Impaired Driving Laws in Canada and Nova Scotia in Particular

Impaired driving remains one of Canada’s most significant public safety concerns. Police data indicates that in a recent year, impaired driving was up 19%, causing significant injuries and even death to Canadian motorists. Legalizing cannabis is also causing concerns about increased impaired driving on Canadian roadways, sparking changes in the Canadian legal system with regard to impaired driving.

At Wagners, our personal injury lawyer Halifax knows the devastating toll an impaired driving accident can take on a victim. Understanding Canada and Nova Scotia’s unique impaired driving laws can give you the power to seek justice and the compensation you deserve if you were injured by an impaired driver.

What Is Impaired Driving in Canada and Nova Scotia?

In Canada, impaired driving refers to operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. It is also considered a serious criminal offence.

A driver can face impaired driving charges under several different circumstances. What is the DUI limit in Nova Scotia? It depends on the substance. First, a driver can be impaired if their blood alcohol concentration exceeds the legal limit of 80 milligrams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.

Cannabis is also considered an impairing substance. There are two prohibited levels for THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Between 2 and 5 nanograms of THC per ml of blood can result in a less serious impairment offence. Five or more nanograms of THC per ml of blood triggers a more severe violation.

Canada also has prohibited levels of alcohol and cannabis when found in combination in the blood. 50 mg or more of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, paired with 2.5 ng or more of THC per ml of blood, can result in an impairment charge. Additionally, having any detectable amount of other drugs like LSD, ketamine, cocaine, methamphetamine, or PCP is strictly prohibited.

Impaired driving is prohibited throughout all of Canada. Is drug-impaired driving illegal in all of Canada? Yes.

Changes to Canada’s and Nova Scotia’s Impaired Driving Laws

What is the new DUI law in Canada? Canada recently introduced amended legislation strengthening impaired driving laws and changing the legal landscape regarding cannabis consumption and driving. When did impaired driving laws change in Canada? With the introduction of Bill C-46 on April 13, 2017, Canada made penalties for impaired drivers stricter while adding language to address cannabis consumption while behind the wheel.

The first section of the new impaired driving laws Canada legislation focused on creating new offences for having drugs in a driver’s system within two hours of driving. The measure also authorizes police officers to use oral fluid drug screenings. Oral fluid screeners help police detect the presence of some drugs in oral fluids. The devices are fast and non-invasive. Officers also have a greater ability to collect blood samples as long as they have reasonable grounds to believe that a driver is impaired.

The measure also creates three new offences targeting impaired drivers under the influence of the psychoactive component in cannabis, THC.

Nova Scotia Impaired Driving

Nova Scotia recognizes that not all impairment-causing drugs are illegal. Although alcohol and cannabis are the most common substances that cause impairment in Nova Scotia drivers, over-the-counter and prescription medication can alter a driver’s faculties, too.

The government recommends drivers avoid taking certain prescription drugs before getting behind the wheel and lists analgesics, antidepressants, sedatives, muscle relaxants, and antipsychotic drugs as medications that may affect driving skills.

What Is the Punishment for Impaired Driving in Canada?

Impaired driving poses a significant threat to public health and safety. As such, it is considered a significant crime that can carry heavy penalties in Canada. Depending on the charge and how many impaired driving offences an individual has on their record, the criminal code of Canada impaired driving penalties can include fines and prison time.

Penalties for Alcohol, Drug, or Combination Impairment 

What is the Canadian sentencing law and impaired driving?

1st Offence

  • Mandatory minimum $1000 fine
  • Maximum ten years imprisonment

2nd Offence

  • Mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment
  • Maximum ten years imprisonment

3rd Offence

  • Mandatory minimum 120 days imprisonment
  • Maximum ten years imprisonment

Impaired Driving Causing Bodily Harm

  • Summary conviction – Maximum 2 years imprisonment less one day
  • Indictment – Maximum 14 years imprisonment

Impaired Driving Causing Death Penalties

1st Offence + BAC of 80 to 119mg

  • Mandatory minimum $1000 fine
  • Indictment maximum life imprisonment

1st Offence + BAC of 120 to 159mg

  • Mandatory minimum $1500 fine
  • Indictment maximum life imprisonment

1st Offence + BAC of 160mg or more

  • Mandatory minimum $2000 fine
  • Indictment maximum life imprisonment

Drivers may also face penalties if they refuse to comply with an officer’s demand for a breath sample. The minimum fine for refusal to comply is $2000.

Additional Impaired Driving Penalties

There are additional penalties an impaired driver may face for an impaired driving conviction. In Nova Scotia, an impaired driving conviction can remain on your driving record for up to ten years. In Nova Scotia, your driving record is called an abstract. An abstract contains information about Motor Vehicle Act convictions, accidents, and departmental postings. Most driver abstracts contain a five-year collision history and a ten-year history of alcohol-related convictions and revocations.

An impaired driving conviction may also earn a driver a place on Nova Scotia’s Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program. Those in the programs must install an alcohol interlock device in their vehicle. It is a small, hand-held breathing device that measures a person’s BAC. If the device detects alcohol past a pre-set limit, the vehicle will not start.

Drivers convicted of impaired driving may also face higher insurance premiums, higher insurance deductibles, the loss of driving privileges, and a criminal record. How long does a DUI stay on your driving record in Nova Scotia? At least six years.

Can You Lose Your Driver’s License in Nova Scotia for Impaired Driving?

You can lose your driver’s license in Nova Scotia if convicted of impaired driving. Impaired driving is one of the most significant offenses a driver can commit in Nova Scotia. How long do you lose your license for a DUI in Nova Scotia? For an impaired driving conviction for the first time, you can face a minimum license suspension of one year.

Subsequent convictions will result in longer suspensions, higher fines, and potentially even imprisonment. A second impaired driving conviction can mean a driver loses their license for three years, while a third offence within ten years means the indefinite revocation of driving privileges. Nova Scotia can permanently revoke driving privileges if an individual reaches a fourth offence within ten years.

Common Injuries Associated with Impaired Driving Accidents

Sadly, impaired driving remains a significant public safety issue and one of Canada’s leading criminal cases of death. Alcohol and drugs can depress areas in the brain responsible for higher function, leading to poor judgment, slow reaction time, and limited sensory perception. Drivers under the influence cannot respond to changes or potential hazards in the same way vigilant drivers can. The result is often an unfortunate and tragic accident.

Driving while impaired impacts everyone on the road and can lead to significant injuries and even death. Some of the most common injuries associated with impaired driving accidents can include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Paralysis
  • Other head, neck, and spine injuries
  • Facial injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Soft tissue damage
  • Organ damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Lacerations
  • Contusions

Individuals involved in impaired driving accidents may also experience depression and anxiety. In severe cases, some accident victims may develop signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Talk to a Skilled Nova Scotia Impaired Driving Accident Lawyer Immediately

Have you been involved in an accident with an impaired driver? At Wagner’s, our legal team understands the complex emotions that can accompany a traumatic accident. We want to help you through the claim process, recover the money you deserve, and hold impaired drivers accountable for their actions. Discuss your situation with an experienced Nova Scotia impaired driving accident lawyer for more information on your legal options.

Reach out to our legal team today to arrange a confidential consultation. We are committed to protecting you and your legal rights following an accident involving an impaired driver.

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