What is an Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS)?

By Last Updated: March 28, 2024

You only have 7 days to launch a review of your license suspension.

IRS SafeRoads challenges are handled virtually across Alberta. This allows us to conduct defences from our centralized offices in Calgary or Edmonton. You do not need a lawyer in your jurisdiction where the incident occurred.

What is an Immediate Roadside SanctionAlberta has always had strict DUI laws but, as of December 2020, they have become even harsher.

The recent legislative changes have made an Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) more likely if you are stopped and suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

But who exactly could this affect? And what does it mean for your driving privileges?


Changes to impaired driving laws in Alberta

If you missed it, Bill 21 came into effect at the end of 2020, introducing Immediate Roadside Sanctions.

This move was made due to increasing frustration regarding DUI cases being dropped, police time being wasted in court, and drivers escaping punishments for their alleged infractions.

Under the previous Alberta Administrative License Suspension program
(AALS), 24-hour license suspensions could be given to drivers suspected of impairment by alcohol, drugs or a physical or a medical condition. Furthermore, drivers found with a blood alcohol concentration in the “warn” range but still below the legal limit in the Criminal Code were required to participate in another more serious provincial roadside suspension program.

The new program widens the scope of police’s powers for administrative penalties to be applied under Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act. Now, drivers can receive harsh punishments including immediate and significant fines, lengthy suspensions and other penalties without reliance upon the complexities of Alberta’s justice system.

The program empowers law enforcement officers to serve a Notice of Administrative Penalty to a driver with instant consequences, provided there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that driver’s impairment falls under one of the IRS categories.

Alberta is hoping to mirror the success of British Columbia’s roadside sanction program, which was launched in 2010 Rates of impaired driving incidents dropped by 36 percent from 2011 to 2018 and impaired driving fatalities fell by 54 percent in a similar period.

What penalties/sanctions apply with an IRS?

There are five different types of sanctions detailed in the new legislation. These are summarized below:

IRS: 24-Hour

  • Imposed if you are suspected of driving while your physical or mental ability is affected by the consumption of drugs, alcohol, or a medical condition
  • Immediate suspension from driving for 24 hours
  • May need to retrieve your license from the police at the end of the suspension

IRS: Novice

  • Imposed if you hold a learner’s license or a probationary license and are suspected of driving with any alcohol or drugs in your system (zero tolerance)
  • Immediate suspension from driving for 30 days
  • Vehicle impounded for seven days
  • A fine of $200 plus a victim fine surcharge
  • May be subject to additional reinstatement conditions

IRS: Commercial

  • Imposed if you hold a commercial license and are suspected of driving with any alcohol or drugs in your system (zero tolerance)
  • Immediate suspension from driving for three days (first offence), 15 days (second offence), or 30 days (third or subsequent offence)
  • A fine of $300 plus a victim fine surcharge (first offence), $600 plus surcharge (second offence) or $1,200 plus surcharge (third or subsequent offence)
  • May be subject to additional reinstatement conditions

IRS: Warn

  • Imposed if you register between 50-80 mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood (i.e. less than the legal limit under the Criminal Code but in the “warn” range)
  • Immediate suspension from driving for three days (first offence), 15 days (second offence), or 30 days (third or subsequent offence)
  • Vehicle seized for three days (first offence) or seven days (second or subsequent offence)
  • A fine of $300 plus a victim fine surcharge (first offence), $600 plus surcharge (second offence) or $1,200 plus surcharge (third or subsequent offence)
  • May be subject to additional reinstatement conditions (first offence) or mandatory participation in alcohol/drugs education courses (second or subsequent offence)

IRS: Fail

  • Imposed if you are suspected of committing an impaired driving offence under the Criminal Code (i.e. you are impaired by alcohol/drugs, refuse testing or are found to have a BAC of 0.08 or above)
  • Immediate suspension from driving for 90 days
  • Mandatory participation in the Alberta Ignition Interlock Program for 12 months (first offence), 36 months (second offence) or lifetime (third or subsequent offence)
  • Vehicle seized for 30 days
  • A fine of $1,000 plus a victim fine surcharge (first offence), $2,000 plus surcharge (second or subsequent offence)
  • Mandatory participation in alcohol/drug education programs
  • Charged under the criminal code for a second or subsequent offence

Of the above, the IRS: Fail is the most serious offence as it may result in a criminal charge for repeat offenders or where aggravating factors are present (e.g. a child was present in the vehicle or you caused bodily injury).

Your Notice of Administrative Penalty will detail the types of penalties you’re facing and the reasons for the suspension. Your license suspension then begins immediately and applies regardless of any criminal proceedings.

Note that these sanctions may come with long-term consequences like increased insurance premiums. If a criminal charge follows, you will face the prospect of a lifelong criminal record.

What should you do if you receive an IRS?

As soon as you can, contact our team at Strategic Criminal Defence – even if you are not charged with a criminal offence. An Impaired Driving Lawyer will advise you of your rights and whether it is possible to appeal your sanctions.

We will check the police paperwork and will make sure that the required disclosure is received from the provincial government within the legal time limit. If there are grounds to challenge the sanction, we will:

  • File the appropriate evidence to challenge your suspension,
  • Request a hearing as soon as possible to get your license back,
  • Represent you in oral or in writing at the hearing (whichever mode is chosen) , and
  • Analyze the decision and advise you if further steps can be taken to get your license back.

There are numerous grounds for challenging the roadside sanctions imposed against you. Some of the best defences for impaired driving charges include:

  • Inaccurate or poorly calibrated breathalyzer equipment,
  • Police officers not following correct procedure with tests like a failure to provide the mandatory roadside appeal, and
  • Violation of Charter

No time to lose

In Alberta, most people depend heavily on their vehicles to get around. A license suspension is a huge inconvenience. There is no time to lose with attempting to get your license back.

After you receive a Notice of Administrative Penalty, there is a window of only seven days to file an appeal and ask for a review of your case. You may be able to request a stay of the IRS driving suspension and have your license reinstated until the date of your hearing,

If you are successful, a hearing will be scheduled within 21 days of your Notice of Administrative Penalty being served.

For specific information regarding your case, please select the location that’s closest to you.

About The Author

Michael Oykhman

Managing Partner

Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Strategic Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

My professional experience consists of countless court appearances and thousands of successful defences and satisfied clients. Over the last 10 years, I have worked to build a law office where all the lawyers share our collective experience, resources, and passion to help people. Our team approach to legal representation is client–rather than only law–centred. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

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