Canada: Lethal Libations – Driving Under The Influence

Last Updated: September 6 2016
Article by Adam Wagman

A car is not inherently dangerous, but in the hands of someone who is impaired, it is a lethal weapon. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs adversely affects judgment, vision, hand-eye coordination, reflexes, and the ability to focus and recognize hazardous road conditions or dangerous situations.

With a recent study showing that Canada ranks No. 1 among 19 first-world countries for percentage of roadway deaths linked to impairment, it is imperative that we revisit the law related to impaired driving, the consequences of impaired driving, and safety recommendations.

The Law

Canada's Criminal Code1 states that it is an offence to operate a motor vehicle, or have care or control of a motor vehicle, whether it is in motion or not, if a person's ability to operate the vehicle is impaired by alcohol or a drug. The amount of alcohol in your body is measured by blood alcohol concentration (BAC). It is prohibited for a driver to have a BAC of more than eighty (80) milligrams of alcohol in one hundred (100) milligrams of blood (0.08 – also known as the "legal limit").2

However, in Ontario, a driver's BAC does not need to exceed the legal limit to result in serious consequences. If a driver's BAC measures between 0.05 and 0.08 (also known as the "warn range"), they may face an administrative driver's licence suspension3. Novice and young drivers (under 21 years old) must maintain a BAC of zero while operating a car.4

The Criminal Code clarifies that impairment also includes impairment by a combination of alcohol and a drug or drugs.5 These drugs include illegal narcotics and prescription or over-the-counter medication.


The consequences for violating Section 253 of the Criminal Code, are contingent upon the nature and severity of the violation:

BAC in the Warn Range (0.05 – 0.08)

  • First Offence: 3-day roadside driver's licence suspension; $180.00 fine;
  • Second Offence (within five years): 7-day roadside driver's licence suspension; mandatory alcohol education program; $180.00 fine; or
  • Third+ Offence(s) (within five years): 30-day roadside driver's licence suspension; mandatory alcohol education program; 6-month ignition lock (breathalyzer activated ignition); $180.00 fine.

BAC Over the Legal Limit (0.08+) or Refusal of Drug or Alcohol Test

  • 90-day roadside driver's licence suspension;
  • $180.00 fine; and
  • Seven-day vehicle impoundment.

Impaired Driving Conviction

  • First Offence: 1-year driver's licence suspension; mandatory alcohol education or treatment program; 1-year minimum ignition lock; no minimum jail sentence; $1,000.00 fine;
  • Second Offence: 3-year driver's licence suspension; mandatory alcohol education or treatment program; 3-year minimum ignition lock; 30-day minimum jail sentence; monetary fine at the discretion of a judge; or
  • Third+ Offence(s): Lifetime driver's licence suspension; mandatory alcohol education or treatment program; lifetime minimum ignition lock; 120-day minimum jail sentence; monetary fine at the discretion of a judge.

Safety Recommendations

Although the law essentially permits a BAC of less than 0.05, we recommend that you do not consume any alcohol or drugs that have adverse side and follow these recommendations:

  • Ensure that you have a plan to get to and from your destination safely;
  • Do not accept a ride from someone whom you suspect may be impaired;
  •  When taking prescription medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist about side effects which could impair your ability to drive;
  •   Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist about the effects of combining any prescription or over-the-counter mediation; and
  • For prescription and over-the-counter medication, thoroughly read the accompanying information and instructions (this includes allergy and cold medication).

In the event of a personal injury, you could face further fines, demerit points, and jail time in addition to the potential suspension of your driver's licence.

With the invention of smartphones and various ride service apps making alternate arrangements has never been easier. There really is no excuse for drinking or doping and driving.


1 Section 253(1) of Canada's Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, as amended

2 Section 253(1)(b) of Canada's Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, as amended

3 Section 48 of the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, as amended

4 Section 44.1 of the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, as amended

5 Section 253(2) of Canada's Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, as amended

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions