Impaired driving has been illegal in Canada for many years. In fact, did you know drug-impaired driving has been illegal since 1925? Whether you're impaired by alcohol or drugs, there are both federal and provincial laws for impaired driving.
FEDERAL LAWS (CRIMINAL CODE OF CANADA)
Mandatory Alcohol Screening
Police officers can demand a breath sample from any driver who they have lawfully stopped. Failure or refusal to comply is a criminal offence.
Mandatory alcohol screening rules did not give police new powers to pull drivers over - police already had the authority to stop drivers. Mandatory alcohol screening means police officers can demand a preliminary breath sample to test for alcohol without reasonable suspicion that the driver has alcohol in their body.
If the breath sample is a pass, the driver can continue on their way. If not, the police officer will continue with an impaired driving investigation.
Drivers will be charged with impaired driving under the Criminal Code if they have:
- a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .08
- 2 nanograms (ng) or more of THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) per milliliter (ml) of blood. Having 5ng/ml or more results in a more serious offence.
- a combination of a .05 or higher BAC and 2.5ng/ml or more of THC
- any detectable amount of LSD, psilocybin, psilocin ("magic mushrooms"), ketamine, PCP, cocaine, methamphetamine, or 6-mam (a metabolite of heroin)
- 5mg or more of GHB per ml of blood
Drivers will also be charged under the Criminal Code if they refuse to comply with a demand for a sample (e.g. breath, blood, oral fluid).
Federal penalties for impaired driving can include licence suspencion, fines, jail time, and participation in an ignition interlock program.
Follow the link to find out more about federal impaired driving laws.
PROVINCIAL LAWS (TRAFFIC SAFETY ACT)
Like all Canadian jurisdictions, Alberta has provincial sanctions for impaired driving. Provincial sanctions are in addition to any criminal charges and federal (criminal) penalties. Alberta has four types of provincial sanctions for impaired driving.
Alberta Administrative Licence Suspension Program
When a driver:
- is over federal legal limits for alcohol, drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol;
- is reasonably believed to be impaired; or
- fails to provide a sample
the driver will receive:
- an immediate 90-day licence suspension;
- a 3-day vehicle seizure; and
- a one-year driving suspension (following the 90-day suspension) where the driver can only drive if they participate in the Ignition Interlock Program.
If criminally convicted, the driver will also be required to participate in a one-year Mandatory Ignition Interlock Program and an education course. These sanctions are for a first offence. Sanctions increase for second, third, and subsequent offences within a 10-year period.
Find out more about the Alberta Administrative Licence Program.
Alberta Zero Alcohol/Drug Tolerance Program
Drivers who have a Class 7 Learner's Licence or a Class 5 Graduated Driver's Licence (GDL) must have 0.00 BAC and blood drug concentration when driving. Class 7 and Class 5 GDL drivers found driving with alcohol or drugs in their system will receive an immediate 30-day licence suspension and a 7-day vehicle seizure. In addition, for every 30-day suspension received in the final year of the GDL program, you will be required to remain in the GDL program for an additional year.
Find out more about the Alberta Zero Alcohol/Drug Tolerance Program.
Immediate Roadside Suspension Program
If your BAC is .05 to .079, you will receive an immediate 3-day licence suspension and a 3-day vehicle seizure. These sanctions are for a first offence. Sanctions increase for second, third, and subsequent offences within a 10-year period.
Find out more about the Immediate Roadside Suspension Program.
24-Hour Suspension Program
Drivers suspected of being impaired by alcohol or drugs or by a physical or medical condition that affects their ability to safety driver will receive a 24-hour licence suspension.
Drivers who meet the requirements for the Alberta Administrative License Program, the Alberta Zero Alcohol/Drug Tolerance Program, or the Immediate Roadside Suspension Program will be subject to the sanctions for those programs.
Find out more about the 24-Hour Suspension Program.