Driving while impaired due to the ingestion of alcohol or drugs can incur a number of offenses under Canadian law. New, reformed driving laws will be in effect in December and the biggest and most controversial changes are making headlines. Recreational marijuana will become legal in October of this year and has prompted police and lawmakers to increase their ability to test and charge impaired drivers under the influence of marijuana. If you’ve been charged with DUI or related offenses, call (587) 410-2500 to speak to one of our lawyers.
Alcohol, Drugs, and Accidents
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada, have compiled statistics about driving impaired. Alcohol and/or drugs are involved in an average of three Canadian car crash fatalities every day. Of the 2,297 deaths due to road crash in 2014, 1,273 included an individual that tested positive for drugs or alcohol. That’s over 55%.
Your risk of a fatal accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs, is greatly elevated. We recommend you do not get behind the wheel of any vehicle if you have been drinking or using any kind of drugs.
Police Detection of Impaired Drivers
Starting December 2018, reformed DUI laws will go into effect. Some of these reflect new procedures for detection of alcohol and/or drug use. The controversy that surrounds these laws is ongoing, but Bill C-46 is moving forward.
The most problematic change is that police will no longer need reasonable suspicion to test drivers for alcohol use. If any driver refuses to take the sobriety test, they will face criminal charges with penalties similar to impaired driving convictions. Detractors state that this practice is a violation of civil liberties with unreasonable searches as well as the potential for racial profiling.
In addition, Canadian police officers are currently undergoing training for screening for drug use, particularly for THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Officers cannot use random testing as they can for alcohol; they must have reasonable suspicion before requiring a driver to take the test. However, if you are pulled over and alcohol is ruled out as a source of impairment, THC testing can be administered.
BAC (blood alcohol levels) have been set for quite some time, and a similar set of THC levels will be applied to impairment with marijuana use. The problem lies within the science. There isn’t a definite level of THC that is proven to cause impairment. The government has proposed levels, but even small amounts of cannabis used just before driving could land a driver within this range. Until the science improves, the government will be taking a zero tolerance approach.
The new law also eliminates the use of the “bolus drinking defense” in which a driver can claim that they drank just prior to driving and the alcohol was not fully absorbed into their system so they were not over the limit when driving. This will no longer be applicable as the law states that it is illegal to be over the alcohol limit within two hours of driving.
New Penalties for DUI
Beginning December 18, 2018, alcohol-impaired driving that does not cause bodily harm will incur mandatory penalties that range from $1000 for a first offense to a minimum of 120 days in prison for a third offense. Penalties are based on BAC levels and the number of previous offenses, or the refusal to be tested.
Drug-impaired driving with 2 nanograms (ng) but less than 5ng of THC per milliliter of blood will earn a maximum $100 fine. Note that hybrid charges, 5ng or more of THC with detectable levels of LSD, psilocybin, psilocin, ketamine, PCP, cocaine, methamphetamine, 6-mam, or 5mg/L of GHB will range from $1000 fine to a minimum of 120 days in prison. THC and alcohol will incur similar penalties.
Maximum penalties for Impaired driving causing bodily harm will range from two years less a day to 10 years in prison. Impaired driving causing death carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
If there is a suspicion of DUI, police can pull you over for roadside testing. A breathalyzer test, to rule out alcohol impairment will be administered. After a pulse check, you will be asked to perform the eye test, one-leg stand, and walk and turn. In December, police will be able to administer saliva tests to detect THC.
Based on the roadside test results, police may take you into the station for further testing including: blood pressure, temperature, divided attention tests, pupil examination, and more. The process will take approximately one hour to complete.
Is the High Worth the Risk?
We hope you answer “no” to that question. The risk of fatal accidents while driving under the influence should be reason enough to limit consumption or arrange for a ride when using alcohol or marijuana. If the loss of life isn’t enough, the law reform and stiffer penalties, along with the ability for police to conduct random alcohol testing, should prompt you to think twice before getting behind the wheel.
Please do not drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If, for some reason, you are charged with DUI, call Verhaeghe Law Office right away.