If you drive while impaired on any Canadian road, you shouldn’t be surprised to see flashing lights, handcuffs, and the inside of a courtroom. But whose laws are you breaking? Who exactly is trying to stop you from drinking and driving – Parliament or your provincial government?
Answer: both. When you drive while impaired you’re breaking both the Canada Criminal Code and provincial or territorial laws. If you’re caught you can – and most likely will – face penalties from both your province or territory and your country.
Federal Impaired Driving Laws
The Canada Criminal Code prohibits:
- Driving over 08. Get arrested with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the .08% threshold and you are subject to fines and jail time.
- Driving impaired at any BAC level. Even if your BAC is below.08, if you’re clearly impaired, you can be charged under the Criminal Code
- Refusing a sobriety test. Unless you have a reasonable excuse, you’re forbidden by federal law to refuse a breath, blood or urine test to determine if you’re DUI.
- Driving while suspended.
- Causing bodily harm or death while driving impaired. Causing injury, fatal or not, is an added offense, as is doing so while refusing a sobriety test.
Provincial Impaired Driving Laws
The laws that provinces and territories establish to curb drunk driving tend to emphasize programs rather than punishment per se.
- Ignition Interlock Programs. Provinces may mandate an ignition interlock be installed on the vehicle of any DUI offender. The device prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Different provinces have different approaches to interlock programs. Some prescribe them for all impaired driving offences; others only for repeat or high BAC offences.
- Administrative Licensing Suspension. A province may suspend a driver’s licence immediately upon arrest for impaired driving.
- Warn Range Suspension. While .08 is the legal BAC limit for drunkenness countrywide, a few provinces establish a “warn range” of .05 to .08. Anyone pulled over with a BAC in that range is automatically suspended, though they might not have violated federal law.
- Vehicle Impoundment. Provinces may impound the vehicles of DUI offenders, and retain them either temporarily or permanently, depending on the particular provincial law.
This is a quick summary of the differences in federal and provincial approaches to impaired driving. You can check out each province’s or territory’s websites to get an overview of their particular DUI laws, as well as the relevant sections of the Canada Criminal Code (applicable to all provinces and territories).
When you drive while impaired anywhere in Canada you are subject to two sets of laws, and two sets of punishments as well. Two reasons why driving sober is always the way to go.