What is Impaired Driving?

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Impaired driving is one of the most common criminal offences in Canada. In 2017, the police reported more than 69,000 impaired driving incidents. In Alberta, there are also regulations regarding impaired driving under the provincial government Immediate Roadside Sanctions Program in addition to the criminal regulation. Dealing with a charge of impaired driving can be complicated, so it is essential to have experienced legal assistance.

What is Impaired Driving?

Driving under the influence is prohibited under section 320.14(1) of the Criminal Code. The provision sets out that:

Everyone commits an offence who

(a) operates a conveyance while the person’s ability to operate it is impaired to any degree by alcohol or a drug or by a combination of alcohol and a drug;

(b) subject to subsection (5), has, within two hours after ceasing to operate a conveyance, a blood alcohol concentration that is equal to or exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood;

Operate is defined as driving the motor vehicle or controlling or caring for the motor vehicle (s. 320.11). The most severe cases include impaired driving, causing bodily harm (s. 320.14(2)), and impaired driving causing death (s. 320.14(3)). If a peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that an individual is driving intoxicated, they can require the person to provide a breathalyzer test and/or conduct physical coordination tests (s. 320.27).

Penalties for Impaired Driving

Impaired driving is a hybrid offence which means that the prosecutor can choose to proceed either through indictment or summary conviction. The consequence is more severe if the Crown prosecutes by indictment. The punishment structure for an impaired charge is (s. 320.19(1)):

  • A fine of $1000 for the first offence,
  • Minimum of 30 days imprisonment for the second offence,
  • Following that, it is a minimum of 120 days imprisonment

However, the minimum punishment structure laid out above could be higher if the person’s blood alcohol concentration is very high (s. 320.19(3)). Additionally, the more serious the crime, such as impaired driving causing bodily harm, the higher the minimum penalty. There are also aggravating factors that can increase the punishment for sentencing purposes (s. 320.22).


There are several defences possible if you have been charged with impaired driving. As stated above, the consequences for impaired driving can be severe; therefore, you should have a skilled and experienced DUI lawyer to assist you.

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