While the world watched Canada celebrate the legalization of cannabis on Oct. 17, there was another law, Bill C-46, that received relatively little attention despite having wide-ranging implications for all Canadians- whether you use cannabis or not.
Also known as “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts”, the biggest change being brought by Bill C-46 is mandatory alcohol screening as Canada brings its drunk driving regulations in line with its drug-impaired driving laws, but it also introduces significant increases to the penalties for alcohol-impaired driving as well.
Mandatory Alcohol Screening
Starting today, Dec. 18, Bill C-46 will give police the authority to demand a breath sample from any driver they pull over, and if the driver refuses, they can face charges. Previously, officers needed “reasonable suspicion” a driver was impaired before asking for a sample.
This greatly increases police powers and it’s one of the reasons Bill C-46 has been called “the most comprehensive reform to the Criminal Code impaired driving offence” by the CBC.
According to Global News, Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, and Ireland have implemented similar mandatory screening laws.
Bill C-46 also gets rid of the “bolus drinking defence” that drivers would sometimes use to argue they weren’t impaired by saying that they drank alcohol immediately before driving- which meant that the alcohol had not kicked in yet at the time they were pulled over. But now, Canadian drivers are prohibited from driving within two hours of being at or above the legal BAC limit, thanks to Bill C-46
Increased penalties under Bill C-46
According to Global News, these are the new penalties for drunk driving:
First offence, with blood alcohol content of 80-119 mg: mandatory minimum $1,000 fine
First offence, with blood alcohol content of 120-159 mg: mandatory minimum $1,500 fine
First offence, with blood alcohol content of 160 mg or more: mandatory minimum $2,500 fine
First offence, but refuse to be tested: mandatory minimum $2,000 fine
Second offence: mandatory minimum 30 days imprisonment
Third or more offence: mandatory minimum 120 days imprisonment
Maximum penalties for impaired driving causing no bodily harm or death: summary conviction carries two years less a day imprisonment, indictment carries 10 years imprisonment
Maximum penalties for impaired driving causing bodily harm: Summary conviction for less severe injuries carries two years less a day imprisonment, indictment carries 14 years imprisonment
Maximum penalty impaired driving causing death: life imprisonment