Few Canadians would be surprised to find out that being charged with impaired driving is not only serious but can carry severe consequences. Despite this, impaired driving offences are one of the most common offences to be charged in the Criminal Code. Further, individuals who have been convicted of impaired driving can also apply for a record suspension. This process used to be called getting a pardon but now it’s a record suspension. Receiving a record suspension does not, however, mean that the conviction is erased. Rather, it simply means the conviction is set aside or only accessible in limited circumstances. The process is still worthwhile and we recommend all eligible people apply for record suspensions.
In Ontario, impaired driving and driving over 80 mgs/100 ML will result in at minimum a fine. A fine is a conviction under criminal law. Many people do not realize that a fine for a finding of guilt with respect to a criminal offence is in fact a criminal record. If you are convicted of an impaired offence, you will receive a criminal record which might hamper your ability to obtain employment that requires a background check. You may also have difficulties crossing the border if you have a criminal record. Obtaining a pardon can thus be a very interesting option in order to remedy these issues.
Getting a Record Suspension
To qualify for a record suspension for a criminal driving offence, you must meet 3 conditions.
The first is that you must have completed your sentence. This includes the paying of any fines, surcharges, compensation, or restitution, as well as any probation or parole.
The second condition is that you must have waited the requisite amount of time after completing your sentence. For a summary offence conviction, you must wait 5 years, and for an indictable offence conviction you must wait 10 years. Unless there is bodily harm or death, most criminal driving offences are prosecuted summarily.
The third requirement is that you have been on good behaviour and have not been convicted of any new offences. You also cannot have new charges or outstanding fees owed such as victim surcharges or criminal fines. If, however, you have more than three offences prosecuted by indictment each with a prison sentence of two years or more, you are no longer eligible for a record suspension.
The record suspension process can be done relatively quickly and on your own. In most cases, you do not need to hire a lawyer or a “pardon” service provider that submits requests for record suspensions.
The application cost (paid to the government) is approximately $600. A lawyer or pardon service can’t accelerate the review of your application, guarantee a better result, and using a lawyer or pardon agency won’t give your application special status. The applications will be treated the same whether you do it yourself or use a lawyer or pardon service.
The only help a lawyer or agent can assist you with is determining your eligibility and compiling the documentation that you will have to provide to the lawyer or agent in any event. A lawyer or pardon agent may be useful if you have a language barrier; however, obtaining the assistance of a friend that is fluent in English and your own language will undoubtedly be less expensive than hiring a lawyer or a pardon agent.
The government of Canada has setup a helpful website that can assist people in obtaining pardons. The website even has tools to help you determine your eligibility for a pardon. At Weisberg Law, we recommend you attempt the process on your own and only involve a lawyer or agent if you find the process too difficult or taxing.
Everything you need to complete your record suspension application can be found on Canada’s Parole Board website.