Driving while impaired by drugs or medication is a dangerous and highly reprehensible behaviour that is severely punished by the Criminal Code and the Highway Safety Code.
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, including 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.”
You could be arrested for driving while impaired by drugs or medication, not only for driving while impaired by alcohol.
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 a breathalyzer or perform physical coordination tests is a criminal offence that automatically results in stiffer penalties.
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 that can be imposed at 2 specific times.
The SAAQ is responsible for applying these penalties and measures.
Don't depend on your blood alcohol concentration to know if you are impaired. Several other factors can come into play. Fatigue, stress or illness may amplify the effects of alcohol, drugs or medication.
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.