Legal Ease, April 27

Drinking and Driving — What Could Happen If You Do


Drinking and then driving while impaired by alcohol is a serious criminal offence. This is true regardless of what type of motorized vehicle is being driven.

Recently an Ontario man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drinking and driving offences. He also lost his driving privileges for 12 years after his release.

The regulation of impaired driving is not just a criminal matter. The provinces and territories also have authority to take steps to keep the public safe.

As a result, driving privileges can be suspended regardless of whether criminal charges are laid or a conviction follows.

This means that drinking and driving is regulated by multiple levels of government — and this reflects the dangers to public safety that drinking and driving poses.

License suspensions take place in three situations:

• a driver has an elevated blood alcohol level, but the blood alcohol level is not high enough to amount to a criminal offence;

• a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a drinking and driving offence has occurred; and

• a driver has been found guilty of a criminal drinking and driving offence.

High blood alcohol concentration

If you drive “over 80” you are guilty of a criminal offence. But even at a lower blood alcohol level you can be suffering from an impairment of your driving ability.

As a result if you take a breath test and are “over 50” your licence will be suspended at roadside.

The suspension is 24 hours for the first suspension and 30 days for a subsequent suspension.

Committing an Offence

If a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe a person has committed a criminal drinking and driving offence, that person’s driver’s license can be suspended at roadside for 90 days.

The same suspension applies if the person refuses to comply with a breath sample request from a police officer.

Found guilty of an offence

A person’s driver’s license will be suspended for a lengthy period of time if that person has been found guilty of a criminal drinking and driving offence.

The suspension is one year for the first offence, three years for the second offence, five years for the third offence and indefinitely for the fourth or subsequent offence. If death is caused, the period is indefinite.

As you can easily see, if you drink and drive, you may well lose your driving privileges for a very long time.

James Morton is a lawyer practicing in Nunavut with offices in Iqaluit. The comments here are intended as general legal information and not as specific legal advice.

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