Addressing drug-impaired driving

Strengthening impaired driving laws: quick reference

Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada, and drug-impaired driving is increasing. As the Government of Canada moves towards legalizing and strictly regulating cannabis, there is a need to strengthen our impaired driving laws to better address drug-impaired driving.

Current laws

The Criminal Code currently prohibits driving while impaired by any drug. Police officers are currently able to conduct standardized field sobriety tests (SFST) if they suspect a driver has a drug in their body.

If an individual is suspected of being impaired by a drug, a blood test must currently be overseen by a doctor, which is time consuming and often requires transportation to a hospital.

Penalties

Current penalties for drug-impaired driving range from $1,000 fine on a first offence to 120 days of imprisonment on a third or subsequent offence. Drug-impaired driving that results in death could result in life imprisonment.

Proposed legislation

Making testing and prosecution easier

The new legislation would allow for the following:

  • Police would be able to demand an oral fluid sample at the roadside if they suspect a driver has a drug in their body. This would be similar to the current method of testing for alcohol at the roadside with an approved screening device.
  • The proposed legislation would provide police with the option to pursue drug recognition evaluation or a blood sample in situations where they have reasonable grounds to believe an offence has occurred. This could save valuable time when testing for drugs, such as THC, that leave the blood very quickly.
  • Police officers would be able to provide opinion evidence in court as to whether they believe a driver was impaired by a drug at the time of testing, without the need for an expert witness in each trial. This will mean that cases are prosecuted more efficiently and more successfully.

Legal drug limits

Under the new legislation, legal limits for drugs would be set by regulation.

For THC, the proposed levels would be:

  • 2 nanograms (ng) but less than 5 ng per 1 millilitre (ml) of blood for the summary conviction offence
  • 5 ng or more per 1 ml of blood for the drug-only hybrid offence
  • 2.5 ng or more per 1 ml of blood combined with 50 mg or more of alcohol per 100 ml of blood for the drugs-with-alcohol hybrid offence

Resources

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