Alcohol and drugs at the wheel: several offenses
The Criminal Code provides for a number of offenses that deal with alcohol or drugs while driving. They apply both to driving a car and to driving a boat, train, motorcycle or airplane.
Driving in excess of the allowable limit of alcohol in the blood
A person who has been drinking and driving a vehicle commits a criminal offense when the blood alcohol level is greater than 80 mg alcohol / 100 ml blood (0.08) .
The driver can be charged with this offense as soon as he reaches this rate, even if he shows no signs of drunkenness and the alcohol does not affect his driving behavior.
Driving by exceeding the drug limit allowed in the blood
A person who has been using drugs and driving a vehicle commits a criminal offense when the rate of drug in his blood is equal to or greater than the allowable limit for that drug.
For most drugs, the presence of any detectable level in a driver’s blood is sufficient to cause an offense. This is the case, for example, for cocaine or methamphetamine.
Other rules exist, however, for cannabis. In this case, it is the THC level in a driver’s blood that determines whether or not the driver is committing a criminal offense. THC is the chemical substance of cannabis that causes intoxication.
There are two different offenses depending on a driver’s level of intoxication. A person who has used cannabis and who drives a vehicle commits a criminal offense in one of these situations :
- the level of THC in his blood is equal to or greater than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood (5 ng / ml); or
- the level of THC in his blood is equal to or greater than 2 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, but less than 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood .
Depending on the case, different penalties are provided.
Driving after consuming a combination of drugs and alcohol
A person who has used a mixture of drugs and alcohol and who drives a vehicle commits a criminal offense when both of the following conditions are met :
- the blood alcohol level is equal to or greater than 50 mg alcohol / 100 ml blood (0.05) ; and
- the level of THC in his blood is equal to or greater than 2.5 nanograms / ml of blood .
Driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both
A person also commits a criminal offense while driving while his or her driving ability is impaired by alcohol, drugs (including medication) or a combination of both . We are talking about impaired driving.
In this case, the amount of alcohol or drugs consumed is not decisive. For this offense, it is rather the ability to drive that is at stake.
A person may therefore have only 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood and not be able to drive. The same principle applies for drug use. Even fatigue or stress , combined with alcohol or drugs, can reduce the ability to drive to the point of making the behavior illegal.
Being intoxicated in a parked vehicle
A person who is not driving the vehicle may still be charged because of a blood alcohol or drug level above the legal limit or because they are impaired.
For these offenses, the Criminal Code makes no distinction between a moving vehicle and a stopped vehicle . Having the care and control of a vehicle in this state is also an offense.
To have the ” guard or control ” of a motor vehicle, you must have the ability to set it in motion. There are several clues as to whether a person has control of a vehicle.
Did the impaired person have the vehicle keys on her? Could she go get them easily? Did she use radio or heating? Was his belt buckled? Positive responses to these questions could lead the judge to conclude that the person had actual control over the vehicle and therefore committed the offense, even if the person in question only wanted to sleep in his car .
In addition, the law specifically provides that the mere act of being in the driver’s seat constitutes proof of custody or control, unless the accused succeeds in proving that he did not intend to put the vehicle on and that his behavior did not result in a real risk of danger to any person or property.
Refuse to breathe or take a test: an offense as serious as alcohol or driving drugs
You commit an offense if you refuse, without reasonable excuse:
- provide a sample of breath or saliva;
- to pass the physical coordination tests required by the police officer;
- to submit to a blood test;
- to follow the policeman for taking a sample.
Fines and jail time for this offense are generally the same as those for driving while impaired or with a blood alcohol or drug level above the legal limit.
In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended longer than if you were convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol, drunk or drinking.
To find out more about your rights and the tests that the police can put you through during your arrest, read our article on this subject.