Operation While Impaired by Alcohol or Drug (Offence)
|This page was last substantively updated or reviewed January 2020. (Rev. # 79696)|
|Operation While Impaired by Alcohol or Drug|
|s. 320.14 of the Crim. Code|
|Election / Plea|
summary proceedings must initiate within 12 months of the offence (786(2))
Sup. Court w/ Jury (*)
|Minimum||$1,000 + 12 months Driving Prohib.(first)|
30 days jail + 2 to 5 years Driving Prohib. (second)
120 days + 3 or more years Driving Prohib. (three or more)
|Maximum||2 years less a day or $5,000 fine|
|Avail. Disp.||same as summary|
|Minimum||same as summary|
|Maximum||10, 14 years or life incarceration|
Offences relating to Operation While Impaired by Alcohol or Drug are found in Part VIII.1 of the Criminal Code concerning "Offences Relating to Conveyances".
Section 320.14 describes 4 distinct but related offences.
|Crown Election||Defence Election
s. 320.14(1)(a) [peration while impaired]
|Hybrid Offence(s)||(* only if Crown proceeds by Indictment)||(under 14 years max)|
s. 320.14(4) [operation with low blood drug concentrations]
Offences under s. 320.14(4) [operation with low blood drug concentrations] are straight summary conviction offence. The trial must be held in provincial court.
Before the statutory increased penalties can be applied for convictions under s. 320.14 , notice of increased penalty under s. 727 must be given.
by Peace Officer
by Judge or Justice
s. 508(1), 512(1), or 788
s. 498, 499, and 501
a Judge or Justice
on a Release Order
s. 515 to 519
|Direct to Attend |
for Fingerprints, etc.
Identification of Criminals Act
s. 2 ID Crim. Act
|s. 320.14(1)(a) [peration while impaired]
s. 320.14(1)(b) [operation while over 80]
|s. 320.14(4) [operation with low blood drug concentrations]|
When charged under s. 320.14(1) [operation while impaired offences] and (4) [operation with low blood drug concentrations], the accused can be given an appearance notice without arrest under s. 497 or a summons. If arrested, he can be released by the arresting officer under s. 498 or 499 on an undertaking with or without conditions. He can also be released by a justice under s. 515.
- Reverse Onus Bail
If police decide to bring the accused before a Justice pursuant to s. 503, there will be a presumption against bail (i.e. a reverse onus) if the offence, prosecuted by indictment, was committed:
- while at large under s. 515 [bail release], 679 or 680 [release pending appeal or review of appeal] (s. 515(6)(a)(i));
- "for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association" with a criminal organization (s. 515(6)(a)(ii));
- where the offence involved a firearm, cross-bow, prohibited weapon restricted weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or explosive substance, while the accused was subject to a prohibition order preventing possession of these items (s. 515(6)(a)(viii)); or
- where the accused is not "ordinarily a resident in Canada" (s. 515(6)(b)).
- Fingerprints and Photos
A peace officer who charges a person under s. 320.14 [all operation offences of the Code can require that person to attend for the taking of fingerprints, photographs or other similar recordings that are used to identify them under the Identification of Criminals Act.
- Publication Bans
For all criminal or regulatory prosecutions, there is a discretionary general publication ban available on application of the Crown, victim or witness to prohibit the publishing of "any information that could identify the victim or witness" under s. 486.5(1) where it is "necessary" for the "proper administration of justice". Other available publication bans include prohibitions for publishing evidence or other information arising from a bail hearing (s. 517), preliminary inquiry (s. 539) or jury trial (s. 648). There is a mandatory publication ban in all youth prosecutions on information tending to identify young accused under s. 110 of the YCJA or young victims under s. 111 of the YCJA.
- Offence Designations
|AG Consent Required||Serious Criminality|
s. 36 IRPA
|s. 320.14(1) [operation while impaired offences]|
|s. 320.14(4) [operation with low blood drug concentrations]|
See below in Ancillary Sentencing Orders for details on designations relating to sentencing orders.
Offence wording as of December 18, 2018, see History below for previous versions.
Draft Form of Charges
|"THAT [accused full name] stands charged that, between the <DATE> day of <MONTH>, <YEAR> and <DATE> day of <MONTH>, <YEAR>***, at or near <COMMUNITY/TOWN/CITY>, <PROVINCE>, he [or she]..." OR|
|"THAT [accused full name] stands charged that, on or about the <DATE> day of <MONTH>, <YEAR>, at or near <COMMUNITY/TOWN/CITY>, <PROVINCE>, he [or she]..." OR|
|"AND FURTHER at the same time and place aforesaid, he [or she]..."|
|Code Section||Subject of Offence||Draft Wording|
|320.14(1)(a) (v1)||"..., while his ability to operate a conveyance was impaired by alcohol, or a drug or a combination of alcohol and a drug, did operate a conveyance, contrary to section 320.14(1)(a) of the Criminal Code.|
|320.14(1)(a) (v2)||"... did operate a conveyance while his ability to operate it was impaired, to any degree, by alcohol or a drug or by a combination of alcohol and a drug, contrary to section 320.14(1)(a) of the Criminal Code.|
|320.14(1)(b)||"... did, within two hours of ceasing to operate a conveyance, have a blood alcohol concentration that is equal to or exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood, contrary to section 320.14(1)(b) of the Criminal Code.|
|320.14(1)(c)||"... did, within two hours of ceasing to operate a conveyance, have a blood drug concentration that is equal to or exceeds the prescribed blood drug concentration, contrary to section 320.14(1)(c) of the Criminal Code.|
|320.14(1)(d)||"... did, within two hours of ceasing to operate a conveyance, have 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, contrary to section 320.14(1)(d) of the Criminal Code.|
|320.14(4)||"... did, within two hours of ceasing to operate a conveyance, have a blood drug concentration that is equal to or exceeds the prescribed blood drug concentration but less than the amount prescribed for an offence under s. 320.14(1)(c), contrary to section 320.14(4) of the Criminal Code.|
Proof of the Offences
Proving operating while impaired by drug or alcohol under s. 320.14(1)(a) should include:
Proving operating while BAC over 80 under s. 320.14(1)(b) should include:
Proving operation while blood drug exceeds regs re drug under s. 320.14(1)(c) should include:
Proving operation while blood alcohol and drug exceeds regs re blood under s. 320.14(1)(d) should include:
Proving Operation with low blood drug concentrations under s. 320.14(4) should include:
Interpretation of the Offence
Generally, the "evil" that the offence seeks to address is the combination of alcohol and motor vehicles as it tends to "breed danger".
The objective of criminalizing impair driving is to "discourage intoxicated people from even placing themselves in a position where they could set a vehicle in motion, while at the same time providing a way for a person to avoid liability when there was a reason for entering the vehicle other than to set it in motion".
The police do not simply have the statutory authority to investigate driver sobriety, but also have a legal duty to investigate.
There is a two-stage process whereby an officer may demand that a driver take a roadside screening test where the officer has reasonable suspicion that the driver has alcohol in his body. The second step allows the officer to demand a breathalyzer test where the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the driver committed an impaired driving offence.
The roadside screening device is not necessary in all circumstances. Its purpose is only to assist in forming reasonable grounds, which can sometimes be obtained by other means.
Mens Rea of Impaired Driving
The charge of impaired driving is a general intent offence. 
Part of the mens rea of the offence of impaired driving is made out by the accused's voluntary consumption of alcohol for the purpose of becoming intoxication or the accused "acting recklessly, aware that impairment could result, but persisting despite the risk". 
It is not necessary that the accused have actual knowledge of the effects of drugs or alcohol. Proof of recklessness is sufficient.
Where the voluntary consumption of alcohol is proven, there is a rebuttable presumption the mens rea is made out.  It is a point of "common experience" that consumption of alcohol or a drug is intoxicating and may result in impairment of a person's ability to operate a conveyance.
The intent to be impaired can be negated in certain circumstances where the accused's drink may have been drugged.
- R v Charles, 2013 BCSC 23 (CanLII), per Sigurdson J, at para 40
R v Mavin, 1997 CanLII 14625 (NL CA), 154 Nfld. & PEIR 242, per Marshall JA, at paras 37 to 39
Charles, supra, at para 41
R v Pomeroy, 2007 BCSC 142 (CanLII), 41 MVR (5th) 272, per Romilly J
R v Honish, 1993 CanLII 156 (SCC),  1 SCR 458, per Lamer CJ
R v King, 1962 CanLII 16 (SCC),  SCR 746, per Ritchie J, at p. 763 (SCR) ("The existence of mens rea as an essential ingredient of an offence and the method of proving the existence of that ingredient are two different things, and I am of opinion that when it has been proved that a driver was driving a motor vehicle while his ability to do so was impaired by alcohol or a drug, then a rebuttable presumption arises that his condition was voluntarily induced and that he is guilty of the offence created by s. 223 and must be convicted unless other evidence is adduced which raises a reasonable doubt as to whether he was, through no fault of his own, disabled when he undertook to drive and drove, from being able to appreciate and know that he was or might become impaired.")
- King, ibid.
- e.g. R v Sitarz, 2012 ONCJ 561 (CanLII), per Caldwell J
Levels of Impairment
- s. 320.14(1)(c)
|1||Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)||5 ng/mL of blood|
|2||Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)||Any detectable level|
|3||Psilocybin||Any detectable level|
|4||Psilocin||Any detectable level|
|5||Phencyclidine (PCP)||Any detectable level|
|6||6-Monoacetylmorphine||Any detectable level|
|7||Ketamine||Any detectable level|
|8||Cocaine||Any detectable level|
|9||Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB)||5 mg/L of blood|
|10||Methamphetamine||Any detectable level|
- s. 320.14(1)(d)
|2||tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) blood||2.5ng/1mL|
- s. 320.14(4)
|1||tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) blood||2ng/1mL|
- Blood Drug Concentration Regulations, SOR/2018-148
- Approved Drug Screening Equipment Order, SOR/2018-179
- Approved Breath Analysis Instruments Order, SI/85-201
- Order Approving Blood Sample Containers, SOR/2005-37
- Approved Screening Devices Order, SI/85-200
- Arrest and Detention
- Screening for Drugs or Alcohol
- Right to Counsel
- Proof of Impairment by Drugs or Alcohol
- Admission of Breath or Blood Sample
- Blood Sample Warrants in Impaired Driving Investigations
- Disclosure of Calibration Records of Screen Devices and Approved Instruments
- Prior to December 2018
- Screening Device (Until December 13, 2018)
- Breath Sample Demand (Until December 13, 2018)
- Blood Sample Seizure in Impaired Driving Investigations (Until December 13, 2018)
- Proof of Blood Alcohol Levels (Until December 13, 2018)
- Operation, Care or Control of a Vehicle (Until December 13, 2018)
- Refusal to Give a Sample (Until December 13, 2018)
Kienapple does not prevent a conviction for dangerous driving causing death or bodily harm and impaired driving causing bodily harm or death. The first offence concerns the ability to operate a vehicle while the second offence focuses on the manner in which the vehicle was operated.
The offence of impaired care and control of a motor vehicle is an included offence of impaired operation of a motor vehicle.
Participation of Third Parties
- Testimonial Aids
Certain persons who testify are entitled to make application for the use of testimonial aids: Exclusion of Public (s. 486), Use of a Testimonial Screen (s. 486), Access to Support Person While Testifying (s. 486.1), Close Proximity Video-link Testimony (s. 486.2), Self-Represented Cross-Examination Prohibition Order (s. 486.3), and Witness Security Order (s. 486.7).
A witness, victim or complainant may also request publication bans (s. 486.4, 486.5) and/or a Witness Identity Non-disclosure Order (s. 486.31). See also, Publication Bans, above.
- On Finding of Guilt
s. 606(4.1), (4.2)
|Victim Notice |
of Impact Statement
|s. x [x]|
Under s. 738, a judge must inquire from the Crown before sentencing whether "reasonable steps have been taken to provide the victims with an opportunity to indicate whether they are seeking restitution for their losses and damages".
Under s. 722(2), the judge must inquire "[a]s soon as feasible" before sentencing with the Crown "if reasonable steps have been taken to provide the victim with an opportunity to prepare" a victim impact statement. This will include any person "who has suffered, or is alleged to have suffered, physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss" as a result of the offence. Individuals representing a community impacted by the crime may file a statement under s. 722.2.
Sentencing Principles and Ranges
- Maximum Penalties
|s. 320.14 and 320.19||summary election||2 years less a day incarceration|
|s. 320.14 and 320.19||indictable election||10 years incarceration|
Offences under s. 320.14 and 320.19 are hybrid. If prosecuted by indictment, the maximum penalty is 5 years incarceration incarceration. If prosecuted by summary conviction, the maximum penalty is 10 years less a day jail.
- Minimum Penalties
|s. 320.14 and 320.19||No prior||$1,000 fine or 30 days incarceration||Same|
|s. 320.14 and 320.19||With one or more prior||120 days incarceration || Same|
For offences under s. 320.14 and 320.19, the minimum penalty is a $1,000 fine, 30 days incarceration jail with a prior conviction, or 120 days incarceration jail with two or more prior convictions.
There is some suggestion that a jail sentence can substitute for a fine, where there is no prior record.
- Available Dispositions
s. 718.3, 787
For offences under s. 320.19 without any prior convictions, discharges are not available.
For offences under s. 320.19 with a prior conviction, discharges, suspended sentences, stand-alone fines and conditional sentences are not available.
Despite any mandatory minimum penalties, the judge has discretion to substitute a mandatory sentence with a curative discharge for convictions under s. 253, which includes impaired driving and operating a vehicle with BAC level over 80mg/ml.
Section 731(1)(a) precludes the use of suspended sentences where there are mandatory minimums.
- Consecutive Sentences
There are no statutory requirements that the sentences be consecutive.
Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada.
There is a "pressing" need to address the problems that impaired driving creates.
Impaired driving causes "the most significant social loss to the country". Every impaired driver is a "potential killer". Every years impaired driving leaves a trail of "death, injury, heartbreak and destruction".
The predominant objectives to be considered is general deterrence and denunciation.
Deterrence and denunciation are especially important objectives when bodily harm is caused to another person.
- Government of Canada, Health Canada “Backgrounder: Changes to Impaired Driving Laws” 
- R v Ladouceur, 1990 CanLII 108 (SCC),  1 SCR 1257, per Sopinka J, at para 42
e.g. R v Beaudry, 2007 SCC 5 (CanLII),  1 SCR 190, per Charron J, at para 42
R v Bernshaw, 1995 CanLII 150 (SCC),  1 SCR 254 ("a far greater impact on Canadian society than any other crime")
R v Lahiry, 2011 ONSC 6780 (CanLII), 283 CCC (3d) 525, per Code J, at para 89
- Bernshaw, supra, per Cory J, at para 16 ("Every year, drunk driving leaves a terrible trail of death, injury, heartbreak and destruction. From the point of view of numbers alone, it has a far greater impact on Canadian society than any other crime. In terms of the deaths and serious injuries resulting in hospitalization, drunk driving is clearly the crime which causes the most significant social loss to the country.")
R v Clouthier, 2016 ONCA 197 (CanLII), 129 OR (3d) 481, per Watt JA, at para 54
R v Squires, 1995 CanLII 9848 (NL CA), 405 APR 84, per Gushue JA, at p. 5
R v McVeigh, 1985 CanLII 115 (ON CA), 22 CCC (3d) 145, per MacKinnon CJ, at p. 150
R v Proulx, 2000 SCC 5 (CanLII),  1 SCR 61, per Lamer CJ, at para 129
R v Lépine, 2007 QCCA 70 (CanLII),  JQ no 282, per curiam, at para 21
R v Brutus, 2009 QCCA 1382 (CanLII), per curiam, at para 18
R v Stimson, 2011 ABCA 59 (CanLII), 499 AR 185, per curiam, at para 21
R v McIlwrick, 2008 ABQB 724 (CanLII), 461 AR 16, per Ross J, at para 69
R v Junkert, 2010 ONCA 549 (CanLII), 103 OR (3d) 284, per O'Connor ACJ, at paras 46 to 47
R v Ruizfuentes, 2010 MBCA 90 (CanLII), 258 Man. R. (2d) 220, per Chartier JA, at para 36
R v Lacasse, 2015 SCC 64 (CanLII),  3 SCR 1089, per Wagner J, at para 5 ("In the context of offences such as the ones in the case at bar, namely impaired driving causing either bodily harm or death, courts from various parts of the country have held that the objectives of deterrence and denunciation must be emphasized in order to convey society’s condemnation")
R v Riggs, 2011 NLTD 26 (CanLII), 951 APR 54, per Handrigan JA, at para 37
R v Jacobs, 1982 ABCA 204 (CanLII), 70 CCC (2d) 569, per Laycraft JA (3:0)
R v Connolly, 2002 CanLII 41923 (NLPC),  NJ No 40 (P.C.), per Gorman J, at para 18
R v Alexson, 1987 CanLII 4900 (SK CA), 7 MVR (2d) 95 (Sask CA), per Tallis JA (3:0)
- R v Woodward, 1993 CanLII 8183 (NL CA), 108 Nfld & PEIR 240 (NLCA), per Steele JA
Clouthier, supra, at para 54 ("The predominant sentencing objectives in determining a fit sentence for alcohol-driving offences, especially those in which bodily harm is caused to a fellow human being, are general deterrence and denunciation")
R v Junkert, 2010 ONCA 549 (CanLII), 103 OR (3d) 284, per O'Connor ACJ (3:0), at paras 42 and 47
R v Biancofiore, 1997 CanLII 3420 (ON CA), 35 OR (3d) 782, per Rosenberg JA (3:0), at pp. 790-92
- BAC reading, esp. if exceeding 160mg (s. 255.1)
- other signs of a high degree of impairment
- injuries to other persons
- prior alcohol-related convictions, including dates
Generally, a custodial sentence is required when bodily harm is caused.
In Manitoba, impaired causing bodily harm will typically involve a range of sentence from 3 to 18 months.
In Nova Scotia, the range of sentence for impaired driving causing death with no prior record is 2 to 5 years.
- Persistent or Repeat Offenders
The protection of the public is paramount in sentencing "offenders who persistently drive motor vehicles when they are impaired or disqualified."
R v Clouthier, 2016 ONCA 197 (CanLII), 346 OAC 162, per Watt JA, at para 55
R v Biancofiore, 1997 CanLII 3420 (ON CA), 119 CCC (3d) 344, per Rosenberg JA, at p. 791
- R v MacDonald, 1999 CanLII 5083 (MB CA), 139 CCC (3d) 524, per Twaddle JA (2:1)
- R v Morine, 2011 NSSC 46 (CanLII), 945 APR 314, per Rosinski J, at para 79
- R v Clarke, 2013 SKCA 130 (CanLII), 56 MVR (6th) 163, per Jackson JA (3:0), at para 10
The only exception to the mandatory minimums is where a curative discharge is ordered by the court (only available in certain provinces).
Ancillary Sentencing Orders
- Offence-specific Orders
s. 320.14(1)(a) [Operation while impaired],
|Driving Prohibition (320.24)||s. 320.14(1) or 320.15(1)||Min. 1 year (1st time), 2 years (2nd time), 3 years (3rd time or more)|
|Forfeiture of Vehicle|
Offences under 320.14(4) [Operation with low blood drug concentrations] are not eligible for a DNA Order.
- General Sentencing Orders
|Non-communication order while offender in custody (s. 743.21)||any||The judge has the discretion to order that the offender be prohibited "from communicating...with any victim, witness or other person" while in custody except where the judge "considers [it] necessary" to communicate with them.|
|Restitution Orders (s. 738)||any||A discretionary Order is available for things such as the replacement value of the property; the pecuniary damages incurred from harm, expenses fleeing a domestic partner; or certain expenses arising from the commission of an offence under s.402.2 or 403.|
|Victim Fine Surcharge (s. 737)||any||A discretionary surcharge under s. 737 of 30% of any fine order imposed, $100 per summary conviction or $200 per indictable conviction. If the offence occurs on or after October 23, 2013, the order has smaller minimum amounts (15%, $50, or $100).|
- General Forfeiture Orders
|Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime (s. 462.37(1) or (2.01))||any||Where there is a finding of guilt for an indictable offence under the Code or the CDSA in which property is "proceeds of crime" and offence was "committed in relation to that property", the property shall be forfeited to Her Majesty the Queen on application of the Crown.|
|Fine in Lieu of Forfeiture (s. 462.37(3))||any||Where a Court is satisfied an order for the forfeiture of proceeds of crime under s. 462.37(1) or (2.01) can be made, but that property cannot be "made subject to an order", then the Court "may" order a fine in "an amount equal to the value of the property". Failure to pay the fine will result in a default judgement imposing a period of incarceration.|
|Forfeiture of Weapons or Firearms (s. 491)||any||Where there is finding of guilt for an offence where a "weapon, an imitation firearm, a prohibited device, any ammunition, any prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance was used in the commission of [the] offence and that thing has been seized and detained", or "that a person has committed an offence that involves, or the subject-matter of which is, a firearm, a cross-bow, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance has been seized and detained, that the item be an enumerated weapon or related item be connected to the offence", then there will be a mandatory forfeiture order. However, under s. 491(2), if the lawful owner "was not a party to the offence" and the judge has "no reasonable grounds to believe that the thing would or might be used in the commission of an offence", then it should be returned to the lawful owner.|
|Forfeiture of Offence-related Property (s. 490.1)||any||Where there is a finding of guilt for an indictable offence, "any property is offence-related property" where (a) by means or in respect of which an indictable offence under this Act or the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act is committed, (b) that is used in any manner in connection with the commission of such an offence, or (c) that is intended to be used for committing such an offence". Such property is to be forfeited to Her Majesty in right of the province.|
Record Suspensions and Pardons
Convictions under s. 320.14 are eligible for record suspensions pursuant to s. 3 and 4 of the Criminal Records Act after 5 years after the expiration of sentence for summary conviction offences and 10 years after the expiration of sentence for all other offences. The offender may not have the record suspended where the offender was (1) convicted of 3 or more offences with a maximum penalty of life, and (2) for each 3 offences he "was sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more".
On December 18, 2018, the provisions relating to impaired driving were removed and replaced with new provisions found between s. 320.13 to 320.18.
- Refusal (Offence)
- Operation While Impaired by Alcohol or Drug and Refusal (Repealed Offence) Offence prior to December 2018
- Impaired Driving and Over 80 (Offence Cases)