In 2010 and 2011, impaired driving offences consisted of approximately 12% of all cases completed in adult courts in Canada- the highest percentage of any one offence 1. These offences are prohibited by s.253 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits driving with over 80 mgs of alcohol per 100 mL of blood, as well as the more general offence of “operation while ability impaired.” Both are commonly referred to as “Driving under the Influence” (DUI). The prolific nature of s. 253 offences also comes with serious costs, and roughly 3000 Canadians are killed each year as a result of alcohol-related collisions 2. Encouragingly, these numbers seem to be falling with each passing year as Canadians take impaired driving more seriously.

Many Canadians with previous DUI convictions grow to understand that this behaviour is both dangerous and illegal, and they may wish to put this aspect of their past behind them. For a DUI, or any criminal conviction in Canada, the best way to do this is to obtain a Record Suspension (previously known as a Pardon). Removing a DUI from someone’s record is the same process as removing most other offences, and the same waiting period applies- 5 years from the end of the sentence, including the date any fines are paid, or 10 years in some rare cases where the offence was proceeded “by indictment.” Be aware that a Record Suspension won’t clear your driving abstract, but most provinces such as British Columbia or Ontario do not retain these records beyond five years anyhow.

Can I enter the United States with a DUI?
Whether or not an individual with a criminal record is permitted entry in to the United States depends on if their convictions are deemed as ones of “moral turpitude.” The most common elements of moral turpitude as defined by the Department of Homeland Security are:

  • Fraud,
  • Larceny, and
  • Intent to harm persons or things 3

Many driving offences such as DUIs are generally not thought to be crimes of moral turpitude, and the United States has been consistent in allowing Canadians with only one DUI on their record into the United States. Multiple DUI convictions can, but will not always, result in being denied at the United States border. This decision will ultimately be at the discretion of the border official.

Will minor traffic offences such as tickets appear on my criminal record?

The only offences that appear on a federal criminal record are those that contravene a federal act such as the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Provincial legislation, such as BC’s Motor Vehicle Act or the Ontario Highway Traffic Act will not create a criminal record. Offences such as traffic or parking tickets are prohibited by these types of provincial legislation, and therefore will not create a federal criminal record.

If you are one of the many Canadians with a s.253 offence on your criminal record, and you wish to put this part of your life behind you, we encourage you to contact our offices.

Adult Criminal Court Statistics

MADD- Estimating the Number and Cost of Impairment-Related Traffic Crashes in Canada: 1999-2009

U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9 Visas