Drunk driving / Impaired driving / Driving over 0.08 / DUI
Most driving offences – like speeding or making an illegal turn – are not criminal and, therefore, will not go on your criminal record. But impaired driving can be considered sufficiently serious to warrant a criminal conviction, especially if the driver has a blood alcohol level over 0.08.
These offences happen for lots of different reasons and this partly has to do with the fact that alcohol affects people in very different ways. Many of our clients say they didn’t feel drunk at all. Most were surprised when they failed the breathalyser test. But none were able to convince the police officer that it made any difference.
We also hear stories from people who say they remember getting drunk, but don’t remember getting in the car. But most cases fall somewhere between the two extremes. Usually the offenders know they’re too drunk to drive but risk it anyway because they need to get home.
If you’re convicted
Most impaired driving charges are dealt with summarily by the courts and the usual sentence is a fine and a suspended license. You will be able to apply for a pardon five years after you’ve paid your fine because the license suspension is not considered part of your sentence for the purposes of a pardon. So pay your fines as soon as possible to avoid delays getting your record cleared.
It’s possible for a DUI to lead to an indictment that comes with a heavier sentence but this is normally reserved for repeat offenders. It would also be common in cases where the offence was especially serious because it caused injury or involved further criminal activity like trying to evade the police.
DUI and US Travel
We’re often asked if a DUI will prevent someone from being able to travel to the United States. Usually a DUI will not cause problems at the border but you can never be sure.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) specifically states that a Canadian won’t be refused entry to the United States for a DUI. However, the situation is less clear for people with more than one impaired driving charge on their record because CBP warns that you may be refused if you have multiple convictions.
CBP may also be weary of granting entry to someone with multiple impaired driving charges because it could be a sign of an untreated substance abuse problem, which can also be grounds for inadmissibility.
So if you have a single DUI conviction you are probably ok to travel to the United States. We will still advise obtaining a pardon beforehand but if you need to go, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you.
Remember – Driving Drunk is Illegal
Every driver knows that driving drunk is illegal but somehow DUI remains one of the most common charges we deal with. In addition there are related offences that many people may be unaware of.
- Refusing a breathalyser – Refusing to provide a breath sample is a criminal offence and will result in the same penalty as an impaired driving charge. If a police officer asks you to do a roadside breathalyser test, you have no choice but to do it. If you refuse, you will be charged with a crime.
- Care or Control – Another related offence is known as “care or control.” This happens when someone is intoxicated and the police find them in their vehicle, but not driving. Often this happens because the offender is leaving the bar / party and realizes they’re too drunk to drive so they decide to sleep it off in the car. This seems like a sensible idea but it’s very common for the person to wake up, feel sober and drive home not realizing that they are still over the legal limit.
- Drunk Driving by Proxy – This one is a bit unusual but it did happen to one of our clients. A client of ours was in the passenger seat of her car when the driver – who was sober – left the vehicle running to buy something at a convenience store. Because the passenger was intoxicated and the keys were still in the ignition, she was charged. Most people wouldn’t imagine that this would constitute a criminal offence, but it does.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that impaired driving doesn’t have to involve alcohol. You can be convicted of this offence if you’re impaired by a drug – even a legal prescription drug – to the extent that it’s dangerous for you to be driving a vehicle.
Further, impaired driving doesn’t even have to involve a car or truck. According to the law, it can involve a train, plane, a boat, a motorbike, a regular bike a tractor or even horse-drawn buggy. Basically if its a vehicle you have to personally operate you have to be sober to do it.
If you have been convicted of any of these offences you will need to apply for a record suspension to have the record removed. Your conviction will never go away on its own.
If you are unsure how to proceed please get in touch with one of our counsellors. And We’re here to help.
p.s if you’ve ever wondered if drinking and driving really isn’t all that bad please read my editorial in the Montreal Gazette. It might just save you a few headaches.