What to Expect after Your 1st DUI Offence

If you are a first-time offender charged with impaired driving, it can be an unpleasant situation. You may be unsure about what to expect or how to proceed with a first offence DUI. 

Adding to the complexity, DUI laws vary by jurisdiction, making local representation crucial to your defence. To effectively defend against DUI charges, you’ll need a criminal lawyer who is well-versed in the specific DUI laws of your area. It’s also essential to know your rights as a driver and understand the potential consequences you could face. 

Ultimately, having a skilled criminal lawyer to guide you through the entire process is key to resolving any charges against you. 

Penalties of Your First DUI

The Canadian Criminal Code defines impaired driving (DUI) as when a person “operates” or “controls” a conveyence (motor vehicle) while his/her ability to do so is impaired by alcohol or drugs.

DUI charge in Canada can encompass several alleged crimes, for instance:

By the letter of the law, a DUI 1st offence can result in:

  • If convicted of your first offence, your ability to drive will be prohibited for one to three years.
  • A fine of $1,000
  • A jail sentence of up to 18 months (if no one was injured or killed)
  • A minimum of one year driving a car fitted with an ignition interlock device
  • Drivers’ licence suspension
  • Mandatory attendance at an education and treatment program

If impaired driving leads to bodily harm or death or if other aggravating circumstances exist (such as an open container of drugs or alcohol in the car or the presence of a child during the arrest), the penalties for the offence may be significantly increased.

Can I go to jail for my first DUI offence?

It is uncommon for a first DUI offence to result in jail time in Canada, except in cases where there has been injury or death.

Consequences of Your First DUI

Court Appearance

You will have to attend court to face the charges against you. During your court appearance, you will be able to enter a plea and present the details of your case.

Licence Suspension

If you are convicted, your driver’s licence will be immediately suspended, usually for a year. To have your licence reinstated, you must satisfy specific requirements established by the court. For first-time offenders, the Ignition Interlock Program may allow for a reduction in the suspension period.

Ignition Interlock Program:

If you’re a first-time offender in Canada, you may need to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program to regain your driver’s licence. This probationary program is prevalent across most provinces and necessitates the installation of an interlock ignition device in your car, which will be regularly inspected by a specialist. You will need to blow into the device before starting the car and at random intervals while driving to verify that you are not under the influence of alcohol.

As a first-time offender, the device must remain in your car for at least one year, but you can request that the Ministry of Transportation remove the requirement from your licence. If you drive a car without an ignition interlock device, you may be convicted and fined between $200 and $1,000.


In the event that you are charged with driving under the influence and plead guilty or are convicted, you will probably have to pay fines as a part of your DUI sentence. The exact amount of the fine will vary based on the gravity of the offence and any additional aggravating circumstances.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the fine does not account for costs related to mandatory treatment programs, impoundment and towing fees, licence reinstatement fees, or expenses related to leasing and maintaining ignition interlock devices.

Mandatory attendance at a DUI program

As part of your sentence, you may need to participate in an alcohol education program. This program can assist you in comprehending the hazards associated with driving under the influence and provide guidance on how to avoid it in the future.

Criminal Record

If you’re found guilty, you will have a criminal record attached to your name, which can be inconvenient and unpleasant, particularly when seeking employment or undergoing a background check.

How long does my DUI stay on my record?

In Canada, a DUI conviction resulting in a criminal record will be visible in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and other law enforcement databases. To remove a DUI conviction from a background check, you can apply for a record suspension or a pardon, which takes at least five years to obtain. It’s important to note that even if you aren’t convicted and don’t have a criminal record, the DUI charge will remain on file with the police.

Will my first DUI affect international travel?

If you have a DUI conviction and are travelling from Canada to the United States, you will generally be allowed entry into the country. However, as a DUI is a criminal offence, you may still face the risk of being denied entry. It’s advisable to carry a certified copy of the official court document with you at all times.

Increased Insurance Rates

After a DUI conviction, most insurance companies will either refuse to insure you or significantly increase your premiums. This is because driving under the influence is a violation of policy terms. As an alternative, you may be able to obtain insurance through a facility association, but this option may come with excessively high premiums that make it infeasible.

Defences for DUI 1st Offence

If you’re detained on a DUI charge in Canada, it’s essential to request to speak to a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Even if you believe that you were driving under the influence, you have the right to legal representation, and it’s crucial to begin your defence as soon as possible.

To mount an effective defence against a DUI charge, your criminal lawyer will start by reviewing the evidence against you, including all technical data collected at the scene of the incident. Occasionally, arresting officers may make mistakes during the arrest or violate your charter rights during the charging process. Other times, the evidence presented in court may be in question or inadmissible.

If your lawyer can prove that errors or breaches occurred, it may result in the outright dismissal of the case.

For instance:

  • If the police violate your rights, the breathalyzer certificate may be excluded as evidence.
  • Excluding the breathalyzer certificate can lead to a successful outcome for your trial in most cases.
  • If your case does go to trial, an established criminal lawyer will work with the Crown prosecution to mitigate the consequences on your behalf.
  • They will advocate strongly on your behalf and, if you’re convicted, their advocacy may result in a less severe sentence.

Take advantage of a free consultation to determine your standing regarding a DUI charge and the necessary next steps. With competent legal counsel, you may have a chance to obtain a case dismissal or reduced sentence for a first offense.

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