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Toronto lawyers dedicated to helping people charged with impaired driving

First offence DUI / impaired driving charges in Canada. Can I go to jail or get a criminal record?

You absolutely can be sentenced to jail of up to two years on a first time DUI/impaired driving or refusal charge in Canada. This is specified in Section 320.19 of the Criminal Code. If the Crown Attorney elects to proceed summarily the maximum is 2 years. If they proceed by indictment the maximum is 10 years.

The Criminal Code says you can go to jail for a first offence DUI but practically speaking does it happen often? Do Ontario Crown Attorneys usually seek a jail sentence in Ontario, Canada for first time DUI offenders?

Every courthouse in Ontario operates differently but yes some do seek a jail sentence for first time DUI offenders.

They don’t normally look for 2 or 10 years assuming there was no accident or other aggravating factors but they may seek a 30, 60, or 90 day jail sentence just for pulling you over and determining you were over 80 after blowing into a screening device or were impaired based on the observations made by the police officer. At some courthouses in the GTA Crowns will practically always ask that the accused go to jail in DUI cases.

Depending on where the accused was arrested they may also have their name reported publicly in the media as being charged with impaired driving. The media will rarely report if the charges get dropped or you are found not guilty. This means the accused may have to live with having their name being associated with drunk driving when people search for them in the internet indefinitely. In the city of Toronto it would be rare for a first time DUI charge resulting in no injury or accident being reported in the media but it can happen.

In smaller Ontario towns and cities it absolutely gets reported often and in fact journalists will attend court to discover and report on DUI cases.

The reporting of DUI charges is also common throughout Canada particularly in smaller communities. In 2021 everything reported by the media or the police is posted online meaning an impaired driving charge can follow the accused around for the rest of their lives even if they are not found guilty.

Sometimes the police force themselves will make a press release to announce the arrest of those charged with DUI/impaired driving which is often picked up by local media. York Regional Police were publically outing and announcing everyone charged with DUI related offences in 2018 prior to being found guilty on their website. They have since abandoned that practice, which makes sense as it would potentially, and probably did, ruin the reputations, lives, and futures of people who may be completely innocent.

Canadian courts are open to the public and it is not illegal to report in the media that someone has been charged with impaired driving unless the person is a youth under age 18 (YCJA) or the court has issued a publication ban. Depending on where you are charged you may be publicly outed even if you are not convicted or sentenced to jail.

You will get a criminal record (conviction) if you are an adult and are found guilty of a DUI offence in Canada

Adults (18+) who get charged with DUI related offences such as impaired operation of a motor vehicle or vessel (boat), over 80, or refusal to provide a breath sample who are ultimately found guilty of the crime (after a trial or pleading guilty in court) they will receive a criminal record (conviction) because the judge has no discretion in sentencing them otherwise. The Criminal Code of Canada specifies mandatory minimum sentences for DUI convicts meaning an absolute or conditional discharge is not an available sentencing option.

At a minimum an adult who is found guilty will receive a $1000 fine and a criminal record. A young offender (youth) may be able to avoid an adult criminal record if they are under the age of 18 at the time they are arrested under the YCJA.

This does not mean that everyone who gets charged with an impaired driving related offence in Canada will end up with a criminal record.

Everyone is innocent until proven guilty and there are many ways that lawyers can sometimes get the charges dropped, reduced to something that is not criminal (normally HTA Careless Driving), or win an acquittal at trial. Even if a person was intentionally drinking and driving and gets caught and charged by the police they may still be able to avoid a criminal record if their lawyer is able to demonstrate that their rights were violated, that the police acted improperly (did not follow proper procedures), or that the blood alcohol level (BAC) testing may have been inaccurate or the breath machine was not properly maintained, configured or administrated.

Some people just assume they have no hope of avoiding a criminal record when in fact their cases are actually highly winnable because there are many ways for the police to make mistakes that will lead to the charges being dropped or an acquittal if they are properly represented by a criminal defence lawyer.

Call us today.

You don't have to jeopardize your future or waste thousands of dollars on excessive legal fees. We provide effective and affordable lawyer representation for those charged with impaired driving offences throughout Ontario.

Have a skilled criminal lawyer who focuses on impaired driving related charges protect you and your future from the stigma and consequences of a criminal record.

    call us: 647-228-5969


  call us: 647-228-5969


Your case will be defended by a fully licensed Practicing Lawyer of the Law Society of Ontario. For more information about our lawyer, click here.

We provide our clients with:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • US travel advice and information
  • Employment background check advice/services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • Clear goals of getting charges dropped and bail conditions varied without a trial
  • Help with related immigration issues
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Experienced, focused counsel

* Please note:

If you are not a paying client, we cannot answer questions and provide assistance with U.S. travel, immigration, employment background checks, and avoiding a criminal record. This includes those who have already retained other counsel and those whose cases have already been completed.

Are you a lawyer? If you are defending an impaired driving related case and are looking for expert advice regarding possible defences, case strategies, and information release management call us at: 647-228-5969.

Please note: We do not accept legal aid certificate cases. All clients are handled on a private retainer only.


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  We provide:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • 99%+ non-conviction success rate
  • U.S. travel advice and information
  • Help with related immigration issues
  • Employment background check advice/services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • A clear goal of getting the charges dropped without a trial
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Timely resolutions
  • Lawyer/client privilege
  • Experienced, focused counsel