Canadian Impaired Driving Law

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Canadian Impaired Driving Law


Canadian Impaired Driving Law Topics on this page:

Canadian Impaired Driving Law - BC makes impaired driving laws tougher.

Tough new impaired driving laws, the toughest in Canada, went into effect in British Columbia on September 20, 2010. Penalties can add up to anywhere between $600 and $4,060 for a first offence and mean more time without a licence or car. If you're caught more than once, the penalties get tougher.

Depending on your blood-alcohol content on a roadside screening test and the number of times you've been caught, your driver's licence may be suspended, your car impounded, you'll have to pay towing and storage fees, and you'll have to pay a monetary fee and a fee to reinstate your drivers licence. You may also be required to complete the Responsible Drivers Program, and be required to use an Ignition Interlock Device.

If your blood alcohol level is over 0.08, you'll be subject to Criminal Code charges. Criminal convictions of impaired driving in BC can result in additional fines and/or jail time and additional licence suspensions of one to five years.


Canadian Impaired Driving Law - Impaired Driving is a Federal Criminal Offence

Section 253(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada makes it an offence to operate or have care and control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment while your blood alcohol concentration is greater than 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. This term is often shortened to 80 mg% or .08.

Other Criminal driving offences include:


Canadian Impaired Driving Law - What are my Rights and What do I do if I am Pulled Over for Suspected Impaired Driving?

You have the Right not to Incriminate yourself:

  • You do not have to tell the police officer how much you have had to drink or when you started or finished drinking;
  • You do not have to perform any sobriety test such as walking a line.

What you Must do:

  • You have to produce your driver's licence; vehicle registration and insurance;
  • If asked you must blow into blow into an Approved Screening Device (ASD).

What does the Approved Screening Device (ASD) Do?

  • It tests for the presence of alcohol in your body;
  • It is set for a "warn" at a reading of between of 50 to 100 milligrams (Note: The legal limit is 80 milligrams or .08);
  • It is set for a "fail" at a reading of a 100 milligrams and over (Note: The legal limit is 80 milligrams or .08).

What happens if I blow over 100 milligrams?

  • The police officer can suspend your drivers licence for 90 days;
  • The police officer can require you to attend at the police station to take a breathalyser test, which gives a more precise measure of the alcohol in your blood.

Canadian Impaired Driving Law What are my Rights Regarding the Breathalyser Test?

  • You have the right to be told why you're being detained at the police station;
  • You must be told of your right to contact a lawyer before having to give a breathalyser sample;
  • If you blow over .08 you'll be charged with this offence;
  • If you blow under .08 you still may be charged with the separate offence of impaired driving.


Canadian Impaired Driving Law - Timeline from Suspected Impaired Driving to Court Appearance

The following timeline is based on an uncomplicated impaired driving investigation.
(This timeline is applicable to BC)

00:00 The suspect vehicle is sighted and pulled over.

00:02 Driver's documents have been obtained and an odour of liquor is noted on the driver's breath.

00:04 Driver is warned about being under investigation for impaired driving and the Approved Screening Device (ASD) demand is made.

00:05 Driver blows a fail on the ASD.

00:06 Driver is given the police warning and advised of his/her Charter Rights.

00:08 Breathalyzer demand is made.

00:09 24 hour suspension demand is made. Driver is placed in police vehicle for transport to the Detachment for testing.

00:25 A driving time of 15 minutes is assumed to arrive at the detachment. This estimate could be somewhat less or much more depending on the initial location.

00:27 Driver decides to contact Legal Aid for advice and an initial call is made.

00:47 An average time of 20 minutes for Legal Aid to return the initial call is assumed. The waiting time is seldom much less than this.

00:57 An average time of 10 minutes for conversation with Legal Aid is assumed. It is not usually much more or less than this.

Driver is taken to the breath testing area. Impaired drivers investigation guide is completed.

01:18 Face to face observation period to guard against mouth alcohol is completed prior to breath testing.

01:21 First breath sample is taken and analyzed. Sample over 100 mg. % is assumed for this scenario.

01:38 15 clear minutes are observed prior to test number 2. Sample over 100 mg % and within 20 mg % of the first sample is assumed. If not, a third test would be required. The driver's fingerprints and photograph are often taken in this waiting period.
Note: 1

01:41 Driver is escorted to a secure location to await preparation and service of documents. A ride home is usually arranged at this point.

01:56 Breath test technician prepares Certificate of Analysis. Investigator prepares an Administrative Driving Prohibition, a 24 hour Suspension Notice, a Promise to Appear for a court date, a Notice of Intention to Seek Greater Penalty by Reason of Previous Conviction if required.

02:00 Documents are served and the driver is released.

02:30 The investigator starts an investigation file. Details of the investigation are entered on the computer. The 3 circumstance pages of the ADP are completed and all pages faxed to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. A criminal record and a driving record are ordered. The file is organized and submitted to the supervisor for approval.

At this point the investigator may choose to return to patrol or if the shift is over can now go home.

03:30 A report to Crown Counsel is completed in triplicate. This consists of 5 or 6 typewritten pages depending on whether the investigator includes a narrative of events. Attached to this report are photocopies of the officer's notes, all documents produced so far except the ADP and 24 hour suspension, and a check sheet showing all pages included in the submission to Crown.

The file is now forwarded to Crown Counsel for a decision on charges.

07:30 A typical court appearance by the investigator to give testimony will occupy at least half a shift. This assumes that the trial runs when scheduled and there are no adjournments.

A typical impaired driving investigation with a court appearance and no complications will easily consume 7 1/2 hours of an officer's time.

If a collision gave rise to the circumstances, long distances are involved, repeat court appearances occur and other paper work is required this time estimate can easily become double or longer.

Note: 1 - In Ontario, if the lower of the two readings is 90 mgs % or greater you will be issued a document advising you your driving privileges have been administratively suspended for 90 days. Even those who are acquitted of the charge, carry the 90-day suspension on their records for three years. This is one of the very few incidences in the English Speaking World where the cherished "Innocent until proven guilty" tenet is violated.

Canadian Impaired Driving Law - Impaired Driving Penalties

Canadian Impaired Driving Law - Should I retain a lawyer?

You should seek legal advice if you are charged with impaired driving. Conviction is not automatic and there may be defences available to you to defeat the impaired driving charge. Legal fees are always a concern and may run you $2,000 to $5,000 plus expenses. Fees must be weighted against the costs of a conviction:



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