In Ontario, a driving under the influence (DUI) charge offence is more than just a momentary lapse in judgement; it’s a criminal offence with lasting repercussions. But how long does a DUI stay on your criminal record and your Ontario Ministry of Transportation (“MTO”) driving abstract record? As a criminal defence law firm, we get asked these questions often, and we are here to provide you with some clarity.
Here, we shed light on what a DUI entails according to Ontario law, its duration on your record, the potential for removal, and how a DUI lawyer can help mitigate the consequences you are facing.
What is a DUI According to Ontario Law?
Under section 320.14 of the Criminal Code of Canada, a DUI or impaired driving offence encompasses operating a conveyance (i.e., a motor vehicle, vessel, boat, air plane, train etc.) with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeding 80 mg per 100 ml of blood or operating a conveyance while the person’s ability to operate it is impaired to any degree by alcohol or a drug, or by a combination of alcohol and a drug. It also includes drug impaired driving, including legal substances, such as prescription medications or cannabis.
The Consequences of a DUI
An impaired or drunk driving conviction in Ontario comes with severe criminal legal penalties alongside broader life impacts. Legally, it can lead to fines, driving prohibitions, license suspensions, and in some cases, imprisonment, particularly for repeat offenders or severe violations. It can also affect professional opportunities, especially in careers requiring a clean criminal and driving record. Financially, the burden is heightened with increased insurance rates.
Duration of a DUI on Your Criminal Record and Ontario Ministry of Transportation Records
A DUI or impaired driving conviction will give you a criminal record indefinitely unless or until you obtain a record suspension. If you have pled guilty to a DUI and have one or more prior DUI convictions, the Crown can file a Notice of Application of Increased Penalty, which results in lengthy mandatory minimum jail terms and driving prohibitions.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (“MTO”) also keeps track of DUI convictions. The MTO considers that any DUI conviction which is 10 years old or less to be a prior conviction leading to escalating licence suspensions for subsequent convictions. For example, if you plead guilty or are found guilty of impaired driving today, the MTO will search your MTO driving record abstract to determine if you have a prior impaired driving or related Criminal Code conviction within the last 10 years of your guilty plea. Assuming you have one prior DUI conviction within the 10-year limitation period, the MTO will then automatically suspend your driver’s licence for 3 years. However, if you have two or more prior DUI convictions within the 10-year limitation period, the MTO will suspend your licence for life.
Possibility of Removing a DUI from Your Criminal Record
Despite how daunting an impaired driving conviction can be, there is a way to potentially clear your criminal record. This is through the process of applying for and receiving a record suspension, previously known as a DUI “pardon.” Eligibility to apply for a DUI record suspension starts 5 years after the completion of a summary conviction offence or 10 years for an indictable offence. The 5- or 10-year waiting period commences upon the completion of your sentence, which includes waiting until the end of your driving prohibition and the end of any period of probation that the Court may have sentenced you to.
This means that you will not actually receive a record suspension for 7 or 12 years or longer as the mandatory minimum driving prohibition is 1-year for a first-time offender. Also, the application process can often take one year or longer. For example, if the Crown elected summarily and you pled guilty to impaired driving today and are sentenced to a 1-year driving prohibition, you would not be able to apply for a records suspension for 6 years from today, and likely would not receive the records suspension for 7 years or more.
Applicants must demonstrate good conduct and submit a detailed application to the Parole Board of Canada, including providing court records and character references. The Board reviews the application, considering the public interest and the administration of justice. A non-refundable processing fee is also part of the process.
It is important to note that while this process does not erase a conviction, a successful record suspension can alleviate its impact on your life.
The Role of a DUI Lawyer in Mitigating DUI Consequences
Obtaining the support of a skilled DUI lawyer is a must when you are facing DUI charges. Legal professionals bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the situation, and they can help lessen the impact of the consequences or penalties you may be subject to.
Experienced criminal lawyers will know how to pick apart the details of your DUI arrest, question the validity of evidence, and explore avenues to win your case or obtain favrourable plea deals, including often avoiding a criminal record. Their expertise is even more valuable in complex scenarios, such as a second DUI offence, or cases involving severe impaired driving convictions such as impaired driving causing bodily harm or death. A skilled lawyer’s strategic approach can lead to reduced charges, lesser penalties, or even dismissal in certain circumstances.
Kruse Law – Defending Your Rights, Record, and Future
A DUI can remain on your criminal record indefinitely unless you take positive and successful steps to obtain a record suspension. You will be able to apply for a record suspension 5-10 years after end of your DUI sentence, depending upon whether the Crown elected summarily or by indictment.
However, the MTO also keeps separate records of DUI convictions for many years, which can eventually lead to a lifetime driving suspension for a third time offender. Assuming you are eventually able to receive a record suspension, a DUI can be on your record for more than 7-12 years depending upon whether the Crown elected summarily or by indictment. You will have a DUI criminal record indefinitely if you are not able to obtain a record suspension.
The specific details of your case will dictate how long you will be affected by a prior DUI conviction. And while you may be able to clear your record by applying for a DUI record suspension, the process is intricate and requires careful navigation. Given the serious long-term repercussions of a DUI or impaired driving conviction, it is our recommendation, as a trusted criminal defence law firm, that you contact an experienced lawyer if you are ever charged with a DUI.
At Kruse Law, our lawyers provide tailored DUI and other Criminal Code driving offence legal representation backed by a track record of success handling similar cases. We are here to protect you and your rights. So if you’re facing DUI charges, contact us today to set up a free consultation.