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The consumption and possession of small amounts of marihuana has been declared legal in Canada as of October 17, 2018. In fact, cannabis usage for medical purposes has been permissible under the purview of Ontario law for many years. However, impaired driving by alcohol or a drug is a criminal offence in Canada. If your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by the consumption of marihuana the police will charge you with impaired driving. Upon conviction, you will be subject to the same penalties as if you were convicted of impaired driving by alcohol. There is also zero tolerance for driving while on cannabis for young, novice, and commercial drivers. It is one’s own responsibility to refrain from driving while one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by alcohol or a drug.
Police Can Identify Impaired Drivers
Police officers in Ontario have been trained to identify drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol using the following methods:
- Standardized Field Sobriety Test: The police have been trained and certified to conduct a standardized field sobriety test (“SFST”) along the roadside. If the driver fails the SFST, the police officer can suspend his or her license and they could also be facing criminal charges upon further breath or drug recognition testing at the police station.
- Breath Testing: Blood alcohol concentration can be determined with a breath test on an Intoxilyzer. If the police suspect that the driver has alcohol in their bloodstream while behind the wheel, an approved screening device (“ASD”) test can be performed at the roadside. If the driver registers a fail on the ASD, this provides the police with the grounds to make a formal Intoxilyzer breath demand which is usually conducted at the police station. If the driver registers over 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 mls. of blood on two separate Intoxilyzer breath samples taken at least 17 minutes apart, the police would then charge them under s.253(1)(b) of the Criminal Code with “over 80 mg.”
- Drug Recognition Evaluation: Along with the Standardized Field Sobriety, an ASD test, or Intoxilkyzer breath test, the police officer can bring the driver to the police station to perform a Drug Recognition Evaluation. This series of tests can be performed by a trained and qualified officer. If the driver fails the tests, they would be charged with impaired driving by a drug.
- Oral Fluid Screening Devices: Apart from the tests mentioned above, the Oral Fluid Screening test is also effective in checking the presence of drugs. There is zero tolerance for young, novice, and commercial drivers, and they can be suspended from driving immediately. Criminal charges will be also levied.
Charges for Exceeding Legal Limit, Refusing Testing, or Impairment
There are severe criminal repercussions and consequences for impaired driving and for refusing testing. When your blood alcohol concentration exceeds the permitted limit of 0.08%, it is referred to as “exceeding the legal limit.” If you are charged with exceeding the legal limit or impaired driving, the police will immediately administratively suspend your driver’s licence for 90 days and impound your vehicle for 7 days.
A first time offender who is convicted of impaired driving faces serious penalties including a mandatory minimum $1,000.00 fine, a one-year driving suspension, a criminal record, a license reinstatement fee ($198), the requirement to pay for and attend a mandatory education program (i.e. the “Back on Track” program) and being required to install a costly ignition interlock device on their vehicle. Their motor vehicle insurance rates will also typically skyrocket for many years.
What it Takes to Avoid Impaired Driving
By following these simple steps, you can avoid being charged with impaired driving:
- Plan in advance how you will get home safely after consuming alcohol;
- Take a taxi to the bar or restaurant you are attending to avoid being tempted to drive your car home after consuming alcohol;
- Know how your prescription medications may affect your driving. You can ask your doctor or pharmacist about it; and
- Carefully read the label of prescription drugs over the counter medications.
If you have been charged with impaired driving by alcohol or a drug in Ontario, call the Kruse Law criminal defence lawyers at +1-800-699-0806 for a free consultation, or visit us online and complete the consultation form to speak to a criminal defence lawyer.