Changes to Impaired Driving Laws Part One: Drug Impaired Driving
Despite education programs and endless campaign, the number-one criminal cause of injury and death in Canada is still impaired driving. As such, the Government of Canada as set new and more robust laws to harshly punish those who choose to get behind the wheel while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. The government is currently taking these laws a step further with proposed legislation that would effectively restructure impaired driving laws in Canada.
This legislation is especially judicious when we consider that cannabis is on the verge of legalization in Canada. Existing drug-impaired driving laws will be elevated under the proposed changes, meaning Canada could have a regime that is among the strictest in the world. The suggested revisions include:
- New legal limit drug offences
- More efficient tools to detect drug-impaired drivers
- Variations to make the law simpler, as well as more efficient and coherent, to enforce in when concerned with alcohol-impaired driving.
A comprehensive public awareness campaign will be launched by the federal government to ensure all Canadians are accurately informed about the inherent dangers associated with driving under the influence of drugs. Government officials will also work closely with municipalities, provinces, territories and local communities to train law enforcement professionals to better protect Canada’s roads and highways from drug- and alcohol-impaired driving.
Roadside Oral Fluid Drug Tests
Currently, law enforcement officers are permitted to order that a driver produce an oral fluid sample during roadside stop if they suspect the driver is impaired by drugs. This sample assists officers in establishing reasonable grounds to believe a drug-related offence has been committed, which means they could then require the driver to perform a drug evaluation or provide a blood sample.
Drug-Impaired Driving Offences
Under the legislations there would be three new offences pertaining to specified drug levels in a driver’s bloodstream within a two-hour timeframe of getting behind the wheel. Penalties for such offences would vary depending on the drug type, the levels of drug, or the combination of alcohol and drugs. According to the Government of Canada website, the proposed offence levels for THC—the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis—are as follows:
- 2 nanograms(ng) but less than 5ng of THC: Having at least 2ng but less than 5ng of THC per millilitre (ml) of blood within two hours of driving would be a separate summary conviction criminal offence, punishable only by a fine. This offence would be punishable by a maximum fine of up to $1,000.
- 5ng or more of THC: Having 5ng or more of THC per ml of blood within two hours of driving would be a hybrid offence.
- Combined THC and Alcohol: Having a blood alcohol concentration of 50 milligrams (mg) of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, combined with a THC level greater than 2.5ng per ml of blood within two hours of driving would also be a hybrid offence. Both hybrid offences would be punishable by mandatory penalties of $1,000 for a first offence and escalating penalties for repeat offenders.
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