Impaired Driving Laws

Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. In 2017, there were more than 69,000 impaired driving incidents reported by the police, including almost 3,500 drug-impaired driving incidents.

Please visit Canada's impaired driving webpage for statistics, research, and more information on the dangers of driving while impaired.

It is important to note that provinces and territories have additional laws or regulations that may apply. Make sure to check the laws in your area.

Impaired Driving

The Criminal Code prohibits driving while impaired to any degree by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. Penalties for this offence range from a mandatory minimum fine to life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offence

Prohibited Levels

In addition to the offence of impaired driving, there are separate offences of having specified prohibited levels of alcohol, cannabis or certain other drugs in the blood within two hours of driving. Penalties range from fines to life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offence.

Alcohol

The prohibited blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is 80 milligrams or more (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood.

Cannabis (THC)

There are two prohibited levels for THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis: it is a less serious offence to have between 2 nanograms (ng) and 5 ng of THC per ml of blood. It is a more serious offence to have 5 ng of THC or more per ml of blood.

Combination of alcohol and cannabis

The prohibited levels of alcohol and cannabis, when found in combination, is 50mg or more of alcohol per 100ml blood and 2.5 ng or more of THC per ml of blood.

Other drugs

Having any detectable amount of LSD, psilocybin, psilocin ("magic mushrooms"), ketamine, PCP, cocaine, methamphetamine or 6-mam (a metabolite of heroin) in your system within two hours of driving is also prohibited.

The prohibited level for GHB is 5mg or more per litre of blood, since the body can naturally produce low levels of this drug.

Penalties

Impaired driving is a serious crime that poses a significant threat to public safety. Having the prohibited level of alcohol, THC, or other impairing drugs in your blood within two hours of driving is an offence.

Penalties for committing this conduct can vary, depending on the alcohol or drug concentration, whether it is your first or a repeated offence, and whether you have caused bodily harm or death to another person.

Penalties for drug-impaired driving

Penalties for drug-impaired driving - Text version

Penalties for drug-impaired driving

Alcohol-impaired

  • Charge:
    • Alcohol-impaired driving
    • Having a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) at or over 80mg per 100ml of blood within 2 hours of driving
  • Penalty:
    • 1st offence: Mandatory minimum $1000 fine; Maximum 10 years imprisonment
    • 2nd offence: Mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment
    • 3rd offence: Mandatory minimum 120 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment

Drug-impaired

  • Charge:
    • Drug-impaired driving
    • Having 5ng or more of THC per ml of blood within 2 hours of driving
    • Any detectable level of LSD, psilocybin, psilocin, ketamine, PCP, cocaine, methamphetamine, 6-mam within 2 hours of driving
    • Having 5mg or more of GHB per 1 litre of blood within 2 hours of driving
  • Penalty:
    • 1st offence: Mandatory minimum $1000 fine; Maximum 10 years imprisonment
    • 2nd offence: Mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment
    • 3rd offence: Mandatory minimum 120 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment

Combination

  • Charge: Having a BAC of 50mg per 100ml of blood + 2.5ng or more of THC per 1ml of blood within 2 hours of driving
  • Penalty:
    • 1st offence: Mandatory minimum $1000 fine; Maximum 10 years imprisonment
    • 2nd offence: Mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment
    • 3rd offence: Mandatory minimum 120 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment

Charge: Refusal to comply with demand for sample

  • Penalty:
    • 1st offence: Mandatory minimum $2000 fine
    • 2nd offence: Mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment
    • 3rd offence: Mandatory minimum 120 days imprisonment; Maximum 10 years imprisonment

Drug-impaired driving - Summary conviction

  • Charge: Having over 2ng but less than 5ng of THC per ml of blood within 2 hours of driving
  • Penalty: Maximum $1000 fine

Charge: Impaired driving causing bodily harm

  • Penalty:
    • Summary conviction: maximum 2 years imprisonment less a day
    • Indictment: maximum 14 years imprisonment

Charge: Impaired driving causing death

  • Penalty:
    • Indictment: Maximum life imprisonment

Charge: 1st offence + BAC of 80-119 ml

  • Penalty: mandatory minimum $1000 fine

Charge: 1st offence + BAC of 120-159ml

  • Penalty: mandatory minimum $1500 fine

Charge: 1st offence + BAC of 160 mg or more

  • Penalty: mandatory minimum $2000 fine

Investigations

Mandatory alcohol screening

Police officers can demand that any lawfully-stopped driver provide a preliminary breath sample to test for alcohol without reasonable suspicion that the driver has alcohol in their body.

Oral fluid drug screeners

Oral fluid drug screeners can be used by police to detect the presence of some drugs in oral fluid, including THC. These devices are fast, non-invasive, and accurate.

The police can demand an oral fluid sample, if they reasonably suspect a drug is in a driver's body. Reasonable suspicion that the driver has drugs in their body can be developed based on objective facts, such as:

  • red eyes
  • muscle tremors
  • agitation
  • abnormal speech patterns

If a driver tests positive on an oral fluid drug screener the positive result confirms the presence of the drug and, combined with other signs of impairment or drug use observed by the police at the roadside, may provide grounds for the investigation to proceed further by making a demand for a blood sample.

Other investigative techniques

Police can also demand a driver submit to a Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST) or a Drug Recognition Expert Evaluation (DRE).

Related links

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