Drinking, Drugs and Driving: Consequences

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Are you suspected of impaired driving or driving over the legal limit? Did you refuse the tests you were asked to do? These are serious crimes. You might be fined, lose your licence, get a criminal record and even go to jail.

Here we explain what happens right after an arrest and the possible punishments if you’re found guilty.  

 

Immediate Consequences 

The police can take away your driver’s licence even before you’re found guilty by a judge. 

The police can ask you to do physical coordination tests. If they think you’re unfit to drive, they can take away (suspend) your licence for 24 hours and seize your car

They can take away your licence for 90 days and seize your car in these situations: 

  • A breath test shows your blood-alcohol level is over 0.08. This means you have more than 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mg of blood.  
  • You refuse to do the tests the police ask you to do, such as giving a breath sample, doing physical coordination tests or go to a police station for an accurate breath sample test.

In some situations, you might get your driver’s licence after 90 days. In other situations, you might have to do additional tests before you’re allowed to drive again. 

To learn more about having your licence suspended, the tests you must pass before getting your licence back or how to contest a police officer’s decision to take away your licence, consult the website of the Société d’assurance d’automobile du Québec (SAAQ or licence bureau).  

 

Consequences if You’re Found Guilty 

If found guilty, the judge will look at these things when deciding on a punishment

  • the circumstances of your arrest
  • whether you were found guilty of any alcohol-related crimes in the past 
  • your blood-alcohol level 

 

Fines and Prison 

The punishment is the same for impaired driving, driving over the legal limit and refusing to give a breath or blood sample. These are the minimum punishments:

  • for a first offence: a fine of at least $1,000 with a possible jail term
  • for a second offence: at least 30 days in jail
  • for a third offence or more: at least 120 days in jail

The judge can give you a stricter punishment of up to five years in jail.

If you injure someone, you can get up to 10 years in jail. If you kill someone, you can be sent to jail for life.  

If you’re found guilty of any of these crimes, you will have a criminal record

 

Losing the Right to Drive 

If you’re found guilty of an alcohol- or drug-related offence, the judge will forbid you to drive (called a driving prohibition). The judge will immediately take away your driver’s licence. The court will inform the SAAQ that you were found guilty and the SAAQ will cancel your licence. The SAAQ will also impose a driving prohibition. You will not be able to drive for the time ordered by the judge or the SAAQ, whichever is the longest. 

This table summarizes how long you cannot drive if found guilty. 

  Driving while impaired 
or
Driving over the legal limit of 0.08 
Refusing to do the tests when asked by police 
First offence after 10 years of a previous alcohol- or drug-related offence 1 to 3 years 3 years
Second offence after 10 years of a previous alcohol- or drug-related offence 3 to 5 years 5 years
Third offence after 10 years of a previous alcohol- or drug-related offence 5 years or more 5 years or more

If you refuse to do the tests ordered by the police, you will be forbidden to drive only if you were driving the car, or if you had the care and control of the car any time during the three hours before your refusal.

You can be forbidden to drive for up to 10 years if you injure someone. If you kill someone, there is no maximum period. The judge can decide how long to forbid you to drive. 

You can’t get your licence back until the driving prohibition is over.  
 

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.