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Canada introduces several new impaired driving laws

New legislation that will give police additional powers to crack down on impaired drivers has been given Royal Assent in Ottawa.

Not to be confused with The Cannabis Act’s Bill C-45, the new Impaired Driving Act, known as Bill C-46, makes multiple reforms to both alcohol-impaired driving and drug-impaired driving that are aimed at motorists getting high before getting behind the wheel.

While the reforms are not anticipated to take effect for several months, there are four major changes to Canada's impaired driving laws:

<who> Photo Credit: File Photo.

Police no longer need reasonable suspicion

Police will now be able to request a driver take a roadside breath test without a reasonable suspicion.

Previously, police could only require a breath test if the driver was showing signs of impairment ie. the smell of alcohol on a driver’s breath, slurred beach, alcohol cans seen inside the vehicle.

Drivers who refuse this test face a criminal charge with similar penalties to an impaired driving conviction.

Roadside saliva testing

Police will now have the ability to use screening devices that can test saliva for cocaine, methamphetamine and THC.

However, unlike alcohol breath tests, these saliva tests cannot be random. A level of reasonable suspicion is still required to force the test on suspected drug-impaired drivers.

THC blood levels

Police can now lay an impaired driving charge on drivers caught with THC blood levels equal or higher than the federal government’s established threshold.

  • A THC level between 2 and 5 ng would be a lower-level offence with a fine of up to $1000;
  • A THC level above 5 ng would come with the same penalties as an alcohol-impaired driving conviction, including mandatory minimum penalties of a $1000 fine on a first offence, 30 days imprisonment on a second offence and 120 days imprisonment on a third offence;
  • A mixture of a THC level above 2.5 ng and a blood alcohol concentration above 50 mg per 100 mL would have the same penalties as above.

10 years maximum sentence for impaired driving

Impaired driving convictions are now considered a “serious criminality” instead of “ordinary criminality,” meaning the maximum sentence has been raised from five years to 10 years.

The criminality upgrade also means individuals could potentially lose permanent residence status and face deportation.

These changes are anticipated to come into effect 180 days after this week's Royal Assent.

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