Changes to Impaired Driving Laws Part Two: Transportation Offence Reform

Under Canada’s impaired driving laws, the proposed legislation would reform the entire Criminal Code when it comes to dealing with transportation-related offences. Al transpiration offences would effectively be replaced with a more modern, coherent and simplified structure. The proposed legislation would also authorize law enforcement to conduct mandatory alcohol screening where a lawful stop under provincial law is already in place. According to the Government of Canada, other implications would be as follows:

  • An increase in certain minimum fines and certain maximum penalties
  • Facilitate investigation and proof of blood alcohol concentration
  • Eliminate and restrict defences that encourage risk-taking behaviour and make it harder to enforce laws against drinking and driving
  • Clarify Crown disclosure requirements
  • Permit an earlier enrolment in a provincial ignition interlock program

Mandatory alcohol screening

Mandatory alcohol screening provisions proposed under the legislation would now authorize law enforcement to order any drivers they lawfully stop to provide a breath sample using an “approved screening device.” This means that officers would not be required to first have suspicion that the driver is operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol—many impaired drivers are able to avoid detection at check stops. As such, this authority assist officers in detecting more drivers that are over the legal limit of consumption and reduce litigation regarding whether or not an officer had reasonable suspicion a driver is, in fact, impaired. However, it is important to note that the result of such a test on an approved screening device would not lead to a charge by itself. The test result would only lead to further investigation, which would include a test on an approved instrument at the police station.


New and higher mandatory minimum fines would be enacted under the proposed legislation, as well as some increased maximum penalties. The mandatory minimum penalties for impaired driving are currently outlined as follows:

  • First Offence: $1,000 mandatory minimum fine
  • Second Offence: mandatory 30 days imprisonment
  • Third Offence: mandatory 120 days imprisonment

Mandatory fines for first offenders with high blood alcohol concentration readings would also increase as outlined below:

  • A first offender with a reading of 80 to 119 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood would be subject to the current mandatory minimum fine of $1,000
  • The mandatory minimum fine for a first offender with a reading of 120 to 159 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood would be raised to $1,500
  • The mandatory minimum fine for first offender with a reading of 160 mg or more of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or more would be raised to $2,000

If a first offender refuses testing, they are subject to a mandatory minimum fee of $2,000.

Repeat offenders:

Under the proposed legislation, mandatory prison sentences for repeat offenders would remain set at 30 days for a second offence and 120 days for a subsequent offence.

However, the maximum penalties for impaired driving in cases where there is no injury or death would be increased to two years less a day on summary conviction (up to 18 months), and to 10 years on indictment—an increase from five years. In the latter case, a dangerous offender application would be possible under certain circumstances.

Offences causing bodily harm:

If an impaired driving offence has caused bodily harm, it becomes a hybrid that allows the Crown to determine whether to move forward summarily in instances where injury is less severe—a broken bone, for example. This legislation assists in reducing court delays since summary conviction proceedings are less complex.

Maximum Penalties – dangerous driving:

In cases where dangerous driving results in death, the maximum penalty under the proposed legislation would be life imprisonment (up to 14 years). This penalty would remain consistent with maximum penalties applied to other transportation offences causing death.

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