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How to Get a DUI Pardon – Drunk and Impaired Driving in Canada

DUI Pardon

Get a Pardon for a DUI – The Most Common Charge

There are many names for a DUI. But whichever you choose you should know that it is the most commonly pardoned criminal conviction in Canada. The chances are good that you will be familiar with at least one or two of them. But whatever you want to call it the charge is the same and it involves operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs or anything else that impairs your judgement or dexterity.

It could even just be cough medicine because if you are driving under the influence of anything you are breaking the law. This includes impair

If you are arrest for a DUI you will charged under section 235 of the criminal code.

For more information:

DUI in Canada

In Canada a DUI arrest is taken very seriously. In our experience it is almost unheard of to be found not guilty of a DUI.

Interestingly the first arrest for a Canadian citizen for driving under the influence of alcohol goes all the way back to 1920 in the case of R. v. Nickle. Although in this case the detais appear to be more serious that simply driving drunk since it was established that the act of driving intoxicated would support a manslaughter conviction.

For more information:

The most recent legislative change to the law concerning impaired driving was passed in 2008 as a part of the Tackling Violent Crime Act.

Alcohol Limits for a DUI Charge

Generally speaking a blood alcohol limit of .08 is the threshold where a DUI arrest will be made. However, if the subject being tested is close to the limit, but not over, the police have various options regarding enforcement. Those options vary from province to province.

Going to Court for an impaired Charge in Canada

In our experience it is extremely uncommon to be ground not guilty of a DUI charge in Canada. One of the things that makes it such a difficult charge to fight is that – by definition – you were impaired and therefore any testimony you provide immediately lacks credibility. This makes sense. A sober police officer performing his or her job while administering a breathalyser test has a lot more credibility than a drunk person charged with operating a motor vehicle. If you are charged for a DUI in Canada do not expect to be found not guilty. Although it’s certainly possible, it is highly unlikely.

Sentencing for a drunk driving charge

  • For a first offence, a $1000 fine and a 12-month driving prohibition,
  • For a second offence, 30 days of jail and a 24-month driving prohibition, and
  • For a third or subsequent offence, 120 days of jail and a 36-month driving prohibition.

From province to province there are slight variations on the sentencing involved for a DUI charge in Canada but the above is a good general guideline. The most common element is that a DUI conviction in Canada will certainly result in 1 year license suspension following your first conviction as well as a fine.

For more information:

Does a DUI show up on a background check in Canada?

Whenever you are convicted of a crime in Canada the record will show up during any background check. Even if you are not found guilty there are records of the arrest that can easily be viewed by employers and other interested parties.

If you have a DUI conviction – or even i you have only been arrested for a DUI but not found guilty – you should apply to have your record removed.

Non conviction

If you were not convicted following a drunk driving arrest you should apply for a purge and file destruction.


If you were convicted for your arrest you need to apply for a pardon.

Getting a pardon or file destruction for a Drunk driving charge

If you think you will want to eventually obtain a pardon for your DUI charge the first thing you should do after being convicted is pay your fine. For the purpose of your pardon the sentence being considered will almost invariably be the fine you receive provided there was no jail time involved.

For whatever reason, the license suspension is not considered a part of the sentence during the pardon application. So it is conceivable that you could have your criminal record sealed but never bother getting your license back.

If you decide to apply for a pardon for a DUI charge you will want to make sure you have no traffic violations of any kind during the eligibility waiting periods as they can be used against you during the review process. But provided you meet the eligibility criteria and you satisfy the good conduct clause you will be able to seal your criminal record and remove that DUI charge once and for all.

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 Charge in Canada and the United States Border

Interestingly the one charge that we normally consider fairly serious in Canada will not get you banned from the United States. We have many people who come to us requesting a US entry waiver for a DUI charge and we are forced to turn them away. Why? Because for some reason the United States does not consider DUI to be a crime of moral turpitude.

While I happen to disagree my thoughts on the matter are irrelevant in respect to United States law. So if you have a single DUI charge you most likely will not be refused entry when crossing the border.

On the other hand there is no guarantee that you will not be refused entry. We have several clients who were turned away who have nothing more on their record than a DUI. We don’t know exactly why that happened but it’s possible the border guard could see that the individual had been arrested, but could not see the nature of the offence. In a case like that I believe that most border guards would err on the side of caution.

Our suggest if you are travelling to the United States and there is a DUI on your record is to always travel with court documents or some other kind of proof of conviction. This way you can prove the nature of the offence in the event that the border guard believes there is reason to refuse you entry.

Remember – Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Michael Ashby

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.

The Consequences of a DUI Arrest

About Michael Ashby

Michael Ashby is Co-Founder and Communications Director for the National Pardon Centre. Get in touch with Michael by sending an email to or calling extension 227.Michael Ashby est le co-fondateur et le directeur des communications au Centre du Pardon national. Contactez Michael par email au ou par téléphone au poste 227.


  • Rakesh Bhalla says:


    I have been charged with 253 A1, I’m PR holder, will it effect my citizenship application?

    Please advice

  • Heather says:

    I got a dui 3 years ago which required me to obtain an interlock…. Is there an amount of time in which i can obtain my drivers?

  • Michael says:

    Hi Heather,

    It depends on the conditions of your sentence and the laws in your province. It doesn’t have to do with pardon eligibility so you will want to check your court documents and provincial legislation.

    Kind regards,


  • […] influence of that cough syrup you just had, you are very much vulnerable to being arrested under the impaired driving criminal code,for driving under influence under section 235 of criminal […]

  • Steven S says:

    How long do legal proceedings typically take for DUI?

    My main question is how long will the pardon take to obtain after it has been 5 years after paying your fine?

  • Steven S says:

    And also can you get a file/ record destruction and a pardon ?

    • Michael says:

      Hi Sean,

      A purge and destruction comes built into a pardon. So yes, you can get both. On average a pardon takes about a year. Get started 1 year early and you will have your pardon in place ASAP. Call me if you would like to discuss. 514-842-2411 x 227

      Best regards,


  • Bev says:

    I was charged April 30 2017 with a dui
    My court date us Jan 22 2018. Am I allowed to travel out of Canada before my trial date?

    • Ryan says:

      Bad move should have plead asap….the longer you wait the longer the suspension….ie…plead within 6 months receive 6 month suspension…9 months equals 9 months th suspension……now your getting a year…and a year of Interlock…..I did 9 month 9 month….wish I had did 6 and 6

  • Michael says:

    If that is your only charge then yes, you will have no issues travelling.


  • John says:

    hello there i was charged with drinking and driving 5 years ago ,but the problem is that I didn’t know I had to pay the fine 1200$ I thought I could pay anytime ,so the time came to apply for pardon,is there any chance that I could be approved for pardon now ?thanks

  • Michael says:

    Hi John,

    I am afraid there is no way around the waiting period regulations.

    Kind regards,


  • Sandra says:

    Hello, I still have my charge for DUI and refusal to provide a sample pending, I wanted to help at my children school as a volunteer. They are asking me to fill an application to do a backgroud check. I am so nervous that if they refuse my request, my children will be tagged. I have never gotten into any legal problems in the past. The most ive ever gotten is a parking ticket, please advise. Thank you in advance.

  • Michael says:

    Hi Sandra,

    I wouldn’t worry about your children being tagged, whatever that would mean. But you should consider getting your pardon done to prevent this sort of problem from happening again in the future. You can click the link below to get started online or give me a call.

    Kind regards,

    Michael Ashby
    ext 227

  • Allain Morais says:

    723 Chemin Pallot

  • Steve says:

    had DUI back around 1982, 3 month suspension, $200 fine. Has it been removed because its 25 years ?

    • Tiffanie says:

      Hello Steve,

      No, you must do a record suspension to have your DUI removed.
      It is not automatically removed after a certain amount of time. The only way to get rid of it is by having a record suspension granted.

      1-866-242-2411, ext. 226

  • Ashlee says:

    I had my dui charge 5 years ago and i paid my fine asap within 3 months. 1000 fine and the surcharge was waived due to my termination of employment.. what are my chances of getting a pardon? i haven’t had a single driving charge or anything since.

  • Andrew Baker says:

    2 DUIs in the US while I was 18 (I’m 33). Both were UNDER .08 (.07 and .04). Would they have been deemed DUIs in Canada? Are these offenses removable so I would be able to work in Canada?

    • Michael Ashby says:

      I am not familiar with America criminal justice system but if you simply want to travel to Canada you will require permission from the Canadian government. I suggest contacting an immigration consultant as we don’t handle these types of applications.

      Kind regards,


  • i just got a DUI in December and my court date is in February its my first ever conviction never had a ticket or whatsoever. do i need a lawyer on judgement day. i dont have money for a lawyer .i just lost my job.

  • Nick says:

    I’m from Australia and was traveling through Canada over christmas and got pulled over and blew over .08. I have a court case on the 31st of Jan, I was told by the officer that arrested me it was only to wave a $500 fine and that I can get someone to represent me. On that 31st I would be issued with a second court date that I had to attended otherwise there would be a warrant out for my arrest, meaning I could never return which is not an option. Doesn’t sounds right there being 2 court dates, is this true? This is something I need sorted as I love coming to Canada.

  • linda says:

    Hi, I’m looking for information not for myself but for my boyfriend.
    he has 2 dui charges which resulted loosing his license 2 different times, this is back in 2001
    he also has driving while disgualified, 2002..all fines have been paid in full and he also did weekends, this is all over
    15 years ago..he has not driven or had his license since..
    back in 2015 he was sent a letter from access novascotia, there is a new interlock program for those that has lost their license..
    he believes he lost his license for life, if he applied for this program to get his license back would he still need a DUI pardon?

    • Michael Ashby says:

      Hi Linda,

      He is certainly eligible. Have him either apply online (you can do this for him) or call me to discuss.

      Kind regards,

      514-842-2411 x 227

  • Annie says:

    Hi, my son was received a 3 day suspension for drunk driving .. it will be 3 years ago next month. When he went to court, his lawyer got the charges dropped. Even though the charges were dropped it still shows on his driving abstract. We thought it cleared after 3 years but after reading the information on this website, I see it does not. Since the charges were dropped, I understand, from above, that we need the file purged/destroyed. How do we go about doing this? I understand that for a pardon you wait 5 years after conviction, does the 5 years apply in this situation as well? Any information would be greatly appreciate. Thank you.

    • Michael Ashby says:

      Hi Annie,

      We could help you with purging the criminal record documents (court, police, RCMP) but the drivers abstract is completely separate. We do not assist with that nor is there a process for it other than waiting the appropriate amount of time.

      To get started with us you can either apply online for a pardon (cost is the same but Parole Board fees do not apply). Or give me a call and I can get things started on the phone for you.

      Kind regards,

      Michael Ashby
      ext 227

  • Lynne says:

    Hi… I was charged while driving under a suspended license on April 01 due to demerits (Traffic tickets) No DUI charges. The officer told me that I wouldn’t go to jail only if I didn’t pay the fine. I had a DUI 26 yrs ago will that effect the outcome of a decision during court? Please help me I am ready to commit suicide over the idea of jail time.
    Can you please email me your thoughts as I probably will never be able to find this page again.

    • Michael Ashby says:

      Hi Lynne,

      I seriously doubt jail time is in the picture. However if you are honestly worried about that I suggest consulting a lawyer.

      Kind regards,


  • Abdu says:

    How long does it take to get a pardon, 3 years or 5 years?


  • Carla says:

    Hello, I received two charges on Monday – 253 (1) (a) and 253 (1) (b) I have no priors. Can you please advise me?

    • Michael Ashby says:

      Hi Carla,

      I am not a lawyer. I only deal with things after the court sessions are complete. Is there anything I can help with in that regard?


  • abid says:

    Hi, friend got convicted 2 years ago for not taking the breathalyzer when he got arrested for DUI. They got an indictable offence. So does that mean they have to wait 10 years from when they pay the fines? It happened in Ontario 2 years ago. Will these charges show up on employment checks, as its hard for them to obtain employment. This person never had any priors, clean record.

    Thank you

  • abid says:

    So they have to wait ten years after the fines. Then apply for parole and then their record is clean? Is that correct?
    They have to wait ten years to get their life back?

  • […] of concentration is the enemy of road safety or a DUI pardon Once your mind is carried away in other areas, then your tour is vulnerable. It will then become a […]

  • Ash says:


    I had a DUI conviction in 2013 and am coming up on the end of my 5 year waiting period. I was put in the drunk tank a few times afterwards, but have kept myself out of trouble for the just over a year. Does that impede my ability to have a pardon conducted? Would it be possible to get those arrests pardoned as well? I was never charged with anything.



    • Michael Ashby says:

      Hi Ash,

      It very well could affect your eligibility. I suggest staying far away from the police from now in if you would like to clear your record one day.

      Kind regards,

      Michael Ashby

  • Aamir says:

    Hi Michael,

    My 19 year old son went to a party and had some drinks and decided drive home, he hit a curb and a flipped the car, was arrested for and charged with 3 offences
    1. Alcohol over 80ml
    2. Impaired driving
    3. Dangerous driving
    and a $1500 fine.

    First of all I’m so upset with my kid as we always told him not to get behind the wheel if drinking and even on that day he was suppose to sleep over after the party but decided otherwise and hence here we are now. I am definitely not worried about his licencee suspension for all I care they can suspend it till he is 30! My concern is the other charges and his getting a criminal record. How hindering in getting jobs and travel are these charges, I understand that jobs in the public life saving sector may now be closed to him eg. Policing , Fire, Paramedics and volunteering. But how hindering is getting jobs in other fields once he completes his education? he currently is deciding between a few fields, like business media, computer programming, optician.

    His court date is coming up next month, we went to the first day where they gave us disclosures and set a date for us to return with counsel. We are looking a few lawyers, one we are leaning towards and seems honest told us not to expect any miracles, he said he could probably get 1 or 2 charges dropped and maybe reduce fine and his charge is around the $2500 mark, another said we can fight this and perhaps there may be some technical error or some procedure the police did not follow accurately and hence Maybe ( no guarantees ) get the charges dropped, this lawyer said his charges are around $7000, he said just to look at the charge sheet and disclosure he charges $500, which if we retain him will be included in the $7000.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    • Michael Ashby says:

      Hi Aamir,

      I will try to address your questions but first let me tell you I am not a lawyer and I cannot really offer advice on going to trial.

      In my experience a DUI is a DUI and he is unlikely to avoid a conviction. Have him pay the fine he will inevitably received ASAP as that will most likely determine his waiting period for applying for a pardon.

      Also, it often doesn’t matter what the criminal record is for since any criminal record is a dead end with employers. That being said it depends on the industry of course.

      Have him buy a bus pass and save some money because the fine will be rather heavy and a pardon at the moment costs around $1400 start to finish.

      Best luck,


  • Aamir says:

    Hi Michael,

    So shall it would be best to go with the lawyer that is telling me same as you said that it is very unlikely to have him avoid the charges rather than the one that is trying to look for loop holes or poke holes into crown ‘s case and charge me $7000 (and still guarantees no results).

    • Michael Ashby says:

      Well again I am not a lawyer but based on the criminal records I see it’s almost impossible to get off of a DUI. If you think about it this is a pretty straight forward case. Your son was drunk. He rolled a car. Then sober police officers showed up to arrest him. No judge is going to give him the benefit of the doubt here.

      If it were me I would assume the other guy is selling snake oil. Not that it’s impossible to get off but it’s so unlikely as to be irrelevant. Plus if the other lawyer notices something fishy I can’t imagine he would just ignore it.

      My advice would be to throw him at the mercy of the court and hope for a light sentence.


  • CS says:

    I am on work permit and got DUI Conviction, but my conviction date will start in mid of 2019 as judge gave me the time period so that within that much time I can get my PR. My question is that i have work permit until 4 april 2019 and my wife is in india and her work permit is along with me, can travel back to india and come back before that date and before the conviction showed up on my record.

  • Frank says:

    I received a DUI this year. Do I have the option of not entering into the remedial program and the interlock system and just wait it out for 2 years ?
    Also, can I purchase my own interlock system and install it myself ?

  • Valerie Bergeson says:

    Message: When i was 18 I got a DUI. I went to court on my 19th birthday. T he judge told me in court that they would put it under the young offender’s act record. But last month i applied for employment and found out that they didn’t put it under young offender’s record. The cost for court transcript’s can run to about 700.00 to 1500 .00 .I’ve worked for many many years and this has never. been an issue. I feel like i want fight it but the expense is so high. Any advice?

    • Tiffanie Samuel says:

      Hi Valerie,

      Unfortunately, we cannot advise you on this matter. If you wish to appeal a court decision, please refer yourself to a lawyer.


      1-866-242-2411, ext. 226

  • Thanks for the heads up that in court, a drunk driver’s testimony may already lack credibility as he or she is considered impaired at that time. However, to increase the chances, my suggestion is to find a DUI attorney. Getting one can help gather evidence that suggested that someone else is as fault.

  • Step-Mom DG says:

    My step son was charged with a dui and blowing over the legal limit, two charges. He rolled his vehicle (single car accident with no injuries, he was the only person involved) and blew a .20 Is it possible to plead guilty but ask the judge for no criminal charge because it is his first offence, he’s very sorry and remorseful and no one got hurt. A criminal charge would effect him financiall hardship due to his job involves going into peoples homes.

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