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Alcohol and Drug Impaired Driving

Tests, Criminal Charges, Penalties, Suspensions and Prohibitions

Impaired driving is not limited to cars. Impaired driving also applies to all motor vehicles, including snowmobiles, all terrain vehicles (ATV), boats and even aircraft and railway equipment.

If you are operating or in the care and control of any of the above (whether it is in motion or not) and you have consumed alcohol, a police officer may make a demand on you to provide a sample of your breath, at roadside, on an Approved Screening Device (ASD).

After providing a breath sample the results of that test will determine what, if any, further actions are taken.

The "Warn" range (a Blood Alcohol Content of 50mg% to 80mg%)

An individual who submits a breath sample in the "warn" range, a BAC of 50mg% to 80mg% (50-80 milligrams of alcohol in one hundred milliliters of blood), can be subject to administrative penalties such as a roadside suspension or an immediate roadside prohibition.

A "Fail" (a Blood Alcohol Content above 80mg%)

An individual who submits a breath sample and registers a "fail" (a BAC above 80mg%), will be required to provide further breath samples at the police station.A subsequent breath sample that exceeds the legal BAC limit of 80 mg% means that the person may be charged under section 253 (b) of the Criminal Code of Canada: having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person's blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred milliliters of blood.

Other Criminal Charges

Based on a police officer's observations you can also be charged criminally, under section 253 (a) of the Criminal Code of Canada: the person's ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or a drug, without submitting to a breath demand.

It is possible to be impaired even if you have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) below 80mg% (80 milligrams of alcohol in one hundred milliliters of blood).

Failure, or refusal, to provide a breath sample can also result in criminal charges that have the same penalties as impaired driving.

Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST)

If you are operating or in the care and control of a car, truck, ATV, boat, aircraft, etc. (whether it is in motion or not) and you have consumed alcohol, drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs, a police officer may make a demand on you to submit to a Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST).

A SFST test is typically administered roadside and consists of a police officer putting a suspected impaired driver through a series of standardized sobriety tests.

Based on a police officer's observations you can also be charged criminally, under section 253 (a) of the Criminal Code of Canada without submitting to a SFST demand.

Failure, or refusal, to comply with the SFST demand can also result in criminal charges that have the same penalties as impaired driving.

Drug Impaired Driving

If you are operating or in the care and control of a car, truck, ATV, boat, aircraft, etc. (whether it is in motion or not) and a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you have consumed drugs (including prescription drugs) or a combination of alcohol and drugs, a demand may be given to you to undertake an evaluation to ascertain if you are impaired by the drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs. Failure to comply with the demand will result in criminal charges which carry the same penalty as driving while impaired.

Drug Recognition Expert

If you comply with the demand, the evaluation includes sobriety tests that are similar to the SFST's, taking clinical indicators (blood pressure, oral body temperature, pulse, etc.) and measuring your pupil size in different lighting conditions. If the result of the evaluation is that you are impaired and the evaluator can determine the drug category, you will be charged under section 253 (a) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Refusal to undertake the evaluation or quitting at any time will result in criminal charges that have the same penalties as driving while impaired by alcohol.

At the conclusion of the drug evaluation you will be given a demand to provide a bodily fluid sample (blood, oral fluid or urine) if the evaluator determines that you are impaired and that the impairment is the result of one or more category of drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs. The sample is to confirm or refute the findings of the evaluator and the choice of the sample is made by the evaluator.

Failure to provide the sample will result in criminal charges that have the same penalties as impaired driving.

Provincial Laws also carry additional penalties for impaired driving

Check your Provincial/Territorial laws to determine what additional administrative penalties may be imposed upon you, in addition to any criminal penalties, for impaired driving where you live.

British Columbia's Immediate Roadside Prohibition Program

The province of British Columbia is currently using an Immediate Roadside Prohibition program. For more information on this program visit the site.