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On December 18, 2018, Canada’s new DUI laws came into effect. The new DUI laws have brought in a number of unprecedented changes that have DUI lawyers revamping their defence strategies and taking extra steps to inform their clients on how to protect themselves. Here are 3 changes that every driver needs to be aware of.


1.Mandatory Alcohol Screening - A large majority of DUI investigations start with a failed roadside screening test. Prior to December 2018, a police officer needed to have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that a driver had alcohol in their body before they could lawfully demand a roadside screening breath sample. This ‘reasonable suspicion’ was often based on an admission of consumption or an odour of alcohol being isolated to the driver – a fairly low bar to meet.


With the new changes in place, now any police officer conducting a traffic stop can make an immediate demand for a roadside screening sample, without having any grounds. All that is required is for the police officer to have a screening device in their possession at the time they make the demand.


Even with the samples being entirely random, driver’s still are obligated to comply or they will be charged. They are also still not entitled to a consultation with a DUI lawyer before being required to provide samples.


2. Mandatory Minimum Sentencing – First Offence


Mandatory minimum sentences have received a lot of push back from the Courts in recent years – particularly relating to sexual assault and weapons offences. However, there have been mandatory minimum sentences for impaired driving offences for years.  


Previously, for a first time offender, the mandatory minimum sentence was a 1 year driving prohibition (with interlock eligibility in 3 months in Alberta), and a $1000 fine. This mandatory minimum was available for all first time offenders convicted of an impaired, over 80, or refusal.


Now, the mandatory minimum sentence depends on the offence and your blood alcohol content:


First time offender – Impaired:  $1000


First time offender – Excessive Blood Alcohol: 80-119 mg%:               $1000

                                                                                       120-159 mg%:             $1500

                                                                                        >180 mg%:                 $2000


First time offender – Refusal to Provide:  $2000


Each of these sentences is also accompanied with a one year driving prohibition and immediate interlock eligibility.


Some additional information, and a helpful chart, on the DUI mandatory minimum sentencing regime can be found here. 


3. Time of Driving + 2 hours


This is perhaps the most interesting new change in the law – and the one that is most troubling for DUI Lawyers and their clients.


Previously, the offence was impaired driving – meaning at the time you were driving, your ability to drive a motor vehicle was impaired by alcohol, or your blood alcohol content was over the limit while you were driving the vehicle.  


Now, it is an offence to be impaired, or have an excessive blood alcohol content, for up to 2 hours after the time of driving. This means that you can be approached and a sample demanded from you even if you are not presently driving a motor vehicle…but had been in the previous 2 hours.


If you can demonstrate that you consumed alcohol after you were driving, and in a sufficient quantity that you would have been unimpaired, or under the legal limit, at the time of driving, then you may have a defence. This defence will at best require proof of amount of consumption and an expert opinion, which will add time and expense to any trial matter.


If you have been charged under the new legislation, or have any questions about the new DUI Laws, contact Roadlawyers today.

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