Impaired driving, sometimes called “DUI,” is a leading cause of road accidents and fatalities. This is the key reason why the law takes impaired driving very seriously. You may be surprised to learn just how seriously.
Upon conviction for impaired driving or “DUI,” a $1000 fine, 1-year driving prohibition, and criminal record are mandatory minimum consequences. That’s why it is important to speak to an experienced impaired driving lawyer right away to learn about your options and preventing further problems.
In some cases, our lawyers have secured no criminal record or no driving prohibition for clients charged with impaired driving through skillful negotiations and knowledge of the law and alternative procedures. In other cases, our lawyers have defeated the charges outright.
Laws Addressing Impaired Driving in British Columbia
There are two sets of laws that address drugs, alcohol, and driving in British Columbia. One set of laws arises from the federal Criminal Code. The Criminal Code is the list of criminal offences in Canada, all of which can lead to criminal records and penalties.
The second set of laws arise from the province of British Columbia’s driving regulations. These are sometimes called “quasi-criminal” offences because they resemble criminal offences, but generally have less serious consequences and fewer legal protections for the accused. In BC, the impaired driving laws fall under the “Immediate Roadside Prohibition” (“IRP”) regime, as it’s commonly called.
Both sets of laws operate in parallel. In some cases, only one will apply; in others, both will apply at the same time.
1. Federal Law
According to the Criminal Code, it is a criminal offence to drive a motor vehicle:
- while “impaired” by drugs, alcohol or a combination of the two; or
- with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood (0.08% BAC) or more within two hours of ceasing driving.
To prove their case, the police can demand a breath sample or blood test if they have “reasonable grounds to suspect” that you have driven while impaired to any degree. They may make the demand even if you’re not driving, but they suspect you were driving within the last three hours and currently have any alcohol or drugs in your body. They can even demand that you submit to a field test by a “drug recognition expert.”
Denying these demands without reasonable excuse is itself a criminal offence with the same consequences as being, in fact, impaired.
These are far-reaching powers, which can be exercised even when you have not driven for three hours. Little evidence is required for the demands – “reasonable suspicion” is less than proof or likelihood that you did anything. There are even provisions for random demands for breath samples, without any reasonable grounds required.
If convicted, you would have, at minimum, a criminal record and 1-year driving prohibition.
2. Provincial Law
Provincial law, alongside and in addition to the federal criminal law, also prohibits impaired driving.
The police powers are even greater under provincial law. If a police officer believes your BAC exceeds 0.05%, they may serve you with an Immediate Roadside Prohibition. That means you are immediately prohibited from driving and presumed guilty of impaired driving. This is contrary to criminal law, where you would be presumed innocent and the state must prove your guilt.
To fight that, you must apply for a “review” of the IRP within 7 days. Due to the weaker protections under provincial law, relative to the federal criminal law, IRP’s are notorious. In addition, you may be charged and convicted of impaired driving under both the federal and provincial laws for the same incident.
Our lawyers have succeeded in defeating both IRP’s and criminal impaired driving charges. To learn about your options and possible defences, call our impaired driving lawyers.
Understanding License Suspensions in Nanaimo
Different mandatory minimum consequences apply depending on the blood alcohol content and prior convictions. These can range from briefer licensing prohibitions to long-term ones and criminal records. Jail may be appropriate in more serious cases.
1. BAC Below 0.04
BAC in this range will penalize only new drivers (drivers with an “L” or “N”). They may have zero drugs or alcohol in their bodies. The following consequences will apply if you are a new driver and have a BAC of 0.04% or less:
- Immediate license suspension for 12 hours; and
- Graduated licensing program starts from the beginning (that means you’re back to day 1 on your L or N and lose all the time credited).
2. BAC Between 0.05% and 0.08%
Driving with a BAC between 0.05% and 0.08% carries the same consequence for all drivers. This is an offence only under the provincial IRP regime, and not the Criminal Code. The consequences will depend on the number of prior convictions:
- First offense – immediate license suspension of 3 days with a $200 fine. Your vehicle must be impounded for 3 days.
- Second offense –immediate license suspension of 7 days with a $300 fine. Your vehicle must be impounded for 7 days.
- Third offense – immediate license suspension of 30 days with a $400 fine. Your vehicle must be impounded for 30 days.
In each case, you will also have to pay your impound fees, your driving record will reflect the offence, you may face additional prohibitions on top of the mandatory ones, and you may incur more insurance costs.
If this is your third impaired driving/DUI conviction, you will also have to undergo a mandatory “Responsible Driver Program” course, enroll in an ignition interlock program, install an ignition interlock on your car, and bear all the costs.
3. BAC Above 0.08
Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or more is an offence under both the federal Criminal Code and the provincial IRP regime. You may be convicted under both laws at the same time for the same offence, suffering twice as much.
Under the IRP regime, these are the consequences for driving with a BAC of 0.08% or greater:
- 90 day immediate license suspension
- $500 fine
- 30 day vehicle impoundment
- Responsible Driver Program; and
- Ignition Interlock Program
Under the Criminal Code, these are the mandatory minimum consequences for driving impaired or with a BAC of 0.08% or greater:
- 1 year driving prohibition
- $1000 fine
- Criminal record; and
- 10 points on your driving record.
Refusing to provide a breath sample carries the same consequences as blowing above 0.08%.
These are the minimum penalties. Depending on the circumstances and your prior history, you may suffer further consequences, including jail time.
4. Liability Even When Not Operating a Vehicle
As mentioned earlier, the police can demand bodily samples even when you are not driving or have not driven for up to three hours. Charges can arise even when you drank after driving or were not seen to be driving. The consequences will be the same.
What Are My Options?
Convictions for impaired driving can be life-changing. Under the Criminal Code, you would receive, at minimum, a criminal record and 1-year driving prohibition. Under the IRP regime, you would receive driving prohibitions and other ICBC- and insurance-related consequences.
Impaired driving charges can arise in different ways and many different procedures apply to these offences. Our criminal lawyers are familiar with the different laws and procedures and apply them in defending clients in court – whether in going to trial or negotiating alternative consequences that avoid driving prohibitions or criminal records. That means, in some cases charges have been defeated, and, in others, charges of impaired driving have been reduced to less serious charges that avoid a driving prohibition or criminal record.
To learn about your possible defences and options, call our firm today.
Image credit: BCCLA