Operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs is a criminal offence across Canada and can come with very serious legal consequences, both criminal and civil. Impaired driving is a very serious and very common offence in Canada, and the law has developed over the past decades to reflect the need for deterrence of this conduct
In the criminal context, the Criminal Code of Canada stipulates that anyone convicted of an impaired driving offence is subject to mandatory penalties including heavy fines, driving prohibitions, and often jail time. For a first conviction, the minimum penalty is a $1000 fine and a one year nationwide driving prohibition, and of course, a criminal record of conviction. For a second conviction, the Criminal Code mandates a jail sentence of not less than 30 days. For each subsequent conviction, the law mandates a jail sentence of not less than 120 days.
Often for second and subsequent convictions, significant fines and prolonged driving prohibitions will also form part of the sentence. With a conviction for impaired driving causing bodily harm or death, very significant jail sentences are often imposed in Canada.
Non-criminal penalties for impaired driving can be very severe as well. Aside from serious criminal repercussions, people convicted of impaired driving often see their insurance premiums skyrocket and at times may have great difficulty obtaining insurance coverage altogether. Further, even if a criminal driving prohibition has expired, the Provincial Department of Motor Vehicles can reserve the right to not license an individual at all.
Not surprisingly, impaired driving can often result in car accidents. While there are certain implications for limiting insurance benefits for the impaired driver themselves when an accident occurs, generally speaking a third party who is injured as a result of an impaired driver’s negligence will still have the right to pursue civil action against that driver.
A person who is injured as a result of an impaired driver’s negligence can sue the impaired driver for damages (including pain and suffering, loss of income, loss of earning capacity, loss of valuable services, and cost of care) even while a criminal proceeding against the impaired driver is ongoing.
Being involved in a collision caused by impaired driving can be frustrating, scary, and even tragic. If you or a loved one has been involved in an impaired driving accident, it is always in your best interests to speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer to best understand your rights and options.