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Roadside spot checks

Don’t drink and drive. We’ve all heard it. But are we listening? The sobering fact is that Canada’s impaired driving rate has increased in 4 of the last 5 years. In 2011 police reported about 90,300 impaired driving incidents Canada-wide, including about 3,000 in Nova Scotia.*

In Nova Scotia police can give an on-the-spot roadside license suspension to drivers who get a 'warn' on a roadside screening test, or whose breath test shows a blood alcohol level between .05 and .08 (50 to 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood).  

Immediate roadside license suspensions under Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act are:

  • 7 days for a first suspension within 10 years;
  • 15 days for a second suspension within 10 years; and
  • 30 days for a third or subsequent suspension within 10 years.

Licensed learners or newly licensed drivers must have zero blood alcohol when driving, so face a 24-hour immediate roadside suspension and a significant fine if caught driving with any alcohol in their blood.

In addition to a roadside suspension, police may impound the driver’s vehicle. Any towing and storage fees must be paid by the person who picks up the vehicle from impound. Drivers who get a suspension also have to pay a license reinstatement fee.

Along with facing criminal charges, a driver who takes the breathalyzer and blows over .08, or who refuses to take the breathalyzer, will have their driver’s license suspended for 3 months, starting 7 days after the incident.  This 3 month administrative license suspension under the Motor Vehicle Act is on top of any driving prohibition imposed by the criminal court for a drinking & driving conviction.

The above penalties are under the Motor Vehicle Act.  

There are of course other penalties under the Criminal Code.  The most common drinking and driving offences under the Criminal Code are:

  • impaired driving (impaired by alcohol or drugs);
  • driving over .08 (blood alcohol level more than 80 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood);
  • refusal to do sobriety tests or give a breath or blood sample.

A conviction for any of these Criminal Code offences means a criminal record, at least 1 year’s loss of license (first offence), a high fine (minimum $1000), increased insurance premiums, and strict license reinstatement conditions.

Quite apart from penalties under the Motor Vehicle Act or Criminal Code, drinking and driving has other serious costs for everyone involved, including financial losses, psychological trauma, physical injuries and loss of life.  We should all heed the message: don’t drink and drive.

For more information:

*Statistics Canada - Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2011

This page gives legal information, not legal advice.
November 2012

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