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What You Need to Know About Impaired Driving Charges in 2019

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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:

  • Short term suspensions
  • Impounding of vehicles
  • Long-term insurance ramifications

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.

Cannabis Laws

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:

  • 2 nanograms (ng) – 5 ng per 1 ml of blood
  • 5 ng or more per 1 ml of blood.

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:

  • BAC of 80-119 mg is $1,000
  • BAC of 120-159 mg is $1,500
  • BAC of 160 mg or more is $2,500
  • Refusal to be tested is $2,000

After a first offence the mandatory minimums involve jail time, this remains unchanged:

  • The second offence is 30 days imprisonment
  • The third or more offence is 120 days imprisonment

Maximum Penalties

Impaired driving not resulting in bodily harm or death:

  • Summary conviction: Imprisonment for two years less a day
  • Indictable conviction: Imprisonment up to ten years.

Impaired driving causing bodily harm:

  • Summary conviction for less severe injuries: Imprisonment two years less a day
  • Indictable conviction: Imprisonment up to fourteen years

Impaired driving causing death:

  •  Life imprisonment

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.

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