The Yukon has one of the highest rates of impaired driving in Canada, with penalties that can include life in prison for impaired driving causing death. Impaired driving is not limited to alcohol and includes illegal drugs, cannabis, over-the-counter drugs, and prescription medicine. The territory has a zero-tolerance policy for new drivers and recently introduced mandatory alcohol screening. Immediate suspensions and vehicle impoundment apply if caught driving under the influence. Criminal convictions result in a minimum one-year license suspension, fines, and possible jail time. The Yukon also has an alcohol ignition interlock program.
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Yukon Impaired Driving
*Generally, the Criminal Code is the basis for impaired driving charges, but there may be supplementary sanctions under provincial law.
Like other provinces and territories in Canada, the Yukon has amended its laws over the years in an effort to curb impaired driving. In 2018, police conducted a roadside survey in Whitehorse and found 22.3 percent of the drivers stopped were drinking or using drugs or both.
Noting the Yukon “continues to have one of the highest rates for impaired driving in Canada,” the federal government pledged $2.3 million in 2019 to fund training for frontline officers. If the police believe you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you face an immediate 24-hour roadside suspension. If you are caught with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08, you can be charged under Canada’s Criminal Code and face a 90-day roadside suspension under Yukon’s Motor Vehicles Act (MVA).
Charged Under the Motor Vehicles Act or Criminal Code
Each territory and province in Canada is responsible for governing its roads and highways. The rights and responsibilities of Yukon drivers are laid out under drivers in the territory’s MVA, which includes laws to deal with impaired driving. Impaired drivers are typically charged under the Criminal Code, with penalties that can include life in prison for impaired driving causing death. There can also be supplementary charges under the MVA.
Impaired Driving is Not Limited to Alcohol
Impaired driving is also referred to as drunk driving and driving under the influence (DUI). If you drive with a BAC equal to or over 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, or .08 you can be charged criminally. However, alcohol is not the only substance that can affect your ability to drive. Your motor skills can also be impaired by illegal drugs and cannabis, as well as over-the-counter drugs and prescription medicine, especially when combined with alcohol.
Cannabis has been legal in Canada for several years. However, 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. Operating any conveyance, such as a car or off-road vehicle, with a reading of five ng or more THC per ml of blood is an even 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.
If convicted of driving an off-road vehicle when impaired by alcohol or drugs, you will face the same consequences as those operating a motor vehicle while impaired.
The Yukon has a zero-tolerance policy for new drivers under its graduated drivers' licensing (GDL) program. If you violate the terms of the progam, you face the following consequences:
- a meeting with the registrar;
- a referral to the Driver Control Board; and
- a requirement to restart the phase of the GDL you're in.
Mandatory Alcohol Screening
Under mandatory alcohol screening (MAS), police have the right to demand a breath test from you at a roadside stop without reasonable suspicion that you have alcohol in your body. Prior to new federal legislation introduced in 2018, police could only demand a test if there was proof you had been drinking, such as having slurred speech.
You do not have the right to consult with a lawyer before providing a breath sample, and you cannot escape punishment by refusing to provide one. Under the Criminal Code, you face the same penalties for failing or refusing to comply with a demand as you would for a conviction for impaired driving.
Suspensions are Immediate
If the police believe you have consumed any substance that impairs your ability to drive, they can suspend your licence for 24 hours and impound your vehicle.
If you have a blood alcohol concentration of over .08, your licence will automatically be suspended for 90 days, and your vehicle will be impounded for a minimum of 30 days. The same will apply if you refuse a lawful demand for a breath or blood sample or are caught driving while your licence is suspended, disqualified or prohibited.
Consequences of a Criminal Conviction
If you are charged under the Criminal Code you will face a trial in criminal court. If you are convicted, your licence will be suspended for a minimum of one year, and you will be fined a minimum of $1,000, according to the Department of Justice. Repeat offenders face a minimum jail term of 30 days for a second offence and a three-year driving prohibition. You can be jailed for a minimum of 120 days for a third conviction, and your driver’s licence can be suspended indefinitely.
If you have been charged with impaired driving causing bodily harm, you face a maximum prison sentence of 10 years upon conviction. You can be imprisoned for life if you are found guilty of impaired driving causing death.
In the Yukon, you must appear before the Driver Control Board after a conviction. You will also be expected to complete a remedial driving program for all driving-related Criminal Code convictions, even those unrelated to impaired driving.
Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program
The Yukon recently updated its law to include an ignition interlock program. An interlock is a device installed on your ignition that takes breath samples. Your vehicle will not start if alcohol is detected. The device also requires you to provide breath samples at random times while your vehicle is running. If a sample is not provided or your blood alcohol content exceeds the allowed limit, the device will log the event, warn you and trigger an alarm that will sound until the ignition is turned off. You are responsible for the cost of installing and using the device.