Getting behind the wheel of your golf cart after a great drive off the first tee. Hopping on your riding lawnmower to give your grass a fresh cut on a Sunday afternoon. Paddling a canoe at sunrise on a lake that is smooth as glass. 

All of these activities are synonymous with summer, but what else do they have in common?

Engaging in these activities while under the influence of drugs or alcohol could land you with an impaired driving charge and a criminal record.

Conveyances and Motor Vehicles

The Criminal Code of Canada makes it an offence to operate a “conveyance” while your ability to do so is impaired by drugs or alcohol. “Conveyance” is broadly defined, and includes motor vehicles, vessels, aircraft and railway equipment.

“Motor vehicle” is even more broadly defined, including any vehicle that is “drawn, propelled or driven by any means other than muscular power.”

What this means is that in addition to cars, trucks and motorcycles, you can be charged with impaired driving while operating an ATV, snowmobile, motorized scooter – and even a golf cart or riding lawnmower.

And law enforcement do in fact lay these charges. In July of 2020, an Ontario man was charged with impaired driving after crashing his golf cart on the fairway of his local course. In 2019, a man in Prince Edward Island was arrested while riding his lawnmower on a dirt road. He was charged with impaired driving and failing to provide a breath sample to an officer.

Things that are not included the definition of “motor vehicle” are pedal bikes and skateboards. This means you should not be charged with impaired driving while operating these muscular powered modes of transportation. However you may still be at risk of picking up public intoxication ticket.  

Vessels

It is also illegal to operate a vessel while impaired. This includes boats – and more recently – canoes.

In 2017, an Ontario man capsized his canoe, resulting in the death of an 8 year-old boy. The man was charged with impaired operation of a vessel causing death, operating a vessel with more than 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood, dangerous operation of a vessel, and criminal negligence causing death.

The definition of “vessel” in the Criminal Code does not exclude muscular powered vessels like “motor vehicle” does. This opened the door for the judge deciding the case to determine that canoes, and any type of muscular powered, water, “pleasure craft”, should be considered a “vessel”.

How far this definition could extend is unknown, but the decision leaves it open to have other water pleasure craft – such as kayaks and paddleboards – to be deemed illegal to operate while impaired.

What does this all mean?

There is no question that it is illegal to operate all conveyances, motor vehicles and vessels while impaired. However, this does not mean that law enforcement is actively looking to lay these charges on individuals golfing or mowing their lawn. It is possible though, and is more likely to occur when the person is causing a disturbance or engaging in other illegal activity.  

If you do find yourself with an impaired driving charge, in relation to any conveyance, reach out to the McDougall Gauley Defence Group, who has a number of lawyers with experience defending all matters of criminal driving offences.  

Their contact information is available on the McDougall Gauley website.  They also can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at the following numbers:

Regina: (306) 565-5128
Saskatoon: (306) 665-5412

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