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Main Impaired Driving Page.

BC makes impaired driving laws tougher.

Tough new impaired driving laws, the toughest in Canada, went into effect in British Columbia on September 20, 2010. Penalties can add up to anywhere between $600 and $4,060 for a first offence and mean more time without a licence or car. If you're caught more than once, the penalties get tougher.

Depending on your blood-alcohol content on a roadside screening test and the number of times you've been caught, your driver's licence may be suspended, your car impounded, you'll have to pay towing and storage fees, and you'll have to pay a monetary fee and a fee to reinstate your drivers licence. You may also be required to complete the Responsible Drivers Program, and be required to use an Ignition Interlock Device.

If your blood alcohol level is over 0.08, you'll be subject to Criminal Code charges. Criminal convictions of impaired driving in BC can result in additional fines and/or jail time and additional licence suspensions of one to five years.

Impaired Driving is a Federal Criminal Offence

Section 253(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada makes it an offence to operate or have care and control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment while your blood alcohol concentration is greater than 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. This term is often shortened to 80 mg% or .08.

Other Criminal driving offences include:


BC Penalities:

Administrative Sanctions

Immediate Roadside Prohibitions (IRPs)

Administrative sanctions will apply if:

If a police officer suspects you are driving impaired, he or she will ask you to provide a breath sample at the roadside, into a roadside screening device. Depending on the BAC in the sample, the device will either indicate Pass, Warn or Fail.

PASS means your breath sample contains a BAC below 0.05

WARN means your breath sample is between 0.05 and 0.08 BAC. If you are caught in this range:

The first time within a five-year period:

The second time within a five-year period:

The third time within a five-year period:

FAIL means your BAC is above 0.08. If you fail or refuse to provide a breath sample:

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Other Sanctions . . .

Under some circumstances, police may issue other sanctions.

24-hour Prohibitions
When a police officer has reasonable and probable grounds to suspect driver impairment, he or she may issue an immediate 24-hour driving prohibition. Additionally, at their discretion, an officer may also impound the vehicle for 24 hours. 24-Hour prohibitions will usually be applied in cases of either drug impairment or a combination of drug and alcohol impairment. These sanctions to not require a breath test.

Administrative Driving Prohibitions (ADPs)
ADPs are 90-day driving prohibitions. ADPs can be served to individuals suspected of impaired driving who either refuse a breath test or provide a sample on an Approved Instrument (AI) that demonstrates a BAC greater than 0.08 (either while driving, or up to three hours after driving). After serving an ADP, applying to renew driving privileges includes paying a license reinstatement fee of $250. ADPs are separate from any court-ordered sanctions resulting from criminal charges arising from the same incident.

Remedial Programs

For circumstances that trigger referral into remedial programs, see:

Criminal Code Charges

It is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada to drive while impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. The criminal threshold is 0.08 BAC. Police can demand that suspected impaired drivers provide a breath sample into an ASD and/or perform a physical coordination test. Failure or refusal to comply is also a criminal offence.

Upon criminal conviction of impaired driving charges in B.C., drivers are subject to court-ordered consequences, which include a $1000 fine, a driving prohibition independent from any administrative prohibitions, and possible jail time

Table - Criminal Code Consequences

  First Conviction Second Conviction Subsequent Convictions
Court-ordered Driving Prohibition 1 - 3 years 2 - 5 years 3 - 5 years
Minimum Fine / Imprisonment $1,000 30 days imprisonment 120 days imprisonment

NOTE: offenders convicted under section 224 of the Motor Vehicle Act face punishment of a $100 - $2000 fine, or seven days to six months imprisonment, or both.

Additionally, criminally convicted drivers face referral into B.C.'s Indefinite Licence Suspension Program.

If they do regain their driving privileges, they will be required to participate in remedial programming as well as face increased insurance premiums.

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Graduated Licensing Program ('L' and 'N' drivers) – Driver Consequences

Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) drivers who demonstrate BAC levels greater than zero but less than 0.05, or who police suspect have any level of alcohol or drugs in their system face the following consequences:

GLP drivers who blow a WARN or FAIL are subject to the regular impaired driving sanctions, in addition to their GLP-specific consequences and reviews.

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Support for Strong Enforcement

In B.C., municipal police departments and RCMP detachments are responsible for determining local enforcement priorities. However, B.C.'s Immediate Roadside Prohibitions (IRPs) enable police to enforce stronger impaired driving penalties right at the roadside.

Police officers are able to focus their impaired driving enforcement efforts on removing impaired and dangerous drivers from the road immediately.

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Enforcement Starts at 0.05

One of the goals of B.C.’s clear, swift and severe penalties for impaired driving is to deter people from driving with a blood-alcohol content between 0.05 and 0.08. BACs in this range present a significant danger to others on B.C. roads. When your blood-alcohol content reaches 0.05, your coordination, sensitivity to brightness, and depth perception may be compromised. If you are driving, your reaction time will be slower and your responses less precise. You are more dangerous on the road. For more detailed information, read the Alcohol, Drugs and Impaired Driving.

Appealing an Impaired Driving Prohibition

Drivers who receive an impaired driving prohibition can request to have the prohibition reviewed by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles.

To seek a review, a driver will need to file an application within seven days of a prohibition notice. The Superintendent will then consider all available information – including from police, the driver and Crown counsel – and complete the review within 21 days.

Review fees are generally $100 for a written review and $200 for an oral review to help offset the administration costs. Review instructions appear on the Notice of Prohibition served to the driver. Attend your nearest ICBC Drivers Centre to make an application and schedule your hearing.

Note: oral reviews are only available for 30 and 90 day prohibitions.

All information to be considered in the review is disclosed to the driver prior to the hearing and the driver has the opportunity to provide additional evidence to dispute the facts of the case.

Applying for review does not stay a prohibition. In other words, this means that you are still prohibited from driving during the review process. In the case of shorter prohibitions, this may mean that you have finished serving it by the time a decision is made.

If a review is successful, the prohibition is revoked. This means the record is removed from your driving history, any associated impoundments are revoked, the vehicle is immediately released and all penalties – including impoundment fees – are waived or refunded (except in cases where the car was impounded for multiple reasons).

Drivers dissatisfied with the outcome of their review may also make an application under the Judicial Review Procedures Act to have the decision reviewed by the Supreme Court.

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Drug-impaired Drivers

Impairment by drugs is a dangerous driving behaviour - be they prescription and/or illicit narcotics. Research suggests impairment by drugs can be as common as alcohol-impaired driving. Impairment by a combination of drugs and alcohol has been shown to be significantly more dangerous than the sum of each separately.

If a police officer reasonably suspects that a driver is impaired by drugs, the officer may submit the driver to an evaluation, issue a 24 hour roadside prohibition, and/or take the driver to a police station or detachment to test for drug impairment. Police may also pursue criminal charges.



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