Going to Jail for DUI

Canadian laws can sentence drunk drivers to serious prison sentences, even if the driver in question was not involved in a serious collision where someone is injured or killed. Going to jail for drunk driving is not uncommon, and in fact, there are mandatory minimum jail sentences for multiple convictions of drunk driving. For a first-time drunk driving offence where a driver is convicted of having a blood alcohol level of .08 while behind the wheel, the offence accompanies a minimum fine of $1,000. However, as soon as you receive a second conviction, you’ll now receive a minimum jail sentence of 30 days.

…we continue to see cases where an impaired driver has already spent significant time in custody, but is somehow on their 25th impaired driving conviction.

For each subsequent offence after that second conviction, the minimum jail time is four months. The maximum amount of time you can receive for drunk driving – without causing bodily harm or death – is five years in prison.


By ordering a mandatory jail sentence for a second and all subsequent offences, some drivers may be caught by surprise that, despite an exemplary driving record for many years, they are still treated as a repeat drunk driver.

Consider this. You’re 65 years old today and had a perfect driving record asides from a single blemish for impaired driving in your early 20s. Unfortunately, 40 years of perfect driving does not pardon your earlier drunk driving conviction, and it is more than likely that you will be spending 30 days in jail for repeating a mistake from four decades ago.


As Impaired driving lawyers Burlington, we do not often believe that jail is appropriate for driving-related offences where no one was injured or killed. Instead, we believe education and deterrence, whether it’s through counselling, remedial driving programs, or ignition interlock systems, to be more effective compared to throwing someone behind bars. These remedial programs have challenges of their own, but there are simply too many examples of people who go to jail for drunk driving just to go right back to driving drunk as soon as they leave the correctional system.

If the intent of the system is to keep these people from driving drunk, throwing these offenders in a place where they are forced to abstain and cut off from their freedom to travel just encourages this behaviour as soon as they leave the jail system.

We do not have all the answers, but we know when something just isn’t working.

After all, how else do we continue to see cases where an impaired driver has already spent significant time in custody, but is somehow on their 25th impaired driving conviction?

Here’s how one exchange was documented in the BC Court of Appeal for a driver on their 25th impaired-driving offence (the driver thought it was only 21):

“It was asked if he’d ever been convicted of impaired driving; he said yes. He said: ‘With this one, that makes twenty-one times’, then boasted about being the first person in Canada to do pen time for impaired driving.”

And despite the maximum penalty of five years’ in prison, the court only gave him four years. For his 25th offence. We would not be surprised if some offenders have reached even higher numbers.


In another example, this time involving a driver who had 15 previous “drunk driving related offences” was caught drunk driving again, while serving his sentence for a previous impaired driving conviction!

He had been given an authorized absence permit from the local community correctional centre just 10 days before he was involved in a single-vehicle crash. Evidently, he had struck a snowbank while speeding in a residential area, and ended up on top of a four-foot pile of snow.

The court again, decided not to give the five-year maximum sentence, electing to sentence the driver to just four years for the impaired driving offence. The court cited a Supreme Court of Canada case that said a maximum sentence will only be appropriate “if the offence is of sufficient gravity and the offender displays sufficient blameworthiness.”