Changes to impaired driving laws

Alberta’s impaired driving laws are changing effective December 1, 2020. A new Roadside Sanction program will keep our roads safer by providing serious and immediate consequences for all impaired drivers. Read Freeing up police and courts to make Alberta safer for more information.

Additional resources:

Federal: Criminal Code of Canada

Offences related to impaired driving are:

  • impaired driving regardless of blood alcohol or drug content
  • blood alcohol level over the legal limit
  • drug or drug-alcohol combination or a toxicological (blood or urine) sample
  • refusing to provide a breath or blood sample
  • impaired driving causing bodily harm
  • impaired driving causing death
  • driving while suspended or disqualified

If you are found guilty under the Criminal Code of Canada of driving while impaired, and you have:

  • been found guilty under the various sub-sections of Section 320 of the Criminal Code of Canada, you will be disqualified from driving and your licence will be suspended for one year from the date of the finding of the guilt
  • a prior offence in the last 10 years, you will be disqualified from holding a driver's licence for 3 years from the date of the conviction
  • 2 or more prior offences in the last 10 years, you will be disqualified from holding a driver's licence for 5 years from the date of the conviction
  • if a death or injury occurs as a result of an impaired offence, the minimum licence suspension is 5 years even for a first offender

Provincial: Traffic Safety Act, Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS) Program

Alberta has one impaired driving program called the Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS) Program. This impaired driving program includes a multi-tiered escalating approach to deter impaired driving. Impaired drivers will receive immediate and significant penalties at roadside that include:

  • escalating driver's licence suspensions
  • escalating fines
  • escalating vehicle seizure lengths
  • mandatory education programs
  • the Ignition Interlock Program (IIP)

Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS): 24-hour

The Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) 24-hour program applies to drivers whose ability to operate a motor vehicle has been impaired by a physical or medical condition, or by drugs or alcohol. A 24-hour licence disqualification will be issued.

Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) ZERO: Novice

The Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) ZERO: Novice program applies to all alcohol and/or drugs and there is a zero tolerance approach for any alcohol and/or drugs for novice drivers in the class 7 learner’s licence or class 5 GDL licence category.

Contraventions for this type of suspension/disqualification include the following:

  • an immediate 30-day driver’s licence suspension
  • a 7-day vehicle seizure
  • $200 fine plus victim fine surcharge of 20%

Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) ZERO: Commercial

The Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) ZERO: Commercial program applies to all alcohol and/or drugs and there is a zero tolerance approach for any alcohol and/or drug for a commercial driver operating a commercial vehicle in a commercial capacity.

Contraventions for this type of suspension/disqualification include the following:

  • 1st occurrence: 3-days immediate driver’s licence suspension and $300 fine plus victim fine surcharge of 20%.
  • 2nd occurrence: 15-days immediate driver’s licence suspension and $600 fine plus victim fine surcharge of 20%.
  • 3rd occurrence: 30-days immediate driver’s licence suspension and $1,200 fine plus victim fine surcharge of 20%.

Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS): WARN

The Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS): WARN program applies when a law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a driver has operated a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration that is equal to or exceeds 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

Contraventions for this type of suspension/disqualification include the following:

  • 1st occurrence: 3-days immediate driver’s licence suspension, 3-days vehicle seizure, and $300 fine plus victim fine surcharge of 20%.
  • 2nd occurrence: 15-days immediate driver’s licence suspension, 7-days vehicle seizure, requirement to complete the Crossroads course (or the Planning Ahead course may be used as an equivalent) and $600 fine plus victim fine surcharge of 20%.
  • 3rd occurrence: 30-days immediate driver’s licence suspension, 7-days vehicle seizure, requirement to complete the IMPACT Program, and $1,200 fine plus victim fine surcharge of 20%.

Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS): FAIL

The Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) FAIL program applies when a law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the driver has operated a motor vehicle while their ability to do so was impaired to any degree by alcohol or a drug or by a combination of alcohol and a drug:

  • within 2 hours after ceasing to operate a motor vehicle, the driver had a blood alcohol concentration that was equal to or exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
  • within 2 hours after ceasing to operate a motor vehicle, the driver had a blood drug concentration that is equal to or exceeds any blood drug concentration for the drug that is prescribed by regulation under the Criminal Code (Canada)
  • within 2 hours, after ceasing to operate a motor vehicle, the driver had a blood alcohol concentration and a blood drug concentration that is equal to or exceeds the blood alcohol concentration and the blood drug concentration for the drug that is prescribed by regulation under the Criminal Code (Canada) for instances where alcohol and that drug are combined
  • knowing a demand had been made, the driver failed or refused, without a reasonable excuse, to comply with a demand made under the Criminal Code (Canada)

Contraventions for this type of suspension/disqualification include the following:

1st occurrence: The administrative penalties are imposed with or without a criminal charge. A criminal conviction will result in additional penalties.

  • 2-stage, fixed-term suspension consisting of 2 distinct parts:
    • 90 days where the suspended driver is unable to drive under any circumstances, and
    • further 12 month driver’s licence suspension
      • During this further 12 month suspension period, the driver may participate in Alberta’s IRS: FAIL Ignition Interlock Program and during that term, operate a vehicle equipped with an interlock device. If they choose not to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program, the driver will remain suspended and cannot legally drive.
  • Completion of the Planning Ahead course
    • If the driver does not complete this requirement within the above suspension period, they will receive a new administrative suspension for non-compliance and remain suspended until the remedial education course is completed.
  • 30-day vehicle seizure
  • $1,000 fine plus victim fine surcharge of 20%

2nd occurrence: The administrative penalties are imposed with or without a criminal charge. A criminal conviction will result in additional penalties.

  • 2-stage, fixed-term suspension consisting of 2 distinct parts:
    • 90 days where the suspended driver is unable to drive under any circumstances, and
    • further 36 month driver’s licence suspension
      • During this further 36 month suspension period, the driver may participate in Alberta’s IRS: FAIL Ignition Interlock Program and during that term, operate a vehicle equipped with an interlock device. If they choose not to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program, the driver will remain suspended and cannot legally drive.
  • Completion of the IMPACT Program.
    • If the driver does not complete this requirement within the above suspension period, they will receive a new administrative suspension for non-compliance and remain suspended until the remedial education course is completed.
  • 30-day vehicle seizure
  • $2,000 fine plus victim fine surcharge of 20%

3rd (and subsequent) occurrence: The administrative penalties are imposed with or without a criminal charge. A criminal conviction will result in additional penalties.

  • 2-stage, fixed-term suspension consisting of two distinct parts:
    • 90 days where the suspended driver is unable to drive under any circumstances, and
    • further lifetime driver’s licence suspension
      • During this further lifetime suspension period, the driver may participate in Alberta’s IRS: FAIL Ignition Interlock Program and during that term operate a vehicle equipped with an interlock device. If they choose not to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program, the driver will remain suspended and cannot legally drive.
      • Provided the driver meets the eligibility criteria, a driver can apply for driver’s licence reinstatement and removal of the interlock requirement after 10 years. An application does not guarantee a removal of the lifetime suspension.
  • 30-day vehicle seizure
  • $2,000 fine plus victim fine surcharge of 20%