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773 Impaired driving Impaired driving means being in control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and is a serious offence under the Canadian Criminal Code. It is commonly referred to as drunk driving.
- What is considered impaired driving?You do not have to exceed the legal blood alcohol limit to be charged with impaired driving. The only requirement for a charge of impaired driving is that your ability to drive was affected by alcohol or drugs, regardless of how much or how little was actually consumed.
- How the police assess whether you are impairedThe police will make a judgment about your ability to drive safely based on a number of observations, including your appearance, your answers to questions, your physical movement, and whether you or your car smell of alcohol. Under the law, the police have the right to stop your car and ask you if you have consumed alcohol or drugs prior to driving. Although you are not required to answer such questions, it is generally best to avoid becoming hostile with the police. You are required to provide the police with your driver's licence, car ownership, and insurance papers.
- Performing physical testsThe police also have the right to request that you perform several physical tests, such as walking in a straight line, picking up a coin, and following their finger with your eyes. Again, you are not required to cooperate with the police. However, failing to comply may lead the police to suspect that you are impaired, and they may then demand that you provide a breath sample.
- PenaltiesIf you are arrested for impaired driving and then you refuse to provide a breath sample or you provide a breath sample which shows that your blood alcohol level is over 80 mg, then your driver's licence will be automatically suspended for 90 days.
If you are found guilty of impaired driving, you will usually be subject to a minimum penalty of a $600 fine and a one year licence suspension if it is your first offence. For your second offence, you will usually be subject to a minimum penalty of 14 days in prison, and a minimum two year licence suspension. For your third or subsequent offence, you will usually be subject to a minimum penalty of 90 days in prison and a lengthy licence suspension.
However, the court can impose penalties that are longer than these guidelines, and the legislation is currently under review and could be changed to make the penalties longer. The court may also order you to enroll in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation programme.
If you were at fault for an accident and you were impaired, your automobile insurance policy will not cover damage to your vehicle and you may not be eligible to receive certain other benefits, such as income replacement benefits.
If you have been charged with a criminal driving offence, you should consult a lawyer for assistance.