Driving under the influence or a DUI has been considered a Federal Criminal offence since 1921. The term impaired driving refers to the criminal offence of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
A DUI offence is the most common type of criminal charge within Canada. It is punishable under the Criminal Code if your blood alcohol level exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol in one hundred milliliters of blood.
Impaired Driving Laws
The prohibited blood-alcohol concentration is 80 milligrams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. There are two prohibited levels of THC. A less serious offence is between 2 and 5 nanograms of THC per ml of blood. A more serious offence is 5 ng of THC or more per ml of blood.
Tips to prevent impaired driving
- Assign a designated driver. This can include rotating within your group of friends so that everyone can have fun.
- If you don’t have a designated driver, get someone to drop you off, take a cab, get an Uber, or use public transportation to get there and back.
- Depending on the situation, if you must drive somewhere further away, you could plan where to stay for the night.
Once you are out:
- You can use a personal alcohol breathalyzer before getting behind the wheel. There are also several online BAC calculators to help you figure if you drank too much. Remember that your BAC will continue to rise after you stop drinking.
- If you are wondering whether you’ve consumed too much to drive, you probably have.
- Make sure to eat plenty of food and drink water to reduce the effects of alcohol.
- Remember that it is okay to refuse a drink. It is sometimes taboo to not drink or refuse to drink further. However, if you know you will have to drive, refusing that additional drink or any drinks for that matter is okay.
- Under no circumstances should you drive while under the effects of marijuana.
Additionally, there are prohibited levels of alcohol and cannabis, when found in combination is 50ng or more of alcohol per 100ml blood and 2.5ng or more of THC per ml of blood. It is also illegal to have any detectable amount of LSD, psilocybin, psilocin, ketamine, PCP, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin in your system within two hours of driving.
In December of 2018, Canada revised the impaired driving laws. Police officers can demand random breath samples when being pulled over. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer, there are serious consequences, such as a suspended driver’s licence or even jail time.
Section 253 of the Criminal Code states the following: Operation while impaired
253 (1) Every one commits an offence who operates a motor vehicle or vessel or operates or assists in the operation of an aircraft or of railway equipment or has the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment, whether it is in motion or not,
(a) while the person’s ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or a drug; or
(b) having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person’s blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred millilitres of blood.
What Happens When You Get a DUI in Canada?
According to the Government of Canada, penalties for committing this conduct can vary, depending on the alcohol or drug concentration. In addition, it depends on whether it is your first offence or you are a repeat offender and whether you caused bodily harm or death.
The penalties include the following:
- Mandatory minimum fines of $1000 and increase according to BAC.
- A maximum of 10 years in prison.
- The second offense involves a mandatory minimum of 30 days in prison.
- The third offense involves a mandatory minimum of 120 days in prison.
- Refusal to comply with a demand for a sample is a minimum $2000 fine.
In Canada, provinces can apply supplemental laws for impaired driving. For example, in Ontario, impaired driving laws extend well beyond the federal penalties. In British Columbia, in addition to the federal penalties and standards, provincial laws in BC are even more stringent.
Impaired Driving Costs
Getting a DUI, or impaired driving, or refusal to provide a breath sample, or care and control of a motor vehicle charge can be very expensive. Not including the drastic increases in insurance costs. Other costs include the following:
- Potential Impaired Driving Assessment to receive your license back, the average cost of $500
- Vehicle impound fees.
- Hiring lawyers–$3000 to $20,000 to defend you in court.
- Minimum imposed fine of $1000 but can increase.
- Possible victim of crime surcharge imposed by a judge.
- Potential one-year Canada driving prohibition.
- The cost involved for an Alcohol Interlock Ignition Program
No matter how you look at it, it would likely be cheaper to take a taxi from southern Ontario on the border of the US to the most northern part of the province.
Drug Treatment Courts
Drug treatment courts in Canada began as a response to a large number of offenders being incarcerated for drug-related offences. In addition, these were offenders that continued to re-offend due to underlying drug dependency.
According to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, regarding drug treatment courts:
“Accused persons charged with offences that were caused by a substance use disorder are encouraged to apply for admission to a DTC program. The DTCs will generally accept adult offenders who are actively experiencing a substance use disorder relating to a hard drug such as cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and other opiates, and methamphetamines.”
Regarding impaired driving charges, if a person has no criminal history and depending on the exact circumstances of their DUI—they might be given the opportunity to participate in a pretrial diversion program.
Impaired Driving Statistics and Facts
According to Statistics Canada, 2019:
- Impaired driving rates increased by 19% in 2019, from 2018.
- In 2019, there were 6,453 incidents of drug-impaired driving, a 43% increase over 2018.
- Impaired driving causing death fell 38% from 2018.
- Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba have the lowest rates of impaired driving.
- Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland have the highest impaired driving rates.
- Alcohol-impaired driving peaks on weekends and late evenings.
- Impaired drivers are most often men and young adults.
- The COVID-19 pandemic caused a decline in impaired driving incidents.