Depending on your individual circumstances and the specifics of your case, a conviction for impaired driving could lead to numerous potential consequences. Below, you’ll learn about the most likely outcomes of a conviction, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

The Criminal Code and Punishments for Impaired Driving  

Impaired driving is found in s. 320.14(1) of the Criminal Code and covers impairment from alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and more. 

The most common form of impaired driving is drunk driving. Section 320.14(1)(b) of the Criminal Code defines alcohol-impaired driving as the operation of a motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration that is equal to or exceeds 80 mg of alcohol on 100 mL of blood. This is colloquially referred to as “driving over 80.” 

Fines and Prison Sentences

When it comes to the potential fines and terms of imprisonment associated with impaired driving, the severity of the consequences largely depends on the degree of intoxication and the number of prior incidents of impaired driving you’ve had. Needless to say, the law is more lenient towards first-time offenders who register an 90 than with routine offenders who register a 160. Section 320.19 of the Criminal Code lays out the consequences of impaired driving as follows: 

Penalties for drug-impaired driving

Source: Government of Canada, Department of Justice

Driving Prohibitions and Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device Programs

In addition to fines and prison sentences, s. 320.24(1) of the Criminal Code empowers judges to enact a mandatory prohibition order that explicitly forbids you from operating a motor vehicle for a specific period of time. For first-time offenders, the driving prohibition period is for a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years. 

While a driving prohibition is in place, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under s. 320.18(1) of the Criminal Code, and if you’re convicted you could face up to 10 years in prison. 

However, according to s. 320.18(2) of the Criminal Code, it is not illegal to operate a motor vehicle if you’re registered in an alcohol ignition interlock device program established under the law of the province in which you reside and you’re complying with the conditions of the program. 

It is technically a privilege to be able to register for the interlock program, and thus, there may be an impediment to your ability to swiftly register. Under s. 320.24(10) of the Criminal Code, for a first time offender who wishes to register for the interlock program, the judge has the discretion to enforce a short mandatory waiting period or none at all, while a second-time offender would have to wait a minimum of three months before they could register, and a third time offender would have to wait a minimum of six months before they could register. The time period where you are forbidden from applying for an interlock program is known as an “absolute prohibition period” because you’re prohibited from driving under any circumstances whatsoever. For most first time offenders pleading guilty to “simple DUI”, there is rarely ever any absolute driving prohibition period.  

Restricted Licenses and the SAAQ’s Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device Program

An alcohol ignition interlock device measures and records your blood alcohol concentration before the engine starts and prevents the vehicle from starting upon the detection of any alcohol on your breath.  

In Quebec, the rules surrounding interlock devices are governed by the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ). 

To be authorized to drive a vehicle equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device, you must hold a restricted licence. Your application for a restricted license must be filed during the penalty period, once your minimum absolute prohibition period has ended.

According to the SAAQ: “Driving with alcohol or drugs in your system, failing to comply with any of the terms and conditions of use, or driving a vehicle that is not equipped with an alcohol  ignition interlock device can lead to the following penalties: suspension of your licence for 3 months, or revocation  of your licence; prosecution under the Criminal Code; a fine of $1,500 to $3,000; and/or immediate seizure and impoundment of the vehicle you are driving for 30 or 90 days, depending on the situation.”

FAQs

Q: Do I need to get my interlock device checked?

A: Yes! Every two months at an authorized service centre. 

Q: Are there any costs involved?

A: Yes! You have to pay fees to obtain the restricted driver’s license. You also have to pay fees related to the installation, rental, periodic checks and removal of the alcohol ignition interlock device.   

Q: How long am I required to drive with the interlock device in my vehicle?

A: Until the end of your driving prohibition period. For a first time offender this is between one and three years. Be advised that the SAAQ may (and often does) enforce prohibition periods that exceed the period imposed in criminal court.

Q: During my driving prohibition period, am I ever allowed to drive a vehicle that does not have an alcohol interlock device in a non-emergency circumstance?

A: No! It is considered a violation of your driving prohibition order to be operating a motor vehicle without an alcohol interlock device and you can face up to 10 years in prison for violating your driving prohibition order.

If you have been arrested for impaired driving or have any inquiries surrounding your driving prohibition or interlock device program, call S. Zalman Haouzi Avocat.