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Impaired Driving Law Changes 2018

With the legalization of recreational marijuana, it is essential that impaired driving laws be reformed.  Traffic laws must align with the implications of the legalization of marijuana, which means trying to create appropriate penalties for driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.  

The Highway Traffic Act which regulates, administers and classifies traffic related licensing, transport, and offences currently has impaired driving laws in place. However, implementing new changes to it is not easy.

In Canada, Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code of Canada and impaired driving laws, contains changes and proposals targeted at setting driving limits for cannabis, improved roadside testing, and implementing stricter penalties. On a provincial level, Ontario is also looking to change impaired driving laws to ensure the safety of its roads.

What are these changes and proposals? What can you expect as a driver? We take a look at the main changes being proposed in Canada and Ontario.

Proposed Impaired Driving Canada Law Changes

The changes to impaired driving laws for 2018 are aimed at putting a legal framework for drug-impaired driving in place and amending the Criminal Code to discourage drug-impaired and alcohol-impaired driving.  

Canadian Roadside Testing Procedure and Assessment

To help police and court officials with the investigation, trial procedures, and proof of BAC, the new legislation will authorize mandatory roadside alcohol screening tests.  

For cases in which officers suspect drug-impaired driving, the police could demand a roadside oral fluid sample. Police would also have the option to conduct a Drug Recognition Evaluation (DRE) on top of a Standardized Field Sobriety Test, if needed. Police can demand a blood sample, as well. The new measures are intended to determine if you have THC in your body before the drug leaves your system. In court, this means expert witnesses and toxicologists would not be needed, making the judicial process more efficient.  

For suspected alcohol-impaired driving, starting December 18, 2018, the police can ask any anyone who is lawfully-stopped on the road to provide a breath sample, even without the suspicion of alcohol. If you are a first offender and refuse a test, you would be  required to pay a minimum fine of $2,000..

Legal Limits – Drug and Alcohol

The new legislation establishes three offences for having specific levels of drugs in your blood within two hours of driving. In general, this new categorization allows for stricter, more well-defined laws, and increased minimum fines and maximum penalties. The penalties, themselves, depend on a few things: the drug, the levels of drug found in your system, or the combination of alcohol and drugs.

The legal THC levels are:

  • 2 ng but less than 5 ng per ml of blood (summary conviction offences)
  • 5 ng or more per ml of blood (drug-only hybrid offences)
  • 2.5 ng or more per ml of blood +  50 mg or more of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (drugs-with-alcohol hybrid offences)

Right now across Canada, the legal BAC level for fully licensed drivers is 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood, or 0.08. If your BAC is between 0.05 and 0.08, you are in the “warn range,” which also comes with penalties. With the proposed legislation, blood alcohol levels within two hours of driving will also split into three tiers of offences:

  • 80 to 119 mg
  • 120 to 159 mg
  • 160 mg or more

Note that the results you get on a screening device would not automatically lead to a charge, but only to further investigation. This also includes any tests on approved devices at the police station.


If you are found guilty of being under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, however, you would face harsher impaired-driving penalties under the new changes.

For drug-impaired driving that does not cause bodily harm or death, the new Federal legislation will implement the following penalties on December 18, 2018:

  • 2 ng to 5 ng of THC per 1 ml of blood (summary offence):  
    • Maximum $1000 fine
  • 5 ng or more of THC per 1 ml of blood; any detectable level of LSD, psilocybin, psilocin, ketamine, PCP, cocaine, methamphetamine, 6-mam; and 5 mg/L of GHB (hybrid offence):  
    • First offence: $1000
    • Second offence: 30-day imprisonment  
    • Third/subsequent offence: 120-day imprisonment
  • 2.5 ng or more of THC per 1 ml of blood + 50 mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (hybrid offence):
    • First offence: $1000 (Mandatory minimum)
    • Second offence: 30-day imprisonment  
    • Third/subsequent offence: 120-day imprisonment

For first offenders, the minimum penalty fines for Alcohol-impaired driving that does not cause bodily harm or death would be:

  • 80 to 119 mg blood-alcohol content: $1,000
  • 120 to 159 mg blood-alcohol content: $1,500
  • 160 mg or more blood-alcohol content: $2,000
  • Refusal to be tested on a first offence:  $2,000

A second offence would result in 30 days in prison, and a third and subsequent offences would result in 120 days.

Impaired driving that does not cause bodily harm or death carries maximum penalties for:

  • Summary conviction: 2 years less a day imprisonment
  • Indictment: 10 years imprisonment

Maximum penalties are also in place for Impaired driving that causes bodily harm:

  • Summary conviction: 2 years less a day imprisonment
  • Indictment: 14 years imprisonment

Impaired driving that causes a death would mean a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.


All About Impaired Driving And Penalties In Ontario

Ontario has a zero tolerance law on alcohol and drugs for drivers under 21 and novice drivers with G1, G2, M1 or M2 class licenses. They are prohibited from having any cannabis in their system when driving or behind the wheel. Also, they cannot have any other drugs in their system that are detectable by oral fluid screening devices. The penalties are listed below:

  • First occurrence: 3 day license suspension and $250 fine
  • Second occurrence: 7 day license suspension and $350 fine
  • Third and subsequent occurrences: 30 day license suspension and $450 fine

If convicted in court as a young or novice driver, you could face additional penalties such as longer license suspensions,  mandatory education or treatment programs, medical exams, and ignition interlock requirements.

Commercial drivers who are behind the wheel of any vehicle that requires an A-F class license follow the same restrictions for drug and alcohol impaired driving as other fully licensed G-class drivers. For first, second, and third and subsequent offences, commercial drivers will be fined $250*, $350* and $450* respectively along with a 3-day license suspension.

In Ontario, posting a BAC result in the “warn” range, failing an SFST or  violating zero tolerance rule all carry the same penalties. In addition to the below penalties, you will also be paying a $198 fee to reinstate your license.

For a first offence,  you get a licence suspension for 3 days and a $250 fine*.

For a second offence in a 5 year period, it would mean a 7-day license suspension (three for commercial drivers), a $350 fine*, and enrolment in education programs for a second occurrence within 10 years.

For a third and subsequent offences in 5 years, penalties include a 30-day licence suspension (three for commercial drivers), a mandatory treatment program (for third and subsequent offences within 10 years), the use of an ignition interlock device for six months (for third and subsequent offences in 10 years), a $450 penalty* and a mandatory medical evaluation for more than 4 subsequent occurrences.

If you refuse to take a drug or alcohol test, register a BAC over 0.08 or if a drug recognition evaluator determines that you are impaired, Ontario drivers will face a number of increased penalties:

  • Your licence will be suspended for 90 days
  • Your vehicle will be impounded for 7 days
  • You will have to pay a mandatory $550 penalty*
  • You will be need to complete a mandatory education or treatment program (for second and subsequent offences within a 10-year period)
  • You will be required to use an ignition interlock device for at least a 6-month period (for third and subsequent occurrences within 10 years)

*Financial penalty starting January 1, 2019.

Other Changes

Enrolment in a provincial ignition interlock program  also change. To start, there would be no wait time for a first offence. For a second and third offence, it would be a three-month and a six-month wait respectively.


As you can see, the new measures help to not only discourage impaired driving, but to also eliminate defence strategies that make it harder to enforce drinking and driving laws.

Thus, if you have questions on fighting charges laid against you, our OMQ Law offices in Toronto, London, Oakville can help you make sense of them. Consult with one of our lawyers today for a free case assessment and know what you are up against.