Is DUI a Criminal Offence in Canada?

What is considered impaired driving/ DUI?

Under section 320.14 of the Canadian Criminal Code, impaired driving, also commonly known as DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while impaired or driving while intoxicated) means operating a vehicle while:

  • having consumed alcohol or drugs, or a combination of the two,
  • your ability was affected to any degree by alcohol or drugs.

A driver does not have to exceed the legal blood-alcohol, or blood-drug limit to be charged with impaired driving. The only requirement for a charge of impaired driving is that your ability to drive was affected to any degree, by alcohol or drugs, regardless of how much or how little was actually consumed.

Drivers who are found to be impaired by drugs will be subject to criminal charges that carry the same penalties as driving while impaired by alcohol.

Refer to the Blood Drug Concentration Regulations to view the listed drug categories and limits. For specific information on cannabis-impaired driving, refer to our Cannabis Law and Driving section.

Depending on the findings of the police, the test results, and the specific circumstances, a driver may be charged with one or more additional criminal driving offences, such as:

  • over 80 – driving while exceeding the legal blood-alcohol limit, section 320.14 (1) (b)
  • driving while exceeding the legal blood-drug limit, section 320.14 (1) (c)
  • failure or refusal to comply with demand, section 320.15
  • dangerous driving, section 320.13
  • criminal negligence, section 219 (1)
  • drive while license suspended, section 320.18
  • failure to stop after accident, section 320.16, etc.

How do you get a “DUI” i.e. an impaired driving charge?

The most common terms we are all familiar with are “.08” and “blowing over”. What does 0.08 mean?

  • having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration is the person’s blood exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol. That is more than 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood.

You don’t need a breathalyzer or blood test to have an impaired charge, nor does it need to be alcohol related. Drugs can also result in an impaired charge.

An impaired driving can result where the person’s ability to operate the car (or boat, or plane or railway equipment) is impaired by alcohol or a drug.

What Happens if I Have a DUI Record?

  • You may be turned away from a potential employer after failing a background check.
  • You may lose your current job if they decide to do a background check.
  • You may be turned away at the US border. While a single DUI is not necessarily grounds to turn you away, multiple DUI convictions or a combination of lesser offences may make you inadmissible. You might need to attain a waiver to gain entry to the US with a DUI.
  • You may have difficulty getting bonded (insured) as the cost of insurance goes up if you have a criminal offence.

Can I Receive a Pardon/Record Suspension?

It’s important to pay your fine as soon as possible because you may apply for a pardon five years after the date your fine is paid. You don’t have to wait five years before you begin your application process. With Pardons Canada, we can help you gather all necessary paperwork beforehand and begin the process as the entire procedure may take between 10 to 20 months. Any information you provide to a counsellor at Pardons Canada is kept confidential.