What Happens if I'm Caught Driving Drunk in Canada
You've been pulled over on a police checkstop looking for people who have been drinking and driving. Do you know what the laws are in Canada?
There is a blanket legislation that covers the entire country, but each province and territory has it's own laws and a great deal of latitude by individual judges in sentencing.
Even if you are a Canadian, or plan to plead guilty, hiring a lawyer may be the best move you'll make.
Drunk driving is also known as impaired in Canada and DWI (driving while under the influence) in the United States.
The umbrella of drunk driving laws in Canada falls under the two pieces of legislation passed under the criminal code by parliament more than 50 years ago.
Section 253(1)(a) makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle or vessel or operate or assist in the operation of an aircraft or railway equipment, or to have care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or railway equipment, while that person's ability to operate is impaired by alcohol and, or drugs.
Section 253(1)(b) makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle or vessel or operate or assist in the operation of an aircraft or railway equipment, or to have care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or railway equipment, while that person's blood alcohol concentration is in excess of 0.08 percent.
Canadian Drunk Driving Laws - The Penalties
There is some flexibilty in sentencing of a person convicted of an imaired driving charge or failing to take a breathalyzer test.
A second conviction results in a minimum of 30 days of jail time and a two year driving suspension.
For a third, or greater number of convictions the minimum penalty is 120 days in jail and a three year driving suspension.
Those are the minimum penalties. They can be greatly increased if impaired driving results in injury or death.
Individual provinces and territories enforce the no driving legislation by suspension of licences, and their power does not stop there. They can force conditions upon suspended drivers including alcohol rehabilitation programs, regular screening for drugs and alcohol, and interlock programs.
Interlocks are devices installed on a steering wheel which can only be unlocked when a person blows into the machine without alcohol showing. They may be used as part of a probationary sentence.
Depending on what jurisdiction you are in, the provinces and territories can enforce a wide range of penalties on top of those prescribed by the Canada Criminal Code.
Canadian Drunk Driving Laws- More Penalties.
Here are some examples of additional penalties in selected jurisdictions:
BC, Nova Scotia, NWT, Nunavut, Ontario and Yukon suspend a license for 3 years for a second offence and indefinitely for a third or addition offense.
Manitoba suspends a license for 5 years for a second offence, 10 years for a third offence and a lifetime for four or more offences,
Jail time in all locations increases as the number of convictions rises.
Some provinces or territories can keep a vehicle in an impoundment yard for 30 days. Owners must pay all fees to have it released. Police may also invoke 24 hours roadside suspensions if they suspect a person may not be fit to drive.
Canadian Drunk Driving Laws- Going through a Checkstop.
Drivers must stop at any checkstop that has been set up by the RCMP or regional police and if asked must supply a breathalyzer sample. If they refuse, they will be charged with non-compliance which carries the same, or steeper penalties as a drunk driving conviction.
People who fail the location breathalyser, or raise the suspicions of police will be taken to jail or a holding facility where a second test will be administered
At home or glove compartment breathalyser kits are available. They give a fairly accurate analysis of alcohol blood levels but their readings are not admissible in court. They may be used by a person who has only had 2-3 drinks and is willing to retest over a period of time after stopping drinking and before driving.
Anyone arrested should cooperate with police. Even if a person plans to plead guility to an impaired or DWI charge they should engage the services of a lawyer who can explain the regulations and consequences of the charges in their area.
Someone planning to plead not guilty should hire an attorney experienced in impaired or DWI cases.
The consequences of drunk driving in Canada are serious.