III) Impaired Driving Sanctions and Countermeasures
In Manitoba, as in all provinces, there are two sets of laws that apply to impaired
drivers: the federal Criminal Code and the provincial Highway Traffic Act
(HTA). Only the federal government in Ottawa has the power to make changes to the Criminal
Code's laws and penalties for driving while impaired, driving with a BAC over .08, and
refusing to provide a breath or blood sample. The Government of Manitoba has jurisdiction
over road safety and has the power to impose sanctions for impaired driving, like driver's
licence suspensions, through the HTA.
HTA Laws and Sanctions for Impaired Driving
- 24 hour licence suspension for driving with a BAC over .05 or refusing a breath or blood
- Drivers with two or more over .05 incidents in three years must complete the Addictions
Foundation of Manitoba (AFM) program in order to regain their licence.
- Vehicle impoundment and immediate three-month licence suspension for driving over .08 or
refusing a breath or blood test.
- If the driver's BAC is under .16 the vehicle impoundment period is 30 days for a first
offence and 90 days for repeat offenders.
- If the driver's BAC is over .16 the vehicle impoundment period is 60 days for a first
offence and 180 days for repeat offenders.
- Licence suspension upon conviction for impaired driving, driving over .08 or driving
while disqualified (1 year for a 1st offender and 5 years for repeat
- Licence suspension upon conviction for refusing a breath or blood test (2 years for a 1st
offender and 7 years for repeat offenders).
- Suspended drivers cannot legally drive again without completing an AFM alcohol/drug
assessment and intervention programs (if required).
- The criterion for determining a repeat offender for the purpose of licence suspensions
upon conviction is having two or more convictions within five years.
- Vehicle impoundment for driving while disqualified (1st offence 30 days;
repeat offenders 90 days).
Potential New Countermeasures
- Vehicle Forfeiture
Some U.S. jurisdictions, like Minnesota, have laws that require vehicles driven by repeat
impaired drivers to be sold with the proceeds of sale forfeited to the government. So far,
no jurisdiction in Canada has enacted similar vehicle forfeiture legislation for impaired
driving offences. The Government of Manitoba is considering whether it should implement
vehicle forfeiture and, if so, whether forfeiture should apply only to driving offences
resulting in bodily harm or death, to those offences plus repeat impaired driving offences
or to all repeat offenders who commit any Criminal Code driving related offence
that would result in a mandatory licence suspension under the HTA.
- Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices
Ignition interlocks are breathalyzer units that prevent a vehicle from being started if
the driver's BAC is above a set level (e.g. .02) and require random breath tests after the
vehicle has been started and is being driven. A random test failure results in the horn
sounding and lights flashing unless the driver stops driving. Ignition Interlock units
record every driving trip and breath test and the data is reviewed every 30 to 60 days.
Research has shown that ignition interlock devices are effective in preventing impaired
driving while installed in the vehicles. However, ignition interlock users are just as
likely to re-offend as other drivers once the device is removed if they are not linked
with other intervention programs. Ignition interlock devices are virtually tamper proof,
but it is possible that drivers could drink and drive by using another vehicle that does
not have the device.
Ignition interlock users must pay an installation fee of $184 and
a monthly rental service fee of $102. That cost would be added to the minimum $600 court
fine, $350 relicencing fee, $270 AFM fee and $130 Licence Suspension Appeal Board fee
resulting in a total relicencing cost of $2,452 for a typical nine month conditional
licence period for a first offender. That could be cost prohibitive and cause drivers to
choose instead to drive while suspended. Alberta and Quebec require ignition interlock
devices as a condition for all suspended drivers who want to obtain a conditional driver's
licence for the duration of their licence suspension. First time impaired drivers can only
obtain conditional work licences during their one year court imposed Criminal Code
driving prohibition if they participate in a provincially approved ignition interlock
- Lifetime Driver's Licence Suspensions
Nova Scotia, Ontario, BC and the Yukon provide for a lifetime or indefinite driver's
licence suspension for persons who accumulate three or more impaired driving offences
within five years. The Government of Manitoba is considering whether it should implement
lifetime driver's licence suspensions and if so, whether those suspensions should apply
only to driving offences resulting in bodily harm or death, to those offences plus repeat
impaired driving offences or to all repeat offenders who commit any Criminal Code
driving related offence that would result in a mandatory licence suspension under the HTA.
Issues for consideration
- What do you think about the idea of a vehicle forfeiture sanction and, if you approve of
it, when should it apply?
- What do you think about the idea of implementing an ignition interlock program in
- What do you think about the idea of increasing the one and five year and two and seven
year licence suspension periods?
- What do you think about lifetime licence suspensions and, if you approve of them, when
should they apply?
- Are you concerned that tougher sanctions could result in more suspended driving and
- What do you think about allowing licence suspensions to be reduced if the suspended
driver participates in a program such as a residential treatment program, community
service or an ignition interlock program?
- What, if anything, should be done to target hardcore repeat impaired drivers and
suspended drivers (e.g. prohibiting them from purchasing, leasing and registering a motor
- What other countermeasures should be considered for Manitoba's impaired driving program?