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Canadian Government Revamps DWI Laws

In DWI news from outside the state of Texas, the Canadian government has introduced what appear to be sweeping changes to their laws on impaired/intoxicated driving as part of an effort to completely revamp the transportation-related portions of their Criminal Code.

These changes were introduced concurrently with a marijuana legalization law and include provisions that address driving under the influence of marijuana. According to the CBC, the law allows police to demand a saliva sample when they suspect a driver is drug impaired. Failure of the saliva test can lead to additional tests including blood tests for marijuana.

The new laws will also create additional marijuana DWI offenses: “A driver who is found to have two nanograms but less than five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood could face a maximum fine of up to $1,000 (THC is the primary psychoactive found in cannabis). A driver who has a blood level of more than five nanograms of THC, or has been drinking alcohol and smoking pot at the same time, will face a fine and the possibility of jail time. In more serious cases, a drug-impaired driver could face up to 10 years if convicted.”

The CBC article notes the ongoing difficulty in testing drivers for marijuana intoxication. This is something we have discussed on this blog before and is perfectly summarized in a quote by Canadian MP Erin O’Toole “there are no proven, reliable tests yet available for determining impairment from marijuana use.”

The new laws will also change the way alcohol DWIs are treated. Most importantly, the law will allow Canadian police to demand a breathalyzer ample from any driver they have lawfully stopped; currently the police are required to show “reasonable suspicion” that a driver was impaired by alcohol before requiring a breath test. Another part of the law changes the DWI statute to cover drivers who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 “within two hours of driving” from the current wording of “at the time of driving.” This change is meant to address the common defense argument that a driver was not impaired while they were driving because they had only started drinking immediately before they drove, meaning that their BAC only reached 0.08 after they were finished driving. [Section 49.04(d) of the Texas Penal Code addressed the same issue by making DWI a Class A misdemeanor where a driver’s BAC is 0.15 or more “at the time the analysis was performed.”]

In a change that favors people convicted of DWI, the new laws will allow first-time DWI offenders to obtain an interlock device for their vehicle immediately. Currently, even first-time DWI offenders are required to wait a year before they are allowed to drive with an interlock device. The CBC article is available at the link below:

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