Impaired Driving

Impaired driving, or driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, is illegal in Canada. It:

1) Is punishable as a criminal office under Section 253 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

2) Can also result in administrative driver's license suspensions under provincial legislations.

What are the federal minimum sentences for a person convicted of impaired driving/driving under influence?

According to Section 255 of the Criminal Code of Canada, the federal minimum sentences for impaired driving/driving under influence (with a BAC level of above 0.08) are:

  • for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $1,000
  • for a second offence, to imprisonment for not less than 30 days
  • for each subsequent offence, to imprisonment for not less than 120 days
Furthermore, drivers convicted of impaired driving/driving under influence under the Criminal Code of Canada may not operate a vehicle for the following minimum periods according to the Section 259 of the Criminal Code of Canada:
  • 1st offence - 3 months after the day on which sentence is imposed
  • 2nd offence - 6 months after the day on which sentence is imposed
  • each subsequent offence - 12 months after the day on which sentence is imposed
Finally, drivers convicted of impaired driving/driving under influence must participate in an ignition interlock program for the following minimum periods:
  • First offense: One year
  • Second Offense: Two years
  • Third Offense: Three years

What are the license suspensions for a person convicted of impaired driving/driving under influence?

Province1st Offence2nd Offence3rd OffenceSubsequent Offences
Albertauntil criminal charge resolveduntil criminal charge resolveduntil criminal charge resolveduntil criminal charge resolved
British Columbia90 days90 days90 days90 days
Manitoba1 year5 years10 yearslifetime suspension
New Brunswick1 year1 year1 year1 year
Newfoundland and Labrador1 year3 years5 yearsLifetime suspension
Nova Scotia1 year3 yearsIndefinitelyIndefinitely
Ontario1 year3 yearsIndefinitelyIndefinitely
Prince Edward Island1 year3 years5 years5 years
Quebec1 year3 years5 years5 years
Saskatchewan1 year3 years5 years5 years
Northwest Territories / Nunavut1 year3 years5 yearsIndefinitely
Yukon1 year3 yearsIndefinitelyIndefinitely

How much alcohol can I drink before reaching the BAC limit?

A person's blood alcohol levels can be affected by a variety of factors, including weight, sex, and body fat. The number of drinks consumed is often a poor measure of blood alcohol content.

The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit set forth in the Criminal Code of Canada is 0.08. It is a criminal offence to either operate a motor vehicle, vessle, railway equipment or aircraft (cars, boats, trains and airplanes) with a blood alcohol concentration above this federal limit.

In addition, the BAC limit for license suspension varies by province. In Alberta, Quebec and Yukon, the limit is the same as the federal limit. In Saskatchewan, the limit is 0.04. In all other provinces, the limit is 0.05. A person may be subject to license suspension if their blood alcohol concentration reaches above a limit set forth by the province, even if it is below the threshold for a criminal offence.

What if I refuse to provide a breath sample or engage in a field sobriety test?

It is a criminal office to refuse to comply with a police officer's request for a breath sample or a field sobriety test, according to Section 254 (5) of the Criminal Code of Canada. The exception is when the driver has a “reasonable excuse”.

What are the impaired driving/drunk driving laws and programs in my province?