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Impaired Driving by DRUG and ALCOHOL – The Penalties

As you may have heard, as of October 2nd, 2016, there have been some changes with respect to the laws surrounding “Driving while Impaired by Drug(s)”. Presently, the criminal penalties for Impaired Driving by Alcohol and Drug are the same. The laws differentiate when it comes to “testing mechanisms” and “license suspensions”.

License Suspension – Drinking and Driving

With respect to drinking and driving, driving with a “blood alcohol concentration” of 50 milligrams of alcohol and under, is perfectly legal. If a motorist is stopped and asked to provide a sample of their breath into an “approved screening device” and their “blood alcohol concentration” is under 50 milligrams, the “approved screening device” will indicate a “pass” and the motorist is free to go.

Drivers caught with a blood alcohol concentration (B.A.C.) in the “warn rage” (between 50 and 80 mgs of alcohol per 100 mLs of blood) will face an immediate driver’s license suspension. The length of the suspension varies based on whether or not it is their first offence. See below:

First Offence

Second Offence

Third Offence (within 5 years)

Subsequent infractions (within 5 years)

Keep in mind, the penalties described above are only for those blowing in the “warn range”.  The penalties described above are not criminal in nature, rather they are considered “Provincial Offences”.  These suspensions take effect immediately and cannot be appealed. Further, these suspensions are recorded on your driver’s abstract and are considered when determining the consequences for subsequent infractions.

Drivers Who are Found to Exceed 80 Milligrams of Alcohol”

If the driver fails the “Approved Screening Device”, the officer will have grounds to arrest the driver and take them to the local police station to obtain two samples of their breath into a breathalyzer. If both samples are over 80 mgs of alcohol per 100 mLs of blood, then the charge of “Driving with Excess Blood Alcohol/Over 80” will be added.

This will result in the following:

License Suspension – Impaired by Drug

The recent legislative amendments allow the authorities to order suspensions for those suspected of driving while “Impaired by Drug”. Previously, those caught driving while “Impaired by Drug” were charged criminally, but did not face automatic driver’s license suspensions.

If a motorist is stopped and an officer suspects that they may be under the influence of a drug, they have the basis to demand that the motorist exit the vehicle to conduct a “Standard Field Sobriety Test” (physical co-ordination test). If the motorist performs poorly on the test, they will face an immediate driver’s license suspension. The length of the suspension varies based on whether or not it is their first offence. This is identical to blowing in the “warn rage” as described above, and is pursuant to the “Highway Traffic Act”.

First Offence

Second Offence

Third Offence (within 5 years)

Further, if a motorist is stopped and fails the “Standard Field Sobriety Test” or the officer has the grounds to believe that the motorist is visibly “Impaired by Drugs”, the officer can demand that the driver accompany them to a local police station for an evaluation by a “Drug Recognition Expert”. If at the end of the evaluation, the expert is of the opinion that the driver is impaired by a particular drug, the expert can demand that the driver submit their urine to test for the presence of that drug. If the “Drug Recognition Expert” is of the opinion that the driver is impaired by a particular drug, the driver will be charged criminally with “Driving while Impaired by Drug”. They will receive a 90 day Administrative Driver’s License Suspension, seven-day vehicle impoundment, and will be given a date in criminal court. If convicted under the Criminal Code of Canada, the driver’s licence may be suspended for one year or more depending on whether it is a first, second, or subsequent conviction.