Frequently asked questions

What is considered 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. 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 do the police assess if you're impaired?

The 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 before 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.

What are the penalties for drunk driving?

If 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 convicted of impaired driving, you will usually receive a fine of about $1,000 and your licence will be suspended for one year. For a second impaired driving offence, you will usually be subject to a minimum penalty of 30 days in prison, and a minimum three-year licence suspension. For a third or subsequent offence, you will usually be subject to a minimum penalty of 120 days in prison and a lengthy licence suspension, possibly a lifetime suspension. In addition, being convicted of a criminal driving offence means that you will have a criminal record.

Can I refuse a breathalyzer test?

If you are stopped by the police while in your car, the police have the legal right to ask you to provide a number of different samples, including a roadside breath-screening sample, a breathalyzer sample, and a blood or urine sample. You have the right to consult a lawyer before the formal breathalyzer test at the police station and before a blood or urine sample is taken, but you do not have the right to refuse a roadside breath-screening test.


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