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Ontario's zero tolernace policy may soon become even stricter

Drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol could be facing tougher penalties with the advent of legal recreational marijuana use coming in July 2018. Ontario is potentially planning to implement stricter laws for drivers 21 years old and younger, all fledgling drivers and all commercial vehicle drivers. If police find you under the influence, you may have to dig deeper into your pockets since fines would increase along with licence suspensions.

Ontario will soon be distributing and selling recreational pot in about 150 stores with the LCBO in charge of selling the herb. As with liquor, you'll need to be 19 years old to buy cannabis. If police pull you over and you refuse to do a roadside test, the penalties you'll be facing may be much stricter.

The aim of these changes

The government's proposed changes will put drug and alcohol offences under the same umbrella in Ontario in hopes that these new rules will dissuade drivers from driving under the influence of marijuana. If you're a young or new driver with a G1, G2, M1 or M2 license and are facing charges of impaired driving, under these proposed revisions, you would be facing a three-day suspension up to 30 days. You could also expect to pay a fine from $250 to $450 if the court finds you guilty.

If you're a commercial driver and you fail a roadside test, you would face a licence suspension of three days and fines ranging from $250 to $450. This would be an entirely new law since Ontario doesn't have set fines or suspensions for commercial drivers under its current impaired driving legislation. Any driver who fails a roadside test or blows a warning would be paying between $250 and $450 -- up from the current $198. If you refuse to do a roadside test, you would be facing a fine of $550, which is also a significant increase from the current level of $198.

New screening device

Ontario is also awaiting federal approval for an oral fluid that police will use to test drivers for drugs. However, the OPP along with other police associations have said they need further time to train cops on new marijuana laws and to increase the number of officers who will be conducting impaired driving tests at roadsides.

Authorities have reported that they need another six months to a year to become fully ready to handle the legal cannabis rollout, and they have concerns that this July is too soon. That admission could mean mistakes may happen during many future roadside tests.

Obtaining legal advice

If you are suddenly facing charges for impaired driving, there are resources readily available to you during this trying time. Facing charges for these accusations does not automatically mean you will be convicted for them. You have the right to obtain legal counsel to gain a full understanding of the charges against you and to ensure that you have the best possible defence strategy against your charges.

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Ontario's zero tolernace policy may soon become even stricter | Bayne Sellar Ertel Carter