislation permitting prosecutors to seek convictions of both indictable offenses and summary offenses for DUI offenses, even misdemeanor DUI offenses may render foreign nationals inadmissible until they provide proof that their sentence was served, such as receipts for fine payments or letters from MADD stating they attended Victim Impact Panels; proof that your Ignition Interlock Device has been deactivated can all help provide this evidence of fulfillment.

2. Fines

DUI offenses in Canada are criminal violations that carry fines upon conviction. The Crown may choose whether to prosecute them as either indictable charges (similar to felonies in the US) or summary charges; most first time DUI offences result in summary convictions.

Criminal records can make entering Canada more challenging for Americans. A person charged with impaired driving could find themselves turned away at the border even for short visits to family or work, and may disqualify them for Canadian Deemed Rehabilitation which allows foreign nationals to regain entry after 10 years.

Arguing against a DUI conviction, particularly on your first offence, requires strong legal representation. Alan Pearse has represented many clients successfully and will use his experience to minimize its negative effect on both immediate and longer-term life.

3. License Suspension

As in the United States, being found guilty of impaired driving (DUI or any related offence) in Canada can result in suspension of your driver’s license. Depending on which province or territory is responsible, reinstatement requirements vary in terms of timeframe and conditions; some provinces require completion of various programs as conditions to reinstating your license.

DUI charges are public records in many parts of Canada and will likely be reported by media at some point unless you fall under YCJA. This may damage your reputation as an upstanding citizen and create issues at work or personal life.

Before December 2018, DUI offenses in Canada were considered serious crimes that rendered people criminally inadmissible at the border. But after serving out your sentence and probation period, individuals could apply for “Criminal Rehabilitation.” To qualify for this process they will need to provide documentation showing genuine remorse, acceptance of responsibility, lifestyle stability, etc.

4. Criminal Record

Driving while impaired is illegal in all Canadian provinces and territories and committing DUI is considered a criminal offence with lasting consequences that could include an arrest record and fine.

If an officer suspects you of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including legal prescription medications such as painkillers and marijuana), they may ask for a breath or urine sample from you; failure to comply can be treated as a criminal offense.

Your conviction could constitute “serious criminality” in Canada and make you ineligible to travel there without first obtaining a Temporary Resident Permit. Prior to December 2018’s implementation of Bill C-46, such a DUI offense would usually be “deemed rehabilitated” within an acceptable amount of time and permit entry. But now things have changed with Bill C-46 being in force.