Impaired Driving Charges in British Columbia

If you have an impaired driving charge in BC, it’s important to understand the charges and what’s involved if you are convicted. You may also wonder how common impaired driving charges are and what the risk of impaired driving collisions are in BC. In order to reduce the risk of impaired driving, police enforcement occurs year-round, with Counter Attack road checks during the highest risk periods for drinking and driving, in July and the December holiday season.

What are the Grounds for Testing?


The police can request a breath and/or blood sample during a field sobriety test if they have reasonable grounds to believe that you are committing an offence, or at any time within the preceding 

three hours have committed this offence. While no one can force you to cooperate with testing, keep in mind that refusing to comply with the request is an offence unless you have a valid 

(e.g., medical) reason.


Impaired Driving Laws


BC has in place strict laws in place to penalize impaired driving and the risk of related accidents. In BC, an impaired driver can be penalized under the Motor Vehicle Act (the “Act”) or the Criminal
Code of Canada or both. The Act penalizes drivers with less alcohol in their system than the Criminal Code, but the latter can have more serious penalties if you are convicted.

The Motor Vehicle Act


S.215 of the Act allows the police to issue an Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP) if an Approved Screening Device (ASD) displays you have BAC of 0.05 mg/100ml or more while you have care 

and control of a motor vehicle. A 12 or 24 hour driving prohibition is also possible if you are in the Graduated Licensing Program and have a BAC above 0.00 mg/100ml. A 24 hour suspension of 

driving privileges can also result with or without ASD testing if the officer believes that you are impaired by alcohol or a drug and have car and control of a motor vehicle.


BAC Levels on an ASD


A “WARN” on an ASD is when your breath sample shows a BAC of not less than 0.05mg/100ml. If a WARN results, the following consequences may occur as per Part 4, s.215 of the Act:

For a first offence within five-years: 


  • Immediate driver's licence suspension for three days (in which case you must apply to have your licence reinstated);
  • Vehicle impoundment for three days (whereby you must pay all towing and vehicle storage costs); and 
  • $200 administrative penalty.
For a second offence within a five-years:
  • Immediate driver's licence suspension for seven days (in which case you must apply to have your licence reinstated);
  • Vehicle impoundment for seven days, including responsibility for all towing and vehicle storage costs;
  • $300 administrative penalty;
  • Referral to the Responsible Driver Program; and
  • Referral to the Ignition Interlock Program.
For a thirdoffence within five-years:
  • Immediate driver's licence suspension for 30 days (in which case you must apply to have your licence reinstated);
  • Vehicle impoundment for 30 days, including responsibility for all towing and vehicle storage costs
  • $400 administrative penalty
  • Referral to the Responsible Driver Program; and
  • Referral to the Ignition Interlock Program.

A “FAIL” on an ASD is when your breath sample shows a BAC not less than 0.08 mg/100ml or you refuse or fail to provide a breath sample. If this applies to you, a 90 day immediate roadside

prohibition may be issued or, at the officer’s discretion, you may be charged under the Criminal Code (s.249-261). 

If you are issued a 90-day IRP, the following consequences may occur: 
  • Immediate driver's licence suspension for 90 days (in which case you must apply to have your licence reinstated);
  • Vehicle impoundment for 30 days, including responsibility for all towing and vehicle storage costs;
  • $500 administrative penalty;
  • Referral to the Responsible Driver Program; and
  • Referral to the Ignition Interlock Program.

Criminal Code Charges

The police can lay a criminal charge if your BAC is above the 0.8 percent or if they consider you to be driving impaired. An impaired driving charge can apply if your BAC is under the 0.8 percent

limit or if you BAC is not measured and there is other evidence of impairment (e.g., slurred speech, reduced reaction time, bad driving). An “over 80” charge can be laid instead of an impaired driving 

charge where a BAC reading is higher than 0.8 percent but your ability to drive a motor vehicle is not impaired. 


If your BAC is above 0.08% or you are considered impaired to drive, you can expect the following consequences under the Criminal Code:


  • A 24 hour driving prohibition;
  • Vehicle impoundment for 24 hours, including responsibility for all towingand vehicle storage costs
  • Detainment for further Breathalyzer testing at the police station;
Upon further confirmed testing of a BAC over 0.08, or upon refusal to provide a breath sample, you will be issued an impaired driving charge under the Criminal Code.
If you are convicted in court for impaired driving, then you will face court ordered consequences, including:
  • A driving prohibition for a first offence of at least one - three years, for a second offence of at least two – five years, and for a third offence of at least 3years;
  • $1,000 fine for a first offence, jail time of at least 30 days for a second offence, jail time of at least 120 days for a third offence, and up to a maximum of five years for

any offence (including the first one);

  • Referral to the Responsible Driver Program; and
  • Referral to the Ignition Interlock Program.
The sentence imposed will depend on various factors, including whether an injury or death occurred.


Contact Richard D Ballantyne, Criminal Defence Lawyer in Abbotsford, BC

If you need a DUI or impaired driving lawyer in Abbotsford, contact Richard D Ballantyne for your criminal defence. Ms. Ballanytne is a lawyer who defends all kinds of
charges related to impaired driving in Abbotsford, including dangerous driving and impaired driving causing death. Contact us for your free consultation at 604-853-2220.
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