Is a DUI a Criminal Offense in Ontario?

In recent years, Ontario has seen a significant increase in enforcing and tightening DUI (driving under the influence) regulations. This shift reflects a growing concern for public safety and a commitment to reducing the number of impaired drivers on the road. 

Stricter laws and harsher penalties have been implemented to deter individuals from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. With these changes, many residents ask an essential question: is DUI a criminal offense in Ontario? Understanding the classification of DUI and its legal implications is crucial for all drivers.

To address this, we need to dive into what constitutes a DUI in Ontario and how it is treated under the law.

Is DUI a Criminal Offense in Ontario?

The answer is YES. In Ontario, DUI (or impaired driving) is unequivocally considered a criminal offense. Impaired driving is a significant contributor to traffic accidents, injuries, and deaths. Designating DUI as a criminal offense aims to discourage such risky behavior and ensure accountability for those who engage in it.

DUI charges in Ontario include:

  • impaired driving (operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs, regardless of BAC);
  • over 80 charge (operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeding 0.08);
  • refusal to provide a breath sample (refusing to provide a breath sample when lawfully demanded by a police officer);
  • care and control (being in care and control of a vehicle while impaired, even if the vehicle is not in motion), etc.

The legislation governing DUI offences (if convicted) falls under the Criminal Code of Canada. Specifically, sections 253 to 259 of the Criminal Code outline the offences and penalties related to impaired driving. This legislation provides the framework for how DUI cases are handled and prosecuted, emphasizing the gravity of the offence.

Under these provisions, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

The law sets the Ontario blood alcohol limit at 0.08% for criminal charges and includes severe impaired driving penalties for those convicted. These penalties can include fines, imprisonment, license suspension, mandatory education or treatment programs, and impacts on insurance rates.

In addition to the Criminal Code penalties, the HTA imposes immediate licence suspension, vehicle impoundment, demerit points, and fines for DUI offences. These administrative penalties work in conjunction with the criminal penalties to deter impaired driving.

Consequences of a DUI Conviction in Ontario

Being charged with a DUI means facing criminal proceedings, which can lead to severe consequences. A DUI conviction goes on your criminal record and can affect various aspects of your life, including employment opportunities, travel restrictions, and insurance rates. Given these high stakes, many drivers seek to fight impaired driving charges to avoid the long-term repercussions of a conviction.

For handling DUI charges, consulting an experienced DUI lawyer is essential. At X-COPS, we specialize in these cases. Our team knows the ins and outs of DUI laws and how they interact with other jurisdictions. Our skilled impaired driving lawyers are experts at building strong defences, which can lead to withdrawn charges, dismissals, acquittals, or reduced charges.

Don’t wait – contact us today for a FREE consultation. With X-COPS, you have dedicated allies in your DUI defence journey!


Here we've prepared a short list of frequently asked questions in order to provide quick answers to anyone who's looking for information associated with the topic. If you need more clarification, please don't hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.

👉Does a DUI count as a criminal record?

Yes, a DUI conviction results in a criminal record in Ontario. It can have long-lasting effects on various aspects of your life, including employability and travel opportunities.

👉How long does a DUI stay on your record in Ontario?

A DUI conviction stays on your criminal record forever.

👉Is impaired driving a criminal offense in Ontario?

Yes, impaired driving is a criminal offence in Ontario. It involves operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The Criminal Code of Canada outlines the charges and penalties for impaired driving, including fines, licence suspensions, and potential imprisonment.

👉Is DUI a traffic or criminal offense?

In Ontario, DUI is a criminal offence. This means it's treated as a serious crime with penalties that can include fines, jail time, and a criminal record. While there are also some penalties under traffic laws, the main classification of a DUI is as a criminal offence, showing how serious it is.

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