In 2019, Manitoba amended its Highway Traffic Act (HTA), introducing penalties for those who blow even close to the legal limit during a roadside breathalyzer test. If you register a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 to .079, your vehicle will be impounded for three days, and you will face an administrative penalty of $400. Your licence will also be suspended for three days. If there is a person under the age of 16 in the car, that suspension jumps to seven days. If you receive a breathalyzer warning a second time within 10 years, you will receive an immediate 15-day driver’s licence suspension. That increases to 30 days for a third warning and 60 days for a fourth warning within 10 years. If you are caught with a BAC of .08 or more, and you are convicted in court, the penalties are much more severe and could include jail time.
Table of Contents:
Manitoba’s Impaired Driving Laws
*Generally, the Criminal Code is the basis for impaired driving charges, but there may be supplementary sanctions under provincial law.
Each province and territory in Canada is responsible for its roadways. In Manitoba, the HTA governs the rights and responsibilities of drivers and includes laws to deal with impaired driving. Impaired drivers can also be charged under Canada’s Criminal Code.
According to Section 320.14 (1) of the Code, it is considered a crime to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 percent or higher. The legal limit is defined as having a BAC level equal to or exceeding 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. Driving with a BAC level above this limit can result in a criminal conviction.
Alcohol is not the only substance that can impair your ability to drive. Prescription medication and over-the-counter drugs can impact your driving ability, especially if combined with even a small amount of alcohol. The federal government also updated the Criminal Code to deal with the legalization of cannabis in 2018. The Code makes it an offence to have between two and five nanograms of THC (the primary psychoactive component of cannabis) per ml of blood when operating a vehicle.
Having five ng or more THC per ml of blood is a more serious offence. The combined prohibited levels of alcohol and cannabis are 50 mg or more of alcohol per 100 ml of blood and 2.5 ng or more of THC per ml of blood.
Manitoba’s impaired driving laws apply when operating all motor vehicles, including infrastructure and agricultural equipment, off-road vehicles, boats, aircraft and railway equipment. Under the province’s Graduated Licensing Program, novice drivers in the first five years of driving cannot have any trace of alcohol in their blood.
Mandatory Alcohol Screening
It is important to remember that police no longer need proof, such as the smell of alcohol, to demand a breath test. In December 2018, the federal government introduced mandatory alcohol screening (MAS), allowing police to demand that drivers submit to a breathalyzer during a roadside stop.
Refusing to provide a breath sample will also result in charges, and include a two-year licence suspension for a first conviction, seven years for a second conviction, a 10-year suspension for a third conviction and a lifetime suspension for four or more convictions within 10 years.
As well, your vehicle will be impounded for at least 60 days if you fail to provide a breath, oral fluid, or blood sample or refuse to participate in a physical coordination test or drug recognition evaluation test.
Punishment Can be Immediate
If you are operating a motor vehicle, boat, aircraft or railway equipment, your driver's licence can be immediately suspended if:
- police believe you are unable to safely operate a motor vehicle due to being under the influence of a drug;
- you fail an oral fluid drug screening device test or register "warn" or a "fail" on a breath screening device;
- you have a blood alcohol concentration equal to or over .05;
- you fail a physical coordination test; or
- police determine that they are too impaired to perform a physical coordination test or to comply with a demand to supply a breath, oral fluid, or blood sample.
Your driver's licence can be suspended for three months if:
- you refuse to provide a breath, oral fluid, or blood sample;
- you refuse to take part in a physical coordination test or drug recognition evaluation test;
- you fail to follow police instructions during the relevant tests; or
- you register a BAC equal to or over .08 or have blood test results exceeding legal levels.
Under Manitoba's Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP), if you register a "WARN" (a BAC of .05 to .079) on a breathalyzer, your vehicle will be impounded for three days. The fine increases to $600, a 30-day vehicle impoundment for a third offence, and a mandatory ignition interlock.
Under the IRP, a first-time offender who registers a BAC of .08 or over who is not involving serious bodily harm, death, or other significant aggravating circumstances can face an immediate penalty of $700, mandatory ignition interlock use for one year, driver's licence suspension for three months and vehicle impoundment for 30 days.
What Happens if You Are Convicted
Along with the immediate roadside sanctions, police can lay criminal charges. If you are convicted of impaired driving, you face a minimum $1,000 fine for a first conviction that can jump to a minimum of $1,500 for a BAC between .12 and .16.
There is a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days for a second conviction and 120 days for subsequent convictions. There is also a minimum one-year driving prohibition for a first conviction, two years for a second conviction and a minimum three-year driving prohibition for subsequent convictions.
If you are convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm, you could be imprisoned for up to 10 years. A conviction for impaired driving causing death is punishable by a maximum life in prison.
If you are convicted under the Criminal Code, you also face the following licence suspensions under Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act:
- One year for a first conviction for driving impaired or driving at or over .08, five years for a second conviction, 10 years for a third conviction and a lifetime suspension for four or more convictions within 10 years.
- Two years for a first conviction for refusing to provide a breath or blood sample, seven years for a second conviction, 10 years for a third conviction and a lifetime suspension for four or more convictions within 10 years.
- Five years for a first conviction for impaired driving causing bodily harm or death, 10 years for a second conviction and a lifetime suspension for three convictions or more within 10 years.
If you have been convicted you will have to use an ignition interlock device, which requires a breath sample from the driver to start the engine. Impaired drivers who have conditional licences are also required to use the device. You would be expected to pay $1,500 to install and use the device.
You must also pay towing costs, storage costs and a provincial impoundment fee before their vehicles can be released. According to the Manitoba government, the approximate cost is $645 for a 30-day impoundment and $1,350 for a 90-day impoundment.
If your driver's licence is suspended you may have to pay a driver's licence reinstatement charge of $50.