Alberta’s Immediate Roadside Sanctions Program

As of December 2020, Alberta has instituted a program for impaired driving that issues Administrative Penalties rather than criminal charges for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you are found to be driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, or you are suspected of driving over the legal limit of blood alcohol/drug percentage, you will now be given an Administrative Penalty under the Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) program.  In most cases, there will be no Criminal Charge laid, but the police do still have the discretion to also lay a Criminal Charge.

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What is an Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) in Alberta?

An immediate roadside sanction (IRS) is when a driver has their license seized and suspended immediately after being served a Notice of Administrative Penalty for driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. If a driver fails an alcohol or drug test, a driver is automatically suspended from driving for at least 90 days, possibly more if this is not a “first offence”. In addition, to re-obtain the driver’s license, complete at least 12 months with an Ignition Interlock device installed in a vehicle. The Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS) Program is issued under section 88.1 of the Traffic Safety Act and is a provincial administrative sanction, or penalty; however, you could potentially still receive criminal charges in addition to the IRS penalties, at the discretion of the police.

REMEMBER YOU ONLY HAVE SEVEN DAYS TO FILE AN APPEAL OF AN IRS SO CONTACT A LAWYER RIGHT AWAY.

What are the Different IRS Charges?

The Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS) Program has five key sections: IRS: 24 Hour, IRS: novice, IRS: commercial, IRS: WARN, and IRS: FAIL.

IRS: 24-Hour

This is applied when an officer suspects a driver has consumed drugs and/or alcohol to an extent that it has impacted your physical or cognitive abilities. This sanction does not mean you have blown ‘over the limit’ on a breathalyzer test, simply that your driving ability was negatively impacted by the consumption of substances. There is very little evidence required for this sanction. If given this sanction, you can expect a 24 hour driving suspension and the potential seizure of your license and vehicle for 24 hours.

IRS: Novice

Drivers with a probationary license who are suspected of having any drugs or alcohol in their blood are given an IRS: Novice sanction. This is because anyone with a probationary license is required to have a blood/alcohol level of zero whenever behind the wheel.  If you receive this sanction, you can expect a 30 day driving suspension, the seizure of your license, vehicle seizure for one week, a fine of $200 as well as a 20% victim fine surcharge, and potential conditions for the reinstatement of your license.

IRS: Commercial

If someone is driving a commercial vehicle and is suspected of having any drugs or alcohol in their system, they will be given an IRS: Commercial sanction. The consequences for this sanction include seizure of your operating license, a driving suspension for 3 to 30 days, a fine of possibly $1200 plus a 20% victim fine surcharge, and potential conditions for the reinstatement of your license.

IRS: WARN

This sanction is applied when a driver has a blood alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.08. This means they are below the legal limit for a criminal offense but still driving impaired. The penalties for an IRS: WARN sanction are seizure of your operating license, a driving suspension for 3 to 30 days, a fine up to $1200 plus a 20% victim fine surcharge, and potential conditions for the reinstatement of your license including the required participation and completion of an educational course.

IRS: FAIL

This sanction is the most serious in the Immediate Roadside Sanction program and is typically the only sanction that could also result in potential criminal charges. The IRS: FAIL program provides law enforcement with the ability to give any driver a Notice of Administrative Penalty if they suspect a driver:

  • Operated a vehicle while their ability to drive was impaired to any extent by drugs and/or alcohol
  • Had a blood alcohol concentration equal to or exceeding a rating of 0.08, a drug blood concentration exceeding what is prescribed by the Canadian Criminal Code, or a blood alcohol concentration and a blood drug concentration exceeding what is prescribed under the Canadian Criminal Code, within two hours of operating a vehicle.
  • Failed or refused, without a reasonable excuse, to comply with a known demand made under the Canadian Criminal Code.

1

For a first IRS: FAIL Offence


  1. License will be seized and driver will be suspended from driving for 90 days with no exceptions; following 90 days, drivers must participate in the Ignition Interlock Program for at least one year.
  2. The driver’s vehicle will be seized for at least 30 days.
  3. The driver will be liable for a fine of at least $1000 as well as a victim surcharge of 20%.
  4. The driver must complete the Planning Ahead course.
  5. There may be additional conditions for the operator’s license to be reinstated.

2

For a second IRS: FAIL Offence


  1. License will be seized and the driver will be suspended from driving for possibly longer than 90 days with no exceptions. Following at least 90 days, the driver will be required to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program for possibly as much as 36 months or more.
  2. The driver’s vehicle will be seized for at least 30 days
  3. The driver will be liable for a possibly fine of $2000 plus a victim fine surcharge of 20%
  4. The driver must complete the IMPACT program.
  5. There may be additional conditions for the operator’s license to be reinstated.

3

For a third IRS: FAIL Offence


  1. License will be seized and the driver will be suspended from driving for at least 90 days, but probably longer, with no exceptions. Following at least 90 days, the driver will be required to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program indefinitely, or possibly even be given a lifetime driver’s licence suspension. An appeal can be made to have your suspension lifted/required participation in the Ignition Interlock Program.
  2. The driver’s vehicle will be seized for at least 30 days
  3. The driver will be liable for at least a $2000 fine plus a victim fine surcharge of 20%.

What is an IRS Review?

An Immediate Roadside Sanctions Review allows you to appeal the penalties given to you when you were stopped by a police officer. An IRS Review is different from the previous DUI systems where you would go to court to defend your case. In the IRS Review, you will be given a hearing via teleconference.  An adjudicator will review the evidence of the police officer who served youi the notice, but there are no live witnesses.  A lawyer familiar with Impaired Driving Law, as well as the IRS Appeal process, will be able to help you appeal your IRS, including giving you advice as to the strength of your appeal.  If an Appeal is successful, the entire Suspension and Vehicle Seizure would be canceled.

Defences Against an Alberta IRS

There are several defences and arguments you can raise in an appeal of an IRS suspension. Your defence lawyer will help you gather information and put together a solid defence that will work to exploit any errors within your IRS or the police investigation. Here are a few primary arguments in appealing an Alberta IRS:

  1. The officer’s failure to provide the required Records on the Alberta SafeRoads website.
  2. The officer’s failure to comply with the requirements for a “Roadside Appeal” of the IRS.
  3. There was a failure to inform you of your right to an appeal in writing, or any other technical error within the IRS Notice itself.
  4. The officer failed to properly make a breath demand or perform the test.
  5. Evidence showing that the individual was not in fact Impaired at the time.

The first thing you should do if charged under the IRS Program is contact a qualified defence lawyer. Brian McGlashan is an Alberta defence lawyer with over 25 years of experience in DUI cases. Brian is your best bet if you are charged under the IRS Program. With Brian’s help, you will be able to fully understand your case, collect as much information and evidence in your favour as possible, and get the best results. If you have been charged for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, contact Brian McGlashan!

REMEMBER YOU ONLY HAVE SEVEN DAYS TO FILE AN APPEAL OF AN IRS SO CONTACT A LAWYER RIGHT AWAY

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