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What are my rights if the police think I’ve been drinking and driving?

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What are my rights if the police think I’ve been drinking and driving?
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Ontario Ministry of Transportation
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Royal Canadian Mounted Police

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What are my rights if the police think I’ve been drinking and driving?
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Reviewed: 
December 18, 2018
Answer

The police can ask you to take tests to find out if you’ve been drinking and driving.

Roadside tests

If the police want to test if you’ve been drinking within 3 hours of driving, they can demand that you take a roadside breath test to check for alcohol impairment. They do not need a reason to ask you to take a breath test. And you do not thave the right to refuse a breath test in this situation. 

If you're not able to provide a breath sample, and the police have reasonable grounds to suspect that you’ve been drinking within 3 hours of driving, they may take a blood sample. Your blood sample is used to determine the concentration of alcohol in your blood. You do not have the right to refuse a blood test in this situation.

You may also be asked to do a Standardized Field Sobriety Test at the roadside if the police have reasonable grounds to suspect that you’ve been drinking within 3 hours of driving. For example, you may be asked to stand on one leg or walk in a straight line. This test checks whether your ability to drive has been impaired by alcohol. You do not have the right to refuse a Standardized Field Sobriety Test in this situation.

Breathalyzer test

The police can demand that you go to the police station for a breathalyzer test if they have reasonable grounds to believe:

  • your ability to drive is impaired by alcohol, or
  • you have more than the legal limit for alcohol in your blood.

A breathalyzer test is done with a different device than a roadside breath test. The breathalyzer test is much more reliable and sensitive. It includes a reading of your blood alcohol level.

Driver’s licence suspension

Depending on the results of the roadside breath test or breathalyzer test, you may have to give the police your driver’s licence for 3 to 90 days. If you’re later convicted of an offence related to the impaired operation of a motor vehicle, you will get a minimum 1 year license suspension for a first offence.

Refusing to take a breath test

Refusing to provide a breath sample is a criminal offence. If you refuse a breath test, you will be charged with refusing to comply with a police demand. If you're found guilty, you will be sentenced to a minimum $2000 fine and a 1 year driving prohibition for a first offence. A second offence has a minimum punishment of 30 days in jail.

Zero Blood Alcohol Concentration law

The Zero Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) law applies to all drivers under the age of 21 and new drivers of any age. Drivers under 21 and new drivers must not have any alcohol in their blood while they drive.

If the Zero BAC law applies to you and you're caught driving with alcohol in your blood:

  • your driver’s licence will be suspended at the roadside for 24 hours, and
  • you'll be charged with an offence.

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