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Aftermath of a DUI Charge: First-Time Offenders

Facing a first-time charge of drinking and driving can be an unpleasant experience, leaving you uncertain about what to expect and how to proceed. Moreover, the variance of DUI laws across jurisdictions highlights the need for local representation in your defence. An adept criminal lawyer who is familiar with the DUI laws specific to your region is essential to effectively contesting the charges.

Understanding your rights as a driver and being aware of the potential consequences of the charges you’re facing is critical. Ultimately, a skilled criminal lawyer who can guide you through the legal process is vital to resolving any charges against you.

Understanding the Penalties for First-Time DUI Offenders

Operating or controlling a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs constitutes impaired driving (DUI) under the Canadian Criminal Code.

DUI Charges in Canada

  • Impaired driving
  • Over 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood (Blood Alcohol Concentration or BAC)
  • Failing to provide a breath sample

Penalties for a First-Time DUI Offence

  • Prohibition of your ability to drive 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

However, if impaired driving results in bodily harm or death, or if other aggravating factors are present (such as an open container of drugs or alcohol in the vehicle or the presence of a child during the arrest), the penalties for the offence can increase significantly.

Potential Jail Time for First-Time DUI Offenders

In Canada, it is unusual for a first DUI offence to lead to incarceration, except in cases where someone has been injured or killed.

Impacts of a First DUI Conviction

Court Appearance: Attending court is necessary to face the charges against you. During the appearance, you can enter a plea and present details about your case.

Licence Suspension: Your driver’s licence will be suspended immediately upon conviction. The suspension usually lasts for one year. To have your licence reinstated, you must fulfil specific court-established requirements. For first-time offenders, the Ignition Interlock Program can reduce the suspension period.

Ignition Interlock Program: First-time offenders in Canada may be required to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program to regain their driver’s licence. The probationary program is common across most provinces and requires an interlock ignition device to be installed in the car. 

A specialist will regularly inspect the device, which requires you to blow into it before starting the car and at random intervals during driving to confirm your sobriety. The device must remain in your car for at least one year as a first-time offender. You may request that the Ministry of Transportation remove the requirement from your licence. Driving a car without the device can result in a conviction and fines between $200 and $1,000.

Fines: You will likely have to pay fines as part of your DUI sentence. The amount of the fine depends on the severity of the offence and any additional aggravating factors. The fine does not cover mandatory treatment programs, impoundment and towing fees, licence reinstatement fees, or expenses related to leasing and maintaining ignition interlock devices.

Increased Insurance Rates: Following a DUI conviction, insurance companies in Canada will either deny you coverage or significantly raise your premiums. This is due to the fact that driving under the influence is considered a breach of policy terms. You can choose to obtain insurance through a facility association, but this option may come with prohibitively high premiums.

Mandatory attendance at a DUI program: You may need to participate in an alcohol education program as part of your sentence. This program can help you understand the dangers of driving under the influence and provide guidance on how to avoid it in the future.

Criminal Record: If you are found guilty, you will have a criminal record associated with your name. This can be inconvenient and unpleasant, especially when looking for employment or undergoing a background check.

Length of Time a First DUI Conviction Stays on Your Record

When a DUI conviction results in a criminal record in Canada, it becomes visible in law enforcement databases, including the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). To remove the conviction from a background check, one can apply for a record suspension or a pardon, but it takes at least five years to obtain. It’s important to keep in mind that even if you’re not convicted and don’t have a criminal record, the DUI charge will still be on file with the police.

Travelling Internationally with a First DUI Conviction

Individuals with a DUI conviction travelling from Canada to the United States are usually permitted to enter the country. However, as DUI is a criminal offence, there is still a possibility of being denied entry. It’s recommended to keep a certified copy of the official court document with you at all times.

Available Defences for First-Time DUI Offenders

If you are arrested for a DUI charge in Canada, it’s important to ask for a criminal lawyer right away. Regardless of whether you believe you were driving under the influence, you have the right to legal representation, and it’s important to start building your defence as soon as possible.

Your criminal lawyer will begin by examining the evidence against you, including technical data collected at the scene of the incident. In some cases, police officers may make mistakes during the arrest or violate your charter rights during the charging process. At other times, the evidence presented in court may be inadmissible or open to question.

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

For example:

  • Exclusion of the breathalyzer certificate as evidence is possible if your rights were violated by the police during your DUI charge.
  • This can lead to a successful outcome for your trial in most cases.
  • An experienced criminal lawyer can help mitigate the consequences of your case if it goes to trial by working closely with the Crown prosecution.
  • They can advocate on your behalf, potentially leading to a less severe sentence if you are convicted.

It’s recommended to utilize a complimentary consultation to determine your position in regards to a DUI charge and the appropriate steps to take next. With the assistance of skilled legal representation, you may be able to secure a case dismissal or reduced sentence for a first offence.

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