Driving while impaired by alcohol is a dangerous behaviour that is severely punished. In Québec, both the Highway Safety Code and the Criminal Code apply.
The Criminal Code is a federal law that applies in all Canadian provinces and territories. It sets out the provisions and penalties related to impaired driving (prison time, fines, driving prohibition periods, etc.).
“Every one commits an offence who operates a motor vehicle […] or has the care or control of a motor vehicle […], whether it is in motion or not:
For greater certainty, the reference to impairment by alcohol or a drug includes impairment by a combination of alcohol and a drug.”
Blood alcohol concentration is measured in milligrams using a calibrated screening device (often called a breathalyzer).
If a police officer has doubts regarding your ability to drive, he or she can have you perform physical coordination tests (balance, walking and eye movement tests) or ask you to blow into a breathalyzer, for example.
These tests are enough to place you under arrest. If required, a drug recognition expert could have you undergo a series of more extensive tests at the police station.
Refusing to blow into the breathalyzer or perform physical coordination tests is a criminal offence.
The law not only prohibits impaired driving, but also having the care or control of a vehicle while impaired. Here are some situations that can have the same consequences as impaired driving:
The Highway Safety Code is a provincial law that applies only in Québec. It sets out administrative measures and penalties for drinking and driving.
The SAAQ is responsible for applying these penalties and measures.
Do not rely on your blood alcohol concentration to know whether you are impaired. Several other factors can come into play. Fatigue, stress or illness may amplify the effects of alcohol, drugs or medication.
You can therefore be arrested for impaired driving even if your blood alcohol concentration is below 0.08.
If a police officer has doubts regarding a person’s ability to drive, he or she can have the driver undergo a series of tests, known as physical coordination tests (balance, walking and other tests) or have the driver blow into a breathalyzer, for example.
These tests are enough to place a driver under arrest.
A police officer may have sufficient grounds to place a driver under arrest for impaired driving simply by observing his or her behaviour.