New Brunswick has strict impaired driving laws that include immediate suspensions for those caught with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in the warning range between .05 and .08 and a 30-day suspension for BAC at or above .08 with criminal charges. Police officers also have the power to seize vehicles and suspend licenses if drivers show signs of drug impairment. The province's Motor Vehicle Act and Canada's Criminal Code both govern impaired driving, including laws related to the legalization of cannabis. Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, prescription medications, and over-the-counter drugs can result in serious penalties, including criminal charges.
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New Brunswick Impaired Driving
*Generally, the Criminal Code is the basis for impaired driving charges, but there may be supplementary sanctions under provincial law.
New Brunswick amended its Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) in 2017 to add immediate suspensions for those who drive while impaired. A year later, the province also increased its penalties for drug-impaired driving.
If you are pulled over while driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in the warning range between .05 and .08, you will face a seven-day licence suspension for a first offence within five years. If you are caught with a BAC at or above .08, your licence will be immediately suspended for 30 days, and you will face criminal charges.
If you are stopped and show signs of impairment by drugs, police will have the power to seize your vehicle and immediately suspend your driver’s licence.
Police officers also have discretion under the MVA to suspend your licence for 24 hours if they have reasonable grounds to believe you are unfit to drive safely for medical or other reasons.
You Face Charges Under the MVA and Criminal Code
The MVA governs the rights and responsibilities of drivers, and the legislation includes laws to deal with impaired driving. You can also be charged under Canada’s Criminal Code. You face criminal charges if you drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) equal to or above 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (.08). It’s not just alcohol that can impair your ability to drive. Over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications can impact your ability to drive.
The federal government also amended the Criminal Code in 2018 to deal with the legalization of cannabis. 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.
It is a more serious offence to have five ng or more of THC per ml of blood. The combined prohibited levels of alcohol and cannabis is 50 mg or more of alcohol per 100 ml of blood and 2.5 ng or more of THC per ml of blood.
Mandatory Alcohol Screening
Police no longer need proof to demand a breath test if you have been pulled over at a roadside stop. The federal government introduced mandatory alcohol screening (MAS) in 2018, allowing police to demand that drivers submit to a breath test even if there is no reasonable suspicion that alcohol has been consumed.
Failure or refusing to comply with a demand by the police, including refusing to submit to a breath test, comes with consequences. A conviction can result in penalties under s. 320.15 (1) of the Criminal Code, which is the same as blowing over .08, can result in a minimum $2,000 fine, imprisonment and a licence suspension.
Immediate Licence Suspension
Under the updated New Brunswick laws, you will be subject to a short-term licence suspension if you are caught driving with a BAC within the warning range of .05 and .08. Previously, these suspensions lasted seven days and were not recorded on your driving record. However, they become part of your record and escalate with each offence.
You will face the following:
- a seven-day suspension for a first offence within the past five years;
- a 15-day suspension for a second offence within the past five years; and
- a 30-day suspension, an increased licence reinstatement fee of $230 and participation in a drinking driver education course for three or more offences within the past five years. The driver will also be eligible for the voluntary interlock program.
All New Brunswick motorists under 21 must maintain a .0 BAC while driving. If you are found to have a blood alcohol concentration between .05 and .08, your licence can be immediately suspended for seven days. Your Graduated Licence Program must also be restarted from the beginning. If you register .08 or more, you will receive a 90-day administrative licence suspension and face criminal charges.
Your Vehicle Will Be Impounded
Your vehicle can be immediately impounded, and you must pay the towing and storage charges if caught driving impaired. The impoundment program applies to short-term licence suspensions and Criminal Code alcohol-impaired driving cases.
If you have a BAC between .05 and .08 your vehicle will be impounded for:
- three days for a first offence within five years (discretionary);
- seven days for a second offence within five years (discretionary);
- seven days for a third and subsequent offence within five years (mandatory).
If you are caught with a BAC over 0.08, your vehicle will be impounded for:
- 30 days for a first suspension or for failing or refusing to provide a breath sample within 10 years (mandatory);
- 60 days after a previous suspension or for failing or refusing to give a breath sample within 10 years (mandatory);
What Happens if You are Convicted
Under the Criminal Code, a first conviction for driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more will result in a minimum $1,000 fine and a minimum one-year licence suspension. Court also has the discretion to impose a jail sentence depending on the circumstances of your case. If it is your second offence, you can expect a fine, licence suspension, and a minimum 30-day jail sentence. The penalty for a third or subsequent conviction includes a minimum 120-day jail term.
You can be imprisoned for up to 10 years if you are convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm. If you are found guilty of impaired driving causing death, you could be imprisoned for life.
Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program
An alcohol ignition interlock device prevents you from starting your vehicle if you are under the influence of alcohol. Once the ignition is started, you will be expected to provide breath samples intermittently as long the vehicle is running. If a sample is not provided or your BAC is over the legal limit, the device will register the event, warn you, and trigger an alarm that will sound until you turn the ignition off.
Under the program, you will be issued a restricted driver’s licence and only be allowed to operate vehicles equipped with a device. As well you will be required to take a drinking driver education course. You will be expected to pay for the rental and installation of the interlock.