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Red Divider Line

Criminal Code Amendments Target Impaired Drivers
Source - Department of Justice - Canada

OTTAWA, December 1, 1999 Today in the House of Commons, the Honourable Anne McLellan, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada introduced two key changes to the Criminal Code that will step up the fight against impaired driving.

"Impaired driving claims too many victims in Canada," said Minister McLellan. "Laws need to be tough enough to stop people from even thinking of getting behind the wheel when they are intoxicated. Police must also have the legislative tools they need to get impaired drivers off the road."

Proposed amendments to the Criminal Code will:

  • increase the maximum penalty for impaired driving causing death from 14 years to life imprisonment, and
  • allow police investigating a collision involving injury or death, to apply by telephone for a warrant to obtain a blood sample from a driver believed to be drug-impaired.

"MADD Canada is very pleased that the Justice Minister has made important progress towards enacting legislation that makes it perfectly clear that impaired driving, whether alcohol or drug impaired, is absolutely intolerable," said Carolyn Swinson, National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada. "We are dedicated to continue working with governments at all levels to do even more to combat this deadly crime."

The new maximum penalty for impaired driving causing death will equal the maximum penalty for manslaughter and for criminal negligence causing death. The amendment was first introduced in the House of Commons as Bill C-87 during the last session of Parliament, and received broad support. However, Bill C-87 expired on the Order Paper when Parliament was prorogued.

Todays bill also strengthens an existing Criminal Code provision that applies only in cases where police believe the driver is alcohol-impaired. Currently, police are allowed to apply for a warrant to obtain blood to test for the presence of alcohol where the driver is involved in a collision that caused injury or death, and is unconscious or unable to provide consent to the taking of a blood sample. This provision will be amended to include drivers who police believe are drug-impaired.

The amendments introduced today fulfil the Government of Canadas pledge to make all the specific Criminal Code changes recommended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in the draft bill appended to its report, Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving. Most of the provisions in the Committees draft bill were enacted with Bill C-82, which came into force on July 1, 1999. Key provisions of that bill:

  • doubled the minimum fine for a first offence;
  • raised the mandatory minimum driving prohibitions for all offences, and raised the maximum driving prohibitions for second and subsequent offences;
  • required sentencing judges to consider as an aggravating factor, a blood alcohol level over twice the criminal offence level;
  • specified in the Criminal Code, that judges can order convicted impaired drivers to undergo assessment and treatment for alcohol or drug addiction and can order the use of an ignition interlock in provinces and territories where such programs are available;
  • gave police more time to demand a breath sample when they believe a driver was alcohol-impaired; and
  • created a new maximum penalty of 10 years for leaving the scene of an accident involving injury and a new maximum penalty of life imprisonment for leaving the scene of an accident involving death.

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Hal Pruden
Criminal Law Policy

Line Chabot-Racine
Director of Communications
Ministers Office

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