What Are the Charges for Impaired Driving in BC?

by | Nov 26, 2020 | Driving Offences

In British Columbia, the charges for impaired driving are clearly defined and depend on whether your blood alcohol content is in the ‘fail’ range or the ‘warn’ range.

If it is in the warn range, the charges depend on whether this is your first, second or third ‘warn’ reading in the past five years.

If it is in the fail range, or you refuse to provide a specimen without a reasonable excuse, the charges depend on whether you are given an immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) or charged under the Criminal Code. This will be decided by the attending police officer.

When will I be charged with impaired driving in BC?

To understand the penalties you could face for impaired driving in British Columbia, you need to know the difference between a ‘fail’ reading and a ‘warn’ reading.

What BAC is a fail in BC?

Under Canadian federal law, you are over the legal drink drive limit if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is equal to or exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

So, if you blow into an approved screening device (ASD) and you register a reading of 0.08 or over, it is considered a ‘fail’ reading.

If you refuse to provide a specimen without a reasonable excuse, you are automatically deemed to have registered a ‘fail’ reading.

Is alcohol limit 0.05 in BC?

In British Columbia, there are also consequences if you have 50 milligrams of alcohol or more in 100 millilitres of blood. So, if you blow into an ASD and you register a reading of 0.05 to 0.08, it is considered a ‘warn’ reading.

If a fully licensed driver is found driving with a BAC of 0.05% to 0.08%, they will face a short-term driving ban and a fine.

Due to these provincial laws, BC actually has some of the toughest drink driving laws in Canada.

How much can your drink and drive in 2023 in BC?

The legal alcohol limit in British Columbia for individuals over the age of 18 is 0.05% blood alcohol concentration (BAC; up to 49 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood). However, drivers under the age of 19 have a 0% BAC limit. It’s important to remember that even small amounts of alcohol can impair your ability to drive safely.

Typically, an average-weight person drinking two standard beers in an hour might have a BAC ranging from 0.02 to 0.05.

Generally, this means that having just one beer could potentially put you over the legal limit, depending on your weight, the alcohol content of the beer, and other factors. It’s important to remember that everyone metabolizes alcohol differently, so the safest option is to not drink any alcohol if you plan to drive.

To ensure compliance with the law and safety on the road, it’s best to designate a sober driver, take public transportation, or use a ride-sharing service if you’ve been drinking. It’s always important to prioritize safety for yourself and others on the road.

What are the charges for impaired driving in British Columbia?

The charges for impaired driving in BC depend largely on whether you register a ‘fail’ or a ‘warn’ reading.

Driving while affected by alcohol – Warn readings

If you register a warn reading on an approved screening device, you will be given an immediate roadside prohibition (IRP).

The length of the driving ban depends on how many warn readings you have registered in the past five years.

If it is your first warn reading in five years, you will be issued with a three-day IRP. This means that:

  • Your driver’s licence is immediately seized and you cannot drive for three days
  • Your vehicle may be towed and impounded for three days – you’ll have to cover the costs
  • You must pay a $200 penalty
  • You must apply to have your licence reinstated if you wish to drive again

If it is your second warn reading in five years, you will be issued with a seven-day IRP. This means that:

  • Your driver’s licence is immediately seized and you cannot drive for seven days
  • Your vehicle may be towed and impounded for seven days – you’ll have to cover the costs
  • You must pay a $300 penalty
  • You must apply to have your licence reinstated if you wish to drive again
  • You may be referred to the Responsible Driver Program

If it is your third warn reading in five years, you will be issued with a 30-day IRP. This means that:

  • Your driver’s licence is immediately seized and you cannot drive for 30 days
  • Your vehicle is towed and impounded for 30 days – you’ll have to cover the costs
  • You must pay a $400 penalty
  • You must apply to have your licence reinstated if you wish to drive again
  • You may be referred to the Responsible Driver Program
  • You may be referred to the Ignition Interlock Program

Fail readings/refuse to provide a sample

If you register a fail reading on an approved screening device, or you refuse to provide a sample, you will be issued with a 90-day IRP. This means that:

  • Your driver’s licence is immediately seized and you cannot drive for 90 days
  • Your vehicle is towed and impounded for 30 days – you’ll have to cover the costs
  • You must pay a $500 penalty
  • You must apply to have your licence reinstated if you wish to drive again
  • You may be referred to the Responsible Driver Program
  • You may be referred to the Ignition Interlock Program

What are the convictions for drunk driving in BC?

The penalties for DUI in BC increase with each offense. After the first conviction, your license is suspended for one year. A second conviction within ten years leads to a three-year suspension. If you’re convicted three or more times, your license can be suspended indefinitely.

Charged under the Criminal Code of Canada

Alternatively, if you register a fail reading/refuse to provide a specimen, the police may decide to charge you under the Criminal Code of Canada instead. Rather than a 90-day IRP, you will be handed a 90-day administrative driving prohibition (ADP). Your case will then be heard in court.

If the court finds you guilty of impaired driving, you may receive:

  • A minimum fine of $1,000
  • A driving ban
  • A jail sentence
  • A referral to the Responsible Driver Program
  • A referral to the Ignition Interlock Program

Graduated Licencing Program

Special rules apply to those under the Graduated Licensing Program. If you are a learner or novice driver and there is any presence of alcohol or drugs in your system, you:

  • Get an immediate 12-hour licence suspension
  • Have your driving record reviewed and may face further penalties
  • Must apply to have your driving licence reinstated
  • Have to start at the beginning of your 24-month licensing period, if you are a novice driver

Want to read more on what is Impaired Driving in B.C.? Check this comprehensive page that explains what impaired driving means .

Vancouver impaired driving lawyers can help

It is possible to dispute both an immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) and an administrative driving prohibition (ADP). In each case, you have just seven days in which to request a review. We can manage the review process on your behalf, working to save your licence and get your driving privileges restored.

Brian MickelsonJoel WhysallMeghan ForhanCathryn MooreJulie Audette and Aya Tubinshlak are experienced legal advocates. Recent cases demonstrate our expertise in handling charges for the impaired driving in BC. Read one of the newest testimonials from our satisfied clients

Call a Vancouver impaired driving lawyer now – 604-688-8588