Being charged with DUI in Canada is a serious matter that can have serious consequences– ranging from a fine and the suspension of your driving license to imprisonment — and other implications that may affect your entire life. However, facing impaired driving charges does not mean that your legal rights have been waived, and, if you have professional legal representation, the penalties can be significantly milder.
An experienced DUI lawyer can fight for you every step of the way and assist during the entire process to lessen the punishment or even have the charges dropped altogether. First, let’s see what these penalties really are.
The Consequences of Drinking and Driving in Canada – Fines, Imprisonment and Temporary Suspension of Legal Rights to Drive
DUI penalties differ significantly depending not only on the severity of the case, but also on whether it is a first or a repeat offense.
DUI Penalties for a First Offence
First offenders usually face a standard fine of at least $1,000, a victim fine surcharge and the loss of driving privileges for the minimum period of one year. Some of Canada’s provinces apply special measures for first offences, such as lowering the driving prohibition if the driver agrees to have an alcohol ignition interlock device in the car, a mechanism similar to a breathalyzer that is mounted on the car’s dashboard.
The device allows the engine of the vehicle to start only after the driver has exhaled on the sensor of the mechanism and the breath analyzed had an alcohol concentration under the legal limit.
The consequences of second offences are much harsher than in the case of a first-time offense:
– If a driver is involved in a second DUI case within 10 years of the first offense, the punishment will include at least 30 days of imprisonment and a fine.
– The period of the driving prohibition is also extended to three years.
– The minimum sentence for any DUI offence subsequent to the second one is punished with at least 120 days of imprisonment and the suspension of the driving license for a minimum of three years.
– Different provinces practice different penalties for this type of offense, so you may face a much longer suspension of your right to drive, even a lifetime suspension, if you live in a province with stricter legislation in place.
Whether it is a first offence or not, the driver will not be allowed to operate his or her vehicle for the period of the trial. If the person charged breaks this prohibition, there will be a further fine added to the conviction, and jail time can prolonged as well:
– For first time offences, the additional fine ranges between $500 and $2,000.
– Second offences will be punished with the same fine, at least 14 days more spent in prison, and probably a prolonged driving restriction.
Harsher Punishment for Higher BAC
Drunk driving is defined by the Canada Criminal Code as operating a motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08. The above forms of punishment apply for milder cases of DUI. The penalties can get even more severe if the blood alcohol level exceeds 0.160.
A conviction in a DUI case will appear in the criminal records of the driver. When an alleged drunk driver is arrested, the police will lift fingerprints and take photos of the person, and these records will be preserved if the driver is convicted. If you are found not guilty of the charges brought, or you plead guilty to get the criminal offense changed to non-criminal, you need to have the photos and fingerprints removed from police records.
Being found guilty of DUI charges will classify you as a high-risk driver, which has serious implications for your car insurance as well. In many cases, drivers charged with DUI can be insured only by high-risk insurance companies whose insurance fees are much higher than normal rates, often rising to a staggering $6,000 per year.
The Implications for Other Legal Rights
DUI is a criminal charge, so if you are found guilty, this may affect many other areas of your life:
– You may not be able to pursue certain carrier paths, like teaching, banking or law enforcement.
– You may not be allowed to travel to certain countries.
– If you are in Canada with a work permit, as a student or an immigrant, and you want to apply for citizenship, you might have to wait longer or you may even be deported.
DUI is a very serious offence and its consequences may affect several aspects of your life for a long time. However, you must be aware that professional legal help can mitigate the severity of your case. No responsible lawyer can guarantee to get all the charges dropped, but there are many opportunities for challenging the procedure in order to get a milder sentence.
Your legal rights include the right to a lawyer, so do use this right: call a lawyer right away if you are facing such charges – it can make a huge difference.