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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’s policy and procedure. All circumstances are unique and may be dealt with in a different manner than described.

I’ve been issued Immediate Roadside Sanctions for Impaired Driving. What happens now?
Generally, on your first offence you will be issued a Notice of Administrative Penalty, which describes the length of time your car will be seized for, the length of time your licence will be suspended for, and the fine amount. 

Depending on the circumstances you may also be criminally charged. People charged with impaired driving are usually also requested to provide a breath sample. These will eventually form two 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in 100 millilitres of blood); however, if found guilty only one conviction is usually entered, and the other charge withdrawn.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 will be issued an administrative license suspension, (Immediate Roadside Sanctions) and your Alberta Driver’s Licence would have been destroyed. 

This means that upon your release from police custody, a 90-day provincial driving suspension will take effect. Once the 90 days expires, your licence will be suspended for at least one year. 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.
What penalties can I face under the Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS) program?
For a first offence, under the IRS-FAIL program you will be issued a 90-day licence suspension. After the 90-day suspension, your licence will be suspended for an additional year; however, during this year you may apply to have an interlock device installed on your vehicle to operate under this suspension. You will also be issued a $1000 fine. 

The Administrative Penalties issued under this program are not heard in court but can be appealed through SafeRoads Alberta. More information about the Immediate Roadside Sanctions Program, appeal process and Administrative Penalties can be found here.
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 an ignition interlock after a period of time has passed under the 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.

More information about the Ignition Interlock Program can be found here.
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, so they 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 then 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.