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New drunk driving laws take effect

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With Part 2 of Bill C-46 coming into effect yesterday (Dec. 18), the OPP has begun to exercise new authority for investigating impaired drivers on Ontario roads.

Police officers now will be able to demand a roadside breath sample from any lawfully-stopped driver to determine whether a person has alcohol in their body without first having to suspect the motorist has been drinking.

Until now, officers had to have a reasonable suspicion that a driver had alcohol in their body before demanding a sample.

Drivers need to be aware that it is mandatory for them to comply with this demand and that those who do not can be charged with failing or refusing to provide a breath sample.

Under the new legislation, drivers impaired by alcohol also will face higher mandatory minimum fines and some higher maximum penalties.

“The new mandatory alcohol screening serves as an important deterrent to drivers who are impaired by alcohol, including those who believe they can avoid detection by police,” said OPP interim commissioner Gary Couture.

“So far this year, alcohol and/or drugs have been a factor in the deaths of 41 people on OPP-patrolled roads,” he noted.

“Every person who uses our roads has the right to be safe," Couture added. "The OPP fully supports this and any other legislation that enhances our ability to reduce the number of preventable deaths attributed to this deadly driving behaviour.”

The OPP has laid more than 7,300 impaired driving charges across the province between Jan. 1 and mid-November.

If you suspect that a person is driving or about to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs, you should call 9-1-1 to report them to police.

As of Dec. 18, mandatory minimum penalties for alcohol-impaired driving that does not cause bodily harm or death include:

  • first offence + blood alcohol content (BAC) of 80-119 mg—$1,000 fine;
  • first offence + BAC of 120-159 mg—$1,500 fine;
  • first offence + BAC of 160 mg or more—$2,000 fine;
  • first offence of refusal to be tested—$2,000 fine;
  • second offence—30 days' imprisonment; and
  • third and subsequent offences—120 days' imprisonment.
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