In December 2018, the Government of Canada implemented changes to impaired driving laws. However, many are still unaware of what those changes entail.

Here’s what you know about the new impaired driving laws:

Mandatory alcohol screening

Once a police officer has an approved screening device available, they can now demand a breathalyzer test from any driver whom they have lawfully stopped. You do not need to have done anything wrong for a police officer to pull you over. As has always been the case, a police officer has the right to stop any vehicle to see whether the driver has the required driver’s licence, whether they are sober and if the vehicle is roadworthy. Mandatory alcohol screening, however, does not give the police the authority to do a sobriety test in your home or at a bar.

Prohibited alcohol levels

You may be charged with a criminal offence if your blood alcohol concentration is at or above 80mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood within two hours of operating your vehicle. In the past, drivers whose blood level was at 80mg or above at the time of screening could claim the “bolus” defence. In this defence, a driver would admit to having alcohol just before or while driving. They would then claim that they were not over the limit at the time they were driving as the alcohol had not yet been absorbed. This defence is no longer recognized under the new laws.

There was also the “intervening drink” defence. Drivers involved in an accident could claim they were not drinking before the accident but took a drink after to calm their nerves. This defence made it difficult for police officers to determine the actual blood alcohol concentration at the time of the accident. You can no longer use the “intervening drink” defence after an accident. It will only apply if you had a drink after driving but had no reason to think you would need to give a breath sample since you were not involved in any road incidents.

You should also note that many people become impaired before they reach or surpass the legal limit. So, you can still face charges if your blood alcohol concentration is below the legal threshold, but you had alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

Prohibited cannabis levels

There are two prohibited cannabis levels under the new impaired driving laws. The first prohibited level is 2 nanograms (ng) of THC per ml of blood. Going over this limit is associated with a lesser charge than the second limit, which is 5 ng of THC per ml of blood.

What happens if you mix alcohol and cannabis use?

If you’ve been drinking while using cannabis, you will be charged with an offence if you operate your vehicle, and you are found to have 50 mg or more of alcohol per 100 ml of blood along with 2.5 ng or more of THC per ml of blood in your system.

Zero tolerance for young and novice drivers

If you are under the age of 21 or if you are a learner or novice driver of any age, you are prohibited from having any alcohol or cannabis in your system while operating a vehicle.

Other prohibited substances

All drivers are prohibited from operating a vehicle if they are under the influence of any other substance, whether illegal drugs or prescription medication.

Do you need the help of an impaired driving lawyer?

If you’ve been charged with an offence and are searching for an experienced impaired driving lawyer, call us at the law office of Tom Doust.

Tom Doust is a Vancouver criminal lawyer with over 20 years of experience, and he has successfully defended numerous clients against impaired driving charges and other traffic offences. Tom Doust can help you stay on the road or keep your driving record as clean as possible, whether you live in Vancouver or anywhere else in BC.

So, give us a call today to schedule a legal consultation or to learn more about our services.