Impaired Driving… it’s a bigger deal than you think Eh

The immediate thoughts when some people are arrested and charged with impaired driving are usually “So much for a clean driving record”, “Shouldn’t be too bad, no one was hurt” or even “It’s okay, I’ll just have to drive with an interlock device installed for a while”. The truth of the matter in Canada is that impaired driving offenses are much more than mere traffic offenses; they are crimes punishable under the Criminal Code and carry very serious repercussions upon conviction.

All persons convicted of any impaired driving offenses in Canada, including operating a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol, or the separate offenses of operating a conveyance with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 80mg or more, or a blood drug concentration (BDC) of 5 ng or more within two (2) hours of operation, face serious sentences even for a first offense. In Canada, a first-time impaired driving conviction carries a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. As the number of convictions increase, so does the severity of the sentence imposed in each case: for a second impaired driving and/or BAC exceeding the limit conviction, the mandatory minimum upon conviction is 30 days imprisonment. For a third conviction, the mandatory minimum is 120 days imprisonment.

Where an individual has been convicted of an impaired driving offense causing bodily harm, the sentence can range from 2 years imprisonment to a maximum of 14 years, depending on the circumstances of the case. Additionally, if someone is charged with an impaired driving offense and is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, the results of a conviction can be even more severe and may affect a citizenship application.

Further, in some provincial jurisdictions such as British Columbia, there can be severe consequences for driving with a BAC even under the federal limit of 80mg. Pursuant to the BC Motor Vehicles Act, the police may administer a roadside test using an “Approved Screening Device” where they have a reasonable suspicion that an individual may be impaired. Where the device returns a BAC result of 50mg or more, the individual can be served with an Immediate Roadside Prohibition.

In summary, driving while impaired in Canada costs! Whether you’re new to driving, new to the country or are a seasoned driver, it’s important to know the law and be aware of the potential criminal consequences associated with impaired driving.