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Impaired Driving FAQ

The following information is provided as a general guideline and will not apply to every circumstance. It should not be considered a comprehensive guide for use to describe Edmonton Police Service policy and procedure. All circumstances are unique and have may have been dealt with in a different manner than described.

I’ve been charged with impaired driving and driving with over 80 milligrams percent. What happens now?
Generally, people charged with impaired driving are usually also requested to provide a breath sample. These will eventually form 2 separate charges, (impaired driving and driving with a blood alcohol exceeding 80 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood), however, if found guilty only one conviction is usually entered and the other charge withdrawn.
What happens to my driving privileges?
In most circumstances, you would have had an administrative license suspension, (Administrative License Suspension/Disqualification). Your Alberta Driver’s License would have been destroyed. 

This means that upon your release from police custody a 3 month provincial driving suspension will take effect. Once the 3 month expires, your licence will be suspended for 1 year but during that year you will be able to apply to have an ‘interlock’ device installed on your vehicle (a ‘breathalyzer’ type instrument installed in your vehicle at your cost) to again operate a vehicle under this restriction.

Consequences for driving while suspended vary but for a first offence you can expect to have your vehicle seized for 30 days and a summons issued compelling your attendance in court to answer to driving while suspended. If convicted, you may face an additional penalty and/or monetary fine.
If I am convicted of ‘impaired driving’, or ‘exceeding 80 mg/%’ or ‘refusing to provide a breath sample’, what penalties can I face?
For a first offence, a ‘typical’ decision will assess a monetary fine of at least $1,000 and a 1 year driving prohibition. Sometimes, the Judge will allow you to make an application for the installation of an ‘interlock’. This is not granted automatically, but, you can request this issue be addressed during sentencing by the Judge sitting on your matter in court. Subsequent offences can be discussed with an accused person’s legal counsel of their choice.
What is the ‘Ignition Interlock’ program?
The ignition interlock is an in-car blood alcohol screening device that prevents the operation of a motor vehicle if a driver’s blood alcohol is over a pre-set limit. Once the vehicle has started the driver is required to provide random samples of breath. It is located inside the vehicle and is connected to the vehicles ignition system.

A person convicted of impaired driving, (first offence), may be allowed to apply for ignition interlock after a period of time has passed under suspension. There is a program fee, an installation fee and a monthly monitoring fee. The cost can vary and is the responsibility of the offender. This instrument is available from a private company with information available from the courts.
I’ve heard that police can now stop me anywhere and demand a breath sample, including at my home. Is this true?

In December 2018, Bill C-46 introduced some changes to federal impaired driving legislation, two of which are attracting attention lately. One is mandatory alcohol screening, and the other is a change to the Criminal Code regarding the length of time after driving that a breath sample can be demanded. These two items are very different and unrelated, and should not be confused.


Mandatory alcohol screening (MAS): allows police to demand a breath sample from any driver who they lawfully stop. This means that if you are stopped by police for any lawful reason, you may be asked to provide a breath sample even if you do not show any signs of impairment. It is important to note that checking the sobriety of a driver is a lawful reason to stop a vehicle.


Example: your vehicle’s registration sticker is out of date. A police officer stops you to talk to you about the sticker, and also asks you to provide a breath sample.


This process is a fast and effective way to detect impairment and keep impaired drivers off the roads. As long as you are not impaired, you will be on your way quickly.


The “two-hour” change:


An amendment to the Criminal Code allows police to demand a breath sample in any location up to two hours after a person has been driving, and this sample can be used in court. This applies only if a driver is involved in a criminal driving offence, such as a hit and run.


Example: someone witnesses a vehicle hitting a pedestrian and driving away. The witness calls police. Police locate the vehicle and its driver at a residence an hour later, and ask the driver to provide a sample of breath.


It is important to note that police could always follow up on a witness report of impaired driving in this way. However, the justice system previously encountered difficulties charging some impaired drivers, because certain drivers were aware that if they consumed alcohol immediately after committing a criminal offence while driving impaired, they could argue these charges and have them dismissed. The change to the law will help limit the use of that defence and allow the justice system to better hold impaired drivers to account.