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DUI Penalties in Canada

By Lindsay Kramer - Updated January 07, 2019
Canada law and justice system with national flag

In Canada, drunk drivers can be charged with one or both of the following offenses: impaired driving and driving over 80, which means having a blood alcohol level over 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. In nearly all cases, this figure is written as 0.08 percent BAC. Both convictions carry substantial penalties that include fines, jail time and a driver's license suspension.

Tip

In Canada, it is illegal to drive when your BAC is 0.08 percent or higher.

Penalties faced for a DUI offense depend on several factors, including:

  • Driver's BAC.
  • Driver's status as a novice driver, commercial driver or fully licensed driver.
  • Driver's previous DUI record.
  • Driver's home province.
  • Whether an injury or death occurred because of the driver's actions.

Impaired driving does not only refer to drunk driving. It can also refer to driving while under the influence of any substance, such as cannabis or a prescription drug.

In Canada, it is possible for a driver to face administrative and criminal penalties when his BAC is determined to be in the "warn" range, 0.05 to 0.08 percent BAC.

DUI Is a Criminal Conviction

A DUI is a federal offense in Canada and will result in a criminal conviction on your record. The Crown of Canada determines whether prosecution is pursued as an indictment (equivalent to a felony in the United States) or as a summary conviction (equivalent to a misdemeanor in the U.S.). Most DUI charges in Canada are prosecuted as summary convictions.

Being convicted of impaired driving leads to many penalties that can include:

  • A mandatory ignition interlock device on the driver's vehicle. 
  • Mandatory completion of a drug rehabilitation program.
  • Medical evaluation to determine whether the driver is fit to drive again.

Fines Assessed for DUI

A driver faces a fine of $1,000 or more for an impaired driving conviction, refusing to provide a BAC test sample or driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. Subsequent offenses in these categories result in higher fines. For driving while prohibited from doing so or driving after being federally convicted of impaired driving, a driver faces a fine of up to $2,000.

A driver facing her first charge of driving while in the warn range faces a fine of $250. Subsequent charges result in higher fines and additional fees, like a $250 driver's license reinstatement fee.

Jail Time Is Possible

On July 2, 2008, Canada’s minimum punishment for DUI offenses was amended. A first offense now carries a minimum fine of $1,000 and second offenses within a 10-year period are punishable by a minimum 30-day jail term. Each subsequent conviction will result in jail time of at least 120 days. Summary convictions carry a maximum sentence of 18 months.

Loss of License

When a Canadian driver is convicted of impaired driving, he faces two distinct driver's license suspensions: a criminal suspension, which is imposed by the federal government, and an administrative suspension, which is imposed by the government of the province where the driver lives. A driver faces an administrative suspension regardless of the outcome of his criminal case. The length of this suspension depends on the driver's province.

As of 2019, law enforcement can also suspend drivers' licenses immediately (while stopped by police at the side of the road) upon determining that the driver was under the influence. For a first-time offense, the driver faces a three-day suspension and a $250 fine. The suspension length, fine amount and whether the driver faces additional penalties depend on her age, license type and previous DUI record. If the driver is found guilty of impaired driving in court, she can face additional criminal penalties.

Additional Fines for Driving While Prohibited

Once a driver's license is suspended, the driver is prohibited from driving. This is true even if he has not yet gone to court to fight the charge. Penalties for driving with a suspended license prior to a DUI hearing are:

  • Fine of $500 to $2,000 for a first offense.
  • Fine of $500 to $2,000, plus 14 days or longer in jail for a second offense, and a one-year extension to the suspension.

After the driver has been convicted, he faces these same penalties for driving while his license is suspended.

Travel Restrictions After Conviction

Those convicted of a DUI or DWI in the U.S. within the past 10 years may be denied entry into Canada. Since DUI (having a blood alcohol level above 0.08 percent in the United States) is the equivalent of a serious criminal offense, only those deemed rehabilitated can enter the country. This involves applying for an individual criminal rehabilitation by submitting an application along with proof that you have served your sentence, paid all associated fines and have three letters of reference.

About the Author

Lindsay Kramer is a freelance writer and editor who has been working in the legal niche since 2012. Her primary focus areas within this niche are family law and personal injury law. Lindsay works closely with a few legal marketing agencies, providing blog posts, website content and marketing materials to law firms across the United States.

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