Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada

Penalties range from mandatory minimum fine to life imprisonment

  • Aug. 2, 2019 6:45 a.m.

Based on self-reported data from the 2014 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), available for Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, Yukon and Nunavut, less than 1 in 20 drivers (4.3%) admitted to having driven, in the preceding 12 months, after consuming at least two drinks in the hour before getting behind the wheel.

Impaired driving laws

Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. In 2017, there were more than 69,000 impaired driving incidents reported by the police, including almost 3,500 drug-impaired driving incidents.

Please visit Canada’s impaired driving webpage (https://www.canada.ca/en/services/policing/police/community-safety-policing/impaired-driving.html) for statistics, research, and more information on the dangers of driving while impaired.

It is important to note that provinces and territories have additional laws or regulations that may apply. Make sure to check the laws in your area.

Impaired driving

The Criminal Code prohibits driving while impaired to any degree by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. Penalties for this offence range from a mandatory minimum fine to life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offence.

Prohibited levels

In addition to the offence of impaired driving, there are separate offences of having specified prohibited levels of alcohol, cannabis or certain other drugs in the blood within two hours of driving. Penalties range from fines to life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offence.

Alcohol

The prohibited blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is 80 milligrams or more (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood.

Cannabis (THC)

There are two prohibited levels for THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis: it is a less serious offence to have between 2 nanograms (ng) and 5 ng of THC per ml of blood. It is a more serious offence to have 5 ng of THC or more per ml of blood.

The prohibited levels of alcohol and cannabis, when found in combination, is 50mg or more of alcohol per 100ml blood and 2.5 ng or more of THC per ml of blood.

Other drugs

Having any detectable amount of LSD, psilocybin, psilocin (“magic mushrooms”), ketamine, PCP, cocaine, methamphetamine or 6-mam (a metabolite of heroin) in your system within two hours of driving is also prohibited.

The prohibited level for GHB is 5mg or more per litre of blood, since the body can naturally produce low levels of this drug.

Penalties

Impaired driving is a serious crime that poses a significant threat to public safety. Having the prohibited level of alcohol, THC, or other impairing drugs in your blood within two hours of driving is an offence.

Penalties for committing this conduct can vary, depending on the alcohol or drug concentration, whether it is your first or a repeated offence, and whether you have caused bodily harm or death to another person.

Investigations

Police officers can demand that any lawfully-stopped driver provide a preliminary breath sample to test for alcohol without reasonable suspicion that the driver has alcohol in their body.

Oral fluid drug screeners

Oral fluid drug screeners can be used by police to detect the presence of some drugs in oral fluid, including THC. These devices are fast, non-invasive, and accurate.

The police can demand an oral fluid sample, if they reasonably suspect a drug is in a driver’s body. Reasonable suspicion that the driver has drugs in their body can be developed based on objective facts, such as:

red eyes

muscle tremors

agitation

abnormal speech patterns

If a driver tests positive on an oral fluid drug screener the positive result confirms the presence of the drug and, combined with other signs of impairment or drug use observed by the police at the roadside, may provide grounds for the investigation to proceed further by making a demand for a blood sample.

Other investigative techniques

Police can also demand a driver submit to a Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST) or a Drug Recognition Expert Evaluation (DRE).

-Department of Justice, Government of Canada

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