Newfoundland and Labrador's Highway Traffic Act (HTA) was amended in 2017 to reduce impaired driving incidents. If caught with a BAC of .08 or higher, drivers face immediate suspension of their license for 24 hours, criminal charges, fines, one-year driving prohibition, and possible prison time if someone is injured or killed. Novice drivers and drivers under 22 have a zero-tolerance policy, and their vehicles will be impounded if they have a BAC greater than zero. The federal government introduced mandatory alcohol screening in 2019, giving police the right to demand a breath test. Refusing the test leads to the same penalties as blowing over .08.
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Newfoundland and Labrador Impaired Driving
*Generally, the Criminal Code is the basis for impaired driving charges, but there may be supplementary sanctions under provincial law.
Newfoundland and Labrador amended its Highway Traffic Act (HTA) in 2017 to reduce the province's impaired driving incidents. If you are caught with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher, your driver's licence will be immediately suspended for 24 hours. You will also be charged criminally and face a fine, a one-year driving prohibition and even prison if you have injured or killed someone.
Provincial and Federal Responsibility
If you are charged with driving with a blood alcohol concentration equal to or over 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (.08), you can face penalties under Newfoundland's HTA and the Canadian Criminal Code.
It is important to remember that impaired driving is not limited to driving under the influence of alcohol. Prescription medication and over-the-counter drugs can affect your driving ability, especially if combined with even a small amount of alcohol.
In 2018, the federal government updated the Criminal Code to deal with the legalization of cannabis. THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. It is an offence to have between two and five nanograms of THC per ml of blood when operating a vehicle.
It is a more serious offence if you are caught operating any conveyance with five ng or more of THC per ml of blood. The combined prohibited level 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.
Newfoundland has a zero-tolerance policy for novice drivers. Those younger than 22 will be required to maintain a blood alcohol content of zero percent while driving. Novice drivers and drivers under 22 will have their vehicles immediately impounded for seven days if they are found to have a BAC greater than zero but less than 0.08.
Mandatory Alcohol Screening
The federal government introduced mandatory alcohol screening (MAS) in 2019. This amendment to the Criminal Code means police no longer need proof to demand a breath test during a roadside stop.
You cannot avoid criminal charges by refusing to submit to a breath test. A conviction for failure or refusal to comply with a demand for a sample can result in penalties under s. 320.15 (1) of the Criminal Code is the same as blowing over .08. That can include a minimum $2,000 fine, imprisonment and a licence suspension.
Punishment is Immediate
You face an immediate 24-hour licence suspension for a BAC between .05 and .08 for a first offence, with longer suspensions for subsequent offences. Drivers found with a BAC of 0.08 or greater will also face criminal charges and have their vehicle impounded for a
minimum of 30 days.
A first offender convicted of a Criminal Code offence while driving while impaired in Newfoundland and Labrador will face a minimum $1,000 fine, a minimum one-year driving prohibition and be required to attend the Think First alcohol education program.
If you are convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm, you can be imprisoned for up to 10 years, and the province will suspend your licence for 10 years. If you are found guilty of impaired driving causing bodily harm, you could be sent to prison for life. You will also receive a lifetime licence suspension.
If you are convicted of impaired driving a second time, your licence will be suspended for three years, and you will be jailed for a minimum of 14 days. You will have to attend mandatory alcohol and drug dependency screening. A third offence brings a minimum 10-year driving ban and a minimum 90-day jail sentence, and you will be required to submit to alcohol and drug dependency screening.
Your driving privileges will be suspended for life for a fourth and subsequent Criminal Code conviction within a 10-year period from the date of your first conviction. You may be eligible for a review of the lifetime suspension after 10 years by applying to the Registrar in writing.
Ignition Interlock Program
Newfoundland and Labrador have a 12-month minimum mandatory ignition interlock program for drivers whose licence is suspended after an impaired driving conviction that allows for the early reinstatement of a driver's licence. The device is installed on your vehicle, and you must provide an alcohol-free breath sample to start your vehicle.
Once the ignition is started, the device will request 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 log the event, warn you, and trigger an alarm that will sound until you turn the ignition off. Tampering with the interlock can lead to a fine of up to $1,000 for a motor vehicle and $20,000 for a commercial vehicle.
Eligibility for the program includes:
- conviction of impaired driving or refusing a breathalyzer demand;
- authorization by the court to use an ignition interlock device;
- a court-ordered minimum mandatory prohibition period must be served;
- no other suspension in place, and all outstanding fines paid;
- completion of all other reinstatement requirements and conditions; and
- valid registration and insurance on the vehicle in which the interlock is to be installed.
Once installed, the device must be used by anyone who drives the vehicle. You will be required to cover the cost of installation, maintenance and removal of the device.