Impaired Driving Charges and License Suspensions: How Can I get my License back if I’m charged with an Impaired Driving Offence?
In 2018, significant changes to the law of impaired driving were made. Changes were made to the Federal Criminal Code and to the Provincial Traffic Safety Act. Both of these pieces of legislation will independently affect your ability to drive. One of the most significant changes for many Albertans is that the automatic Provincial license suspension that comes with an impaired driving charge is no longer linked to your criminal charges.
An automatic provincial license suspension has existed for many years. In 2018 the provincial law changed. Your provincial license suspension is imposed immediately upon being charged. You can apply for a restricted license with a blow box after 90 days. Your provincial suspension is now a full 15 months consisting of the 90 day waiting period and one full year after that. You are very unlikely to get a license back without participating in the one year blow box program.
You can and should apply to overturn your provincial suspension. You must do so within 30 days. Under the old provincial law your provincial suspension would end if you successfully beat the Criminal Charge. Under the new provincial law, even if you win your impaired driving charges you still must suffer the provincial suspension. If you have not appealed your license suspension within 30 days of being charged, you will lose your license for 15 months.
There are two different means by which you are issued a driving suspension when you are charged with an impaired driving related offence: the Criminal Code of Canada and the Traffic Safety Act. The Criminal Code suspension occurs after a conviction has been entered The Traffic Safety Act suspension begins immediately once you are charged with an impaired driving or related offence and continues for 15 months, unless it’s appealed. This blog will focus on suspensions under the Traffic Safety Act and how you can fight your license suspension right away.
Section 88.1(2.2) of the Traffic Safety Act requires peace officers to confiscate and suspend your driver’s license where they have reasonable probable grounds to believe:
- that a person operated a motor vehicle while the person’s ability to operate the motor vehicle was impaired to any degree by alcohol or a drug or by a combination of alcohol and a drug;
- that a person has within 2 hours after ceasing to operate a motor vehicle a blood alcohol concentration that is equal to or exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood;
- that a person has within 2 hours after ceasing to operate a motor vehicle a blood drug concentration that is equal to or exceeds any blood drug concentration for the drug that is prescribed by regulation under the Criminal Code (Canada);
- that a person has within 2 hours after ceasing to operate a motor vehicle a blood alcohol concentration and a blood drug concentration that is equal to or exceeds the blood alcohol concentration and the blood drug concentration for the drug that are prescribed by regulation
- under the Criminal Code (Canada) for instances where alcohol and that drug are combined; that a person, knowing that a demand has been made, failed or refused, without a reasonable excuse, to comply with a demand made on the person under section 320.27 or 320.28 of the Criminal Code (Canada).
An individual who is served with papers pursuant to section 88.1(2.2) will face two suspensions. The first suspension is for 90 days. During this time frame, the individual will not be allowed to drive at all. The second suspension is for one year. During this time frame, the individual will only be allowed if they have interlock (a blow box) installed in their vehicle and are operating that vehicle.
These suspensions must be appealed 30 days from the day it is imposed (usually the offence date or the date when you were pulled over). Exemptions (or exemptions) can also be obtained, however, they are very difficult to get an are only granted on very exceptional grounds. The grounds for the exemption are that it is not feasible for the individual to comply with the use of interlock. Requiring a vehicle for employment purposes or financial hardship do not qualify as grounds which would earn you an exemption. If an exemption is granted, the Traffic Safety Board can impose other conditions.