Drinking, Drugs and Driving: Consequences

Ben Goode / Hemera / Thinkstock

Are you suspected of impaired driving or driving after taking too much alcohol or drugs? 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 suspend (take away) your driver’s licence even before you’re found guilty by a judge. Depending on the situation, your licence can be suspended for 24 hours to 90 days.

In some situations, your driver’s licence might automatically be valid again after the period of suspension. 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 punishments are similar for these crimes:

  • impaired driving
  • driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or more
  • driving with 5 nanograms or more of THC in a millilitre of blood (5ng/ml) 
  • driving with 50 mg of alcohol or more in 100 millilitres of blood (50 mg/ 100 ml) combined with 2.5 nanograms or more of THC in a millilitre of blood (2.5 ng/ml) 
  • refusing to give a breath or blood sample

These are the usual 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 10 years in jail.

The punishment is different for the crime of driving with 2 but less than 5 nanograms of THC in a millilitre of blood: a maximum fine of $1,000 with no prison term.

If you injure someone, you can get up to 14 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 usually have a criminal record

 

Losing the right to drive 

If you’re found guilty of impaired driving or driving with more than the legal limit of alcohol or drugs in your blood, the judge will usually forbid you to drive (called a driving prohibition). Refusing to take tests ordered by police officers can also lead to a driving prohibition.

If you get 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. 

The length of your driving prohibition can be from one to several years, depending on the situation. It will be longer if it is not your first offence or if you injured someone.

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.