Recent changes to the impaired driving laws by the Federal Government developed to combat drinking and driving offences and the impact of legalizing cannabis, the laws surrounding impaired driving in Canada changed on Tuesday, December 18, 2018.
These changes come as part of Bill C-46 which was enacted to ensure deterrence from impaired driving by making the penalties some of the most severe in the world.
What Hasn't Changed
The amount of alcohol allowed in your system, or the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) has not changed for drivers.
For fully licensed “G” class drivers over the age of 21, that is 80 milligrams (mg) or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters (ml) of blood.
For new drivers, or those under the age of 21 their BAC must remain at 0 mg.
These are federal laws. The provinces are also allowed to impose stiff non-criminal penalties for BAC’s below the federal legal limit at their discretion. Penalties can include:
What Has Changed
Charges for being Over 80
For Over 80 offences, it is now possible to be charged with being Over 80 up to two (2) hours after having ceased driving. This absurd change in the law can result in persons who did not drink prior ceasing operation of their cars can still be charged and even convicted unless an accused person is able to rebut the Crown’s case under very stringent circumstances.
The consumption of cannabis is addressed, specifically the amount of THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis) allowed in your system. There are two levels of impairment:
If cannabis and alcohol are consumed together the prohibited levels are 2.5 ng or more of THC per 1 ml of blood and 50 mg or more of alcohol per 100 ml of blood.
These changes also affect what law enforcement can require of a driver during a routine stop. Previously an officer could not request a breathalyzer unless there was a reasonable suspicion of impairment.
Under the new legislation, an officer can request a breathalyzer from anybody who is lawfully stopped, regardless of whether or not there is reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired.
Failure to comply with the request comes with its own set of penalties, which are as severe as if the test had been taken and failed.
The penalties for impaired drivers have become much more severe.
For a first offence it used to be a $1000 fine. The mandatory minimum fines are now as follows:
After a first offence the mandatory minimums involve jail time, this remains unchanged:
Impaired driving not resulting in bodily harm or death:
Impaired driving causing bodily harm:
Impaired driving causing death:
Defending an Impaired Driving Charge
With the changes to the law of late, the intention is to make it more difficult to defend impaired drivers.