Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of impaired driving incidents in Canada, with 539 per 100,000 population in 2019. The Traffic Safety Act and Criminal Code govern the rules and penalties for impaired driving, including the effects of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher is a criminal offence, and even a BAC of .04 can result in a fine and license suspension. The Code was amended in 2018 to include provisions for cannabis impairment, and mandatory alcohol screening (MAS) was introduced in December 2018, allowing police to demand a breath test without reasonable suspicion. Refusing to provide a breath sample results in a 24-hour license suspension and can be charged as a criminal offence.
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Saskatchewan 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, Saskatchewan has historically had one of the highest police-reported rates of impaired driving incidents among all provinces. Saskatchewan registered a rate of 539 incidents per 100,000 population in 2019, second only to Prince Edward Island. It was the first time in more than 20 years that a province other than Saskatchewan recorded the highest rate.
In Saskatchewan, like the rest of Canada, you face a criminal conviction if you drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) equal to or over 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (.08). Even if you are not found criminally impaired, you face consequences for exceeding provincial limits. Driving with a BAC of .04 can lead to a fine. Your licence will also be suspended, and your car will be impounded.
Charged under the Traffic Safety Act or Criminal Code
Saskatchewan’s Traffic Safety Act (TSA) lays out the rules and obligations governing driver licensing, vehicle registration and motor vehicle operation. That includes the rules of the road, offences and penalties.
Canada’s Criminal Code also contains provisions dealing with impaired driving, which is not limited to the consumption of alcohol. It should be remembered that prescription and over-the-counter drugs can impact your driving ability, especially if combined with even a small amount of alcohol.
Mandatory Alcohol Screening
Police no longer require a reasonable suspicion to demand a breath test following the introduction of mandatory alcohol screening (MAS) in December 2018. Prior to the change, police needed a reason to demand a breathalyzer during a roadside stop, such as the smell of alcohol or slurred speech.
You cannot avoid punishment by refusing to provide a breath sample. In Saskatchewan, your driver’s licence will automatically be suspended for 24 hours for refusing. You can be charged with failure or refusal to comply with a demand for a sample under the Criminal Code, and the penalties can be as serious as registering a BAC of more than 0.16.
Automatic Licence Suspension
If you are pulled over driving with a BAC, even as low as .04, your licence will be suspended, and your vehicle will be impounded. The first offence comes with a 24-hour suspension. The suspension is the same for a second offence, and you will then have to attend a mandatory Driving Without Impairment class. If you are caught three or more times, your licence will be suspended for 90 days, and you will be required to attend mandatory addiction screening.
You Could Face a Court Trial
If police charge you with impaired driving, you will face a trial in a criminal court. Your licence will be suspended immediately at the roadside until the charges are resolved in court.
Your vehicle will be impounded for 30 days if your BAC is less than .16. Anything above that will result in a 60-day impoundment. Refusal or failure to take a roadside breathalyzer or refusing a police demand can result in your vehicle being impounded for 60 days.
If you are a first-time offender and you are convicted of impaired driving or over .08 under the Criminal Code, you face a minimum fine of $1,000, and your licence will be suspended for one year. A second offence comes with a jail term of 30 days, while you will be incarcerated for 120 days for each subsequent conviction.
If you cause an accident that injures someone, you can be charged with impaired driving causing bodily harm, and you could be imprisoned for up to 10 years. The penalties for impaired driving causing death include life in prison.
Once a conviction is registered, the province will send you a letter outlining an education program you must attend at your cost. Your licence will only be reinstated if you complete the program in the specified time.
Saskatchewan has a zero-tolerance policy for drug-impaired driving for all drivers. Any driver charged with impaired driving under the Criminal Code will have their licence suspended indefinitely until their charges are resolved in court.
Mandatory Ignition Lock
If you have had three or more immediate roadside suspensions within the past 10 years, you must take the addiction assessment program, and a mandatory ignition lock will be installed on your vehicle at your expense for one year. The device is wired to your ignition, and you must provide an alcohol-free breath sample to start your vehicle.
If you have been convicted of impaired driving for the first time, the ignition lock stays on your vehicle for one year. You will be required to have the device on your car for three years after a second conviction. A third or subsequent conviction means you will have the ignition lock for 10 years.
If you exceed the legal alcohol limit (.16 or higher), refuse to comply with police or have a combination of drugs and alcohol in your system of .16 or more, the device remains on your vehicle for two years for a first offence, five years for a second and 10 years for a third and subsequent conviction.