How Long will my IRS Suspension be?

By Last Updated: March 22, 2022

Under a recent revision to Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act, drivers suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be given an Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) – including a license suspension and other potential penalties.

The precise sanctions you will face depend on several factors, such as your class of license, the interpretation of your driving by law enforcement, and your level of impairment.

However, regardless of the circumstances, one thing is guaranteed with an IRS: You will likely receive a license suspension.

What is an Immediate Roadside Sanction?

What are the different types of roadside sanctions?

The five different types of sanctions are summarised below, along with the associated driving license suspensions and other penalties.

IRS: 24-Hour

This sanction applies if you are suspected of driving while your physical or mental ability is affected from consuming drugs, alcohol, or a medical condition.

It results in an immediate suspension from driving for 24 hours. The police may seize your driver’s license for this period, so following the suspension you may have to retrieve it.

IRS: Novice

Under the “zero tolerance” policy for novice drivers, this sanction applies if you hold a learner’s or probationary license and are suspected of driving with any alcohol or drugs in your system.

It results in an immediate suspension from driving for 30 days plus the following penalties:

  • Vehicle impounded for seven days,
  • A fine of $200 plus a victim fine surcharge, and
  • Possible additional reinstatement conditions.

IRS: Commercial

The “zero-tolerance” policy extends to commercial vehicle drivers. As such, this sanction applies if you are suspected of driving a commercial vehicle with any alcohol or drugs in your system.

It results in an immediate suspension from driving for three days (first offence), 15 days (second offence), or 30 days (third or subsequent offence).

The following penalties will also apply:

  • 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), and
  • Possible additional reinstatement conditions.

IRS: Warn

This sanction applies if you register between 50-80 mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood during a roadside test (i.e. less than the legal limit under the Criminal Code but in the “warn” range).

It results in an immediate suspension from driving for three days (first offence), 15 days (second offence), or 30 days (third or subsequent offence).

The following penalties will also apply:

  • 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), and
  • Possible additional reinstatement conditions (first offence) or mandatory participation in alcohol/drugs education courses (second or subsequent offence).

IRS: Fail

This sanction is the most serious and, for a second or subsequent offence, it may be accompanied by a criminal charge.

It applies if you are suspected of committing an impaired driving offence under the Criminal Code. This can include being impaired by alcohol/drugs, refusing to blow into a breathalyzer, or being found to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or above.

It results in an immediate suspension from driving for 90 days, plus the following penalties:

  • 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), and
  • Mandatory participation in alcohol/drug education programs.

For each of the above, you will receive a Notice of Administrative Penalty that outlines your penalties and the reasons for them.

As soon as this document is served to you by the police officer, your license suspension commences and you can no longer drive a vehicle legally in Alberta – regardless of whether criminal charges are later filed.

You only have seven days to file a review!

If you receive an Immediate Roadside Sanction, you must file a review within seven days of receiving your Notice of Administrative Penalty to have any hope of your license suspension being revoked.

You may get your license back if there are good grounds for a case review, such as suspect testing equipment, incorrect protocols followed by law enforcement, violation of Charter rights, etc.

SafeRoads Alberta is responsible for the review process. This is the adjudicative branch of Alberta Transportation and it resolves appeals within 30 days of the Notice of Administrative Penalty being issued.  The exact procedure for lodging an appeal is detailed on the back of your Notice.

You can schedule a hearing online within 21 days of the Notice being served. You are then entitled to receive all information on file relating to your alleged offence.

You can present your own evidence and records at the review. This must be submitted at least two days before your hearing. The documents can be uploaded online for simplicity. The hearing itself will be conducted either orally or in writing.

The adjudicator must then issue a decision in writing within 30 days of the issuance of penalty. If the decision is in your favour, the IRS suspension will be cancelled and all application fees returned to you when you collect your license.

Because of the tight timeframe involved with appealing IRS suspensions, there is no time to lose. Contact our team of Impaired Driving Lawyers to assist you with the technicalities and complexities of this process.

IRS and the Ignition Interlock Program

With a roadside license suspension issued under Alberta’s IRS: Fail program (as detailed above), law enforcement has reasonable grounds to believe that you were driving while impaired at a criminal level. Therefore, in addition to an immediate 90-day suspension, you will be required to enrol in the Alberta Ignition Interlock Program to drive legally thereafter.

An Ignition Interlock Device (IID) is a type of “car breathalyzer” that prevents you from starting the engine of your vehicle if any alcohol is detected on your breath.

You will be required to participate in this program as a condition of your license being returned to you after your suspension.

The duration of your participation in this program depends on whether you have prior impaired driving offences against your name either from the Alberta Administrative Licence Suspension (AALS) Program or IRS FAIL Program:

  • 12 months for a first offence,
  • 36 months for a second offence, or
  • Lifetime for a third or subsequent offence.

Eligibility for the program

To be eligible for the Alberta Ignition Interlock Program, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Resident in Alberta,
  • 30 days or less remaining on your minimum driving suspension term,
  • Serving no other suspensions, and
  • Application approved by Driver Fitness and Monitoring.

Costs of the program

You are responsible for all costs associated with the Alberta Ignition Interlock Program. These may include:

  • $145 plus GST for the IID installation (plus $100 surcharge for heavy trucks and specialty vehicles),
  • $95 plus GST per month for IID rental,
  • $63 for the Ignition Interlock Program Application plus the Alberta registry agent fee,
  • $50 plus GST for removal of the device, and
  • Fees for the restricted driver’s licence and road test, if applicable.

Note that these fees are subject to change at any time without notice.

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 Oykhman 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–centered. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

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