Warning gets your car impounded: Manitoba’s new impaired driving laws now in effect

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen announces tougher penalties for impaired driving
Justice minister Cliff Cullen announcing new, tougher penalties for drinking and driving.

Blowing even close to the legal limit now means you will see your car impounded in Manitoba.

Under the new rules, which came into effect Dec. 16, drivers registering a blood alcohol content of .05 to .079 on a roadside test will be fined $400 for a first offence, $500 for a second, and $600 for any subsequent warnings.

Those drivers registering a warning will also see their vehicles impounded for three, seven or 30 days for their first, second, and subsequent violations, and be forced to install an ignition interlock system after a third violation.

“Impaired drivers are still taking the lives of Manitobans and we need to do more to make sure people get the message that this is unacceptable,” said Justice Minister Cliff Cullen in a release in November, when the new measures were announced.

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Drivers will also lose their licence for three days upon registering a warning, and up to 60 days for subsequent offences.

The government is calling the new approach “immediate roadside prohibition”, a system that’s been in effect in British Columbia since 2010.

Penalties for those who fail a roadside test — either registering .08 or higher or refusing to take the test altogether— are also set to stiffen under the new rules.

First time offences not involving death, bodily harm or other aggravating circumstances will face a $700 fine and mandatory use of an ignition interlock system.

They’ll also get an immediate three-month licence suspension and have their vehicles impounded for 30 to 60 days.

Police discretion

The new laws “gives police the discretion to go by way of immediate roadside prohibition or to continue to go through the criminal court process,” Cst. Stephane Fontaine told 680 CJOB Monday.

“However, I believe the intent of the new legislation was to allow police to quickly process and impaired driver … So it basically reduces the time spent with an offender from three to four hours to probably 30 minutes.”

Fontaine said the lack of a criminal court process doesn’t mean the consequences are more or less.

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“You have all very similar sanctions as if you were to have been convicted in court, namely the three month immediate driver’s license suspension, which was there before.

“So you’re getting very similar consequences. Just you don’t wait a year, a year and a half.”

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Asked if the legislation was a slippery slope in that it means immediate conviction, Fontaine said that’s not the intent.

This is the legislation that has been introduced and we’re going to enforce it as we believe it was intended … our focus is going to be on people that we would have used the screening device on.”

The new legislation only applies to alcohol, not cannabis or illicit drugs.