According to Statistics Canada, Prince Edward Island had the highest rate of impaired driving incidents in 2019, with 645 cases per 100,000 people. The province has imposed some of the harshest penalties for impaired driving in the country, with more than 90% of first-time offenders being jailed. The Highway Traffic Act allows for penalties beyond the Criminal Code, with a minimum of 3 days in jail for the first offence, 30 days for the second, and 90 days for the third or more. Even if not considered criminally impaired, you will face a 24-hour license suspension with a BAC of .05.
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Prince Edward Island Impaired Driving
*Generally, the Criminal Code is the basis for impaired driving charges, but there may be supplementary sanctions under provincial law.
According to Statistics Canada, Prince Edward Island had the highest police-reported rate of impaired driving incidents among the provinces in 2019. That year saw 645 incidents per 100,000 people. From 2017 to 2019, the rate of police-reported incidences of impaired driving on P.E.I. more than doubled. To address the problem, the province has some of the harshest penalties for impaired driving in the country.
The province’s Highway Traffic Act (H.T.A.) allows for penalties beyond Canada’s Criminal Code for impaired driving offences. It is reported that more than 90 percent of first-time offenders are sent to jail. If you are convicted of impaired driving, you could be incarcerated for a minimum of three days. If it is your second offence, you will be jailed for a minimum of 30 days. Three or more convictions will result in a minimum of 90 days in custody.
Even if you are not criminally impaired, you face an automatic 24-hour licence suspension if you have a blood alcohol concentration (B.A.C.) of .05.
Provincial and Federal Responsibility
The HTA governs the rights and responsibilities of drivers in P.E.I. and includes laws to deal with impaired driving. You can also be charged under Canada's Criminal Code if your BAC is equal to or over 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (.08).
Impaired driving is not limited to alcohol. Prescription medication and over-the-counter drugs can affect your ability to drive.
The Criminal Code was amended in 2018 to deal with the legalization of cannabis. It is 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 if you have 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.
Prince Edward Island has a zero-tolerance policy for novice drivers. Those 19 or younger and drivers who have held a driver's licence for less than three years, regardless of age, are prohibited from operating a vehicle with a BAC above 0.00. Offenders face an immediate 24-hour licence suspension and a 90-day driving prohibition.
Mandatory Alcohol Screening
With the introduction of mandatory alcohol screening (MAS) in 2019, police no longer need proof to demand a breath test during a roadside stop. In the past, police needed reasonable suspicion, such as the smell of alcohol or slurred speech, to demand a test.
Failing to submit to a breath test comes with consequences. A conviction for refusing to provide a breath sample can result in penalties under s. 320.15 (1) of the Criminal Code that is the same as blowing over .
Punishment is Immediate
If you are asked to provide a breath sample at a roadside stop, and your BAC is .05 or more, you face an immediate 24-hour roadside suspension of your licence. There will also be an administrative driving prohibition of 90 days that starts seven days after the 24-hour roadside suspension.
Your vehicle will also be impounded for 30 days for your first or second charge of impaired driving within 10 years. If you are charged three or more times within 10 years, your vehicle will be impounded for six months. Your vehicle will also be impounded for six months if you have been charged under the Criminal Code with impaired driving causing a serious injury or death. You will be responsible for paying the towing and storage costs.
What happens if you are convicted
You face immediate roadside sanctions for driving impaired, and police can charge you with a criminal offence. A first conviction for driving with a BAC of .08 or more will result in a minimum $1,000 fine and a minimum one-year licence suspension. Under P.E.I.’s HTA, you will also be jailed for three days. It is important to remember that the court can increase the minimum punishments depending on the severity of the offence. You must also pay a Victims of Crime Surcharge.
Jail terms increase to 90 days for a third or subsequent offence. If you cause an injury while driving impaired, you face a maximum of 10 years in prison under the Criminal Code. You could be jailed for life if you are convicted of impaired driving causing death.
Your licence will be cancelled for three years for a second offence under the HTA. A third or subsequent offence will see your licence suspended for five years.
You will be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle after you have been convicted. You must provide an alcohol-free breath sample to start your vehicle. While the vehicle is running, the device requires you to provide breath samples randomly. If a sample is not provided or your blood alcohol content is over the limit, the device will register the event, warn you, and trigger an alarm that will sound until you turn the ignition off.
The device will remain in place for one year after a first offence, three years after a second offence and 10 years for a third and subsequent offence.
An additional one year is added to the term if you had a passenger under the age of 16 when you were charged with impaired driving.
You are responsible for all costs associated with the interlock device.
Getting your licence back
A driver's licence is a privilege, not a right, and it is not automatically reinstated once your suspension is complete. You must re-apply and pay a $750 reinstatement fee.
After completing the mandatory ignition interlock term, you will be issued a Restricted ZERO BAC Driver's Licence for three years, which means you cannot have any amount of alcohol in your system while operating a motor vehicle.
After a first offence, you will be required to complete the Highway Safety Division's driver rehabilitation course, a five-hour educational program on impaired driving and the effects of drugs and alcohol. You will be placed on administrative probation for one year and must follow the terms of the probation order.
If you are convicted a second time, you must meet with a driver improvement officer to complete a driver risk analysis. If you are considered "low-risk" or "medium-risk" for re-offending, you will be referred to the driver rehabilitation program. If you are "high-risk," you will be referred to Addiction Services for an assessment and treatment program recommendations. To get your licence back, you must complete all recommended programs. You will then be placed on administrative probation for up to five years.
After a third and subsequent offence, you must be assessed by an addiction services counsellor and complete any recommended treatment if it is found that you have a problem with drugs or alcohol.
The Registrar of Motor Vehicles can refuse to reinstate your driver's licence if it is determined that your problem has not improved or if you are deemed to be a risk.
If you are reinstated, you will be placed on administrative probation for 10 years and must follow the terms and conditions of your probation order.