A DUI – a conviction for impaired driving – is among the most common criminal convictions in Canada. One might well wonder why people continue to operate a vehicle while under the influence of any substance that limits a person’s ability to think clearly, respond, quickly, stay alert, and remain attentive.

Truth be told, an ex-offender with a DUI criminal conviction can apply for a Canadian pardon (record suspension) that, once granted, will erase the criminal record from police files. Applying for a pardon in Canada is necessary in order to move forward in life, obtain employment, pursue education, find accommodation, arrange financing, and so on. However, it is time consuming and costly. So wouldn’t it be much wiser not to be in this situation from the start?

A few misconceptions persist regarding driving under the influence, and a “reality check” is long overdue. Here are the most significant myths:

Myth No. 1: A person is legally allowed to drive with a blood alcohol level below .08.

Truth: If you are stopped by police, you could be tested with an “approved roadside-screening device” (ASD), which tests for alcohol in your body, showing a “pass,” “warn,” or “fail.” A warn shows for blood-alcohol levels between 50 – 100 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood, and a fail for levels of 100 milligrams or higher. The legal limit is 80 milligrams (called .08). A pass will probably allow you to leave, but that is not automatic.

Under the BC Motor Vehicle Act, even if you’re not over .08, you may be immediately prohibited from driving for 24 hours if the police have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that your ability to drive is affected by alcohol or drug. The police may also impound your vehicle for 24 hours. If the ASD shows a warn or fail, the police may demand you to take a breathalyzer test, for which you must go to where the breathalyzer is located, usually the local police station. Also, since the fall of 2010, if your blood alcohol level on the ASD is between .05 and .08, new penalties will be imposed.

Full details are certainly worth exploring. The bottom line, though, should be: If you’re not sure how much you’ve had to drink, take a bus, call a taxi, prevail upon a friend, but do NOT even get in your vehicle, let alone drive it.

Myth No. 2: One beer – one shot – one glass of wine – is fine.

Truth: Several factors determine how much it takes to get drunk: your weight, your gender, your age, your food intake, how much you’ve drunk in the past. Also, the number of drinks consumed is not an accurate indicator: alcohol levels in drinks vary because of the type of drink that is prepared. Bottom line: If you drink, don’t drive.

Myth No. 3: Second offence is the same as the first offence.

Truth: People who have already been convicted with a DUI offense suffer more serious consequences. The usual sentence: For a first offence of over .08, impaired driving, or refusing to blow, the mandatory minimum sentence is a $1000 fine and a one-year driving prohibition (unless the judge considers your case more serious because of aggravating facts such as high breathalyzer readings or an accident).

Previous drinking and driving convictions mean higher penalties – usually a minimum of 30 days jail for a second offence within a few years of the previous conviction, and a minimum of 120 days jail for each offence after that. And if you kill or injure someone, the penalty is always a jail term. Again, full details are worth exploring.

Myth No. 4: Driving under the influence of drugs is not a DUI.

Truth: You can get a DUI for driving under the influence of anything. If you drive under the influence of either prescription narcotics or recreational, street, or illicit drugs, you can be charged with a DUI. Prescriptions explicitly reiterate not to drive or operate machinery while taking certain medications. Numerous prescription drugs can impair one’s motor skills to the point that their driving abilities are diminished. Ingestion of prescription and/or illegal drugs can cause altered speech patterns, dilated or constricted pupils, decreased motor function, and rapid, slowed, or labored breathing.

If you have a DUI conviction, you need to know how to get a pardon (record suspension), which will seal your criminal record so that it is no longer visible. A criminal record can follow you for life, so a record suspension will provide relief from the stigma once and for all. Contact a Client Specialist at Pardon Services Canada who will answer all your questions and guide you through the process.

Myth No. 5 Having a past DUI means I can not enter Canada

Truth: While it certainly makes things more difficult, it’s not impossible. By applying for a Temporary Resident Permit, we often help others to enter Canada with a DUI, and even some other past offenses. Each case is different, and the first step is to get in touch and we can help determine whether its an option.