This time of year we are reminded about the perils of driving after consuming alcohol and/or drugs. The COVID restrictions may have some impact on the frequency of that happening.
Below are some frequently asked questions about drinking and driving.
Question: Do the police need an excuse to stop you?
Answer: No. In Saskatchewan the police can conduct a traffic stop to check for license and registration and to see if the driver is impaired.
Question: Do the police need grounds to demand that I provide a roadside sample of my breath?
Answer: The Criminal Code provides that the police can ask any individual who they find operating a motor vehicle to provide a sample of their breath into a roadside device if the police have the device in their possession. The test result cannot be used as evidence against the individual but a warn or fail indication will have implications.
Question: What happens if I blow a warn on a roadside device?
Answer: Your license will be suspended for three days and your vehicle impounded.
Question: What happens if I blow a fail on a roadside test or fail a drug recognition test?
Answer: You will be asked to provide a breath sample to determine your blood alcohol content or to attend for a drug evaluation test. You will be transported to the nearest police detachment for the purpose of administering the test.
Question: Am I entitled to speak to a lawyer?
Answer: You are not entitled to speak to a lawyer prior to taking a roadside test provided it is administered promptly. If you are arrested and taken to the police station you are entitled to speak to a lawyer prior to providing a breath sample to determine your blood alcohol content or prior to performing a drug evaluation test to determine if you are impaired by drug consumption.
Question: Am I entitled to phone any lawyer I wish?
Answer: The police have to give you a reasonable opportunity to contact your own legal counsel. If your legal counsel is not available, duty counsel is available 24 hours a day and the police are obligated to give you an opportunity to speak to legal counsel before administering the test.
Question: If I blow over the legal limit or the police charge me with alcohol and/or drug impairment, what will happen to me?
Answer: The police will issue you papers suspending your license immediately and giving you notice of when you have to appear in Court. If you are impaired to the degree of not being capable of looking after yourself and your release is not safe, you may be held in custody until you sober up.
Question: What happens if I am convicted of impaired driving or refusal to provide a breath sample or take a drug recognition or evaluation test?
Answer: If it is a first offence your license will be suspended for a minimum of one year. You will receive a minimum fine of $1,000.00 plus surcharge. You will be eligible to apply for a restricted license and the ability to drive using an alcohol interlock device after completing an alcohol assessment and taking a driving without impairment course. Second or subsequent convictions can result in a mandatory jail sentence and will result in a lengthier license suspension.
Question: Does eating food or drinking coffee reduce my blood alcohol content or reduce my level of impairment?
Answer: No it does not. Your blood alcohol level is determined by the amount of alcohol you consume, the time period over which it is consumed, and how much you weigh.
Question: Is it illegal to drive after having consumed alcohol or drugs?
Answer: In Canada, it is not. It is only an offence if you are impaired. While amendments to the Criminal Code have recently changed the actual offences and the manner in which they are proven, it is primarily illegal to drive while you are impaired or where your blood alcohol level is at .08 or higher. That does create some problems in that you have to make an assessment of whether you have consumed enough alcohol to be impaired or over the legal limit. The best way to avoid that problem is to not drive at all after you have consumed alcohol or drugs.
While our advice to you is not to drink or consume drugs and drive, if you do encounter a situation where you need legal advice, contact one of the lawyers in our Defence Group, or call one of our 24-hour phone numbers:
Regina: (306) 565-5128
Saskatoon: (306) 665-5412
All the best of the season and lets all hope and pray for a better and healthier 2021.
Aaron A. Fox, Q.C.
McDougall Gauley Defence Group
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