Most Canadians know drinking and driving is never a good idea, but sometimes people can make mistakes. You may have underestimated how much you had to drink or not realized you are too impaired to drive. 

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, an experienced British Columbia criminal lawyer for impaired driving can help you navigate the justice system and may be able to help mitigate your penalty.

What Does Impaired Driving Over 80 mg Mean?

impaired driving concept image - blurred lights seen through car windshield

Impaired driving refers to operating a motor vehicle, including a motorcycle or some types of electric scooters, after consuming alcohol or other drugs. If convicted, it can lead to significant penalties, including loss of driving privileges, fines, and jail time. You may also tarnish your reputation in the community or even jeopardize your employment if you rely on driving to fulfill your job duties.

Canada and British Columbia both have laws regarding impaired driving. In some cases, only the BC law applies, but in others, both the federal Criminal Code and BC laws apply.

“Impaired” means the influence of alcohol on your ability to drive. It is measured by the concentration of alcohol in your blood–your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)–as a percentage of the number of milligrams of alcohol in your system per 100 milligrams of blood. The legal drinking limit is a BAC of 80mg. It is a criminal offence to drive if you are above this limit, but there are also provincial punishments which begin at a BAC of 50mg. 

How Can a Police Officer Tell What My BAC Is?

a syringe, pills and a pile of powder on a blue background

If you are pulled over for suspicion of drinking and driving, the officer may administer one or more tests to determine if you are impaired and measure your BAC. These include:

  • Approved Screening Device test: In BC, an officer who suspects a driver has been drinking can lawfully demand that the driver provide a preliminary breath sample to determine their alcohol consumption.
  • Breathalyzer Test: A police officer can require an individual to accompany them to a police station to give a more formal breath sample.

The officer that pulled you over may demand that you complete a Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST), which can measure your reaction time, coordination, and other physical signs that you may be intoxicated. All of these tests together can reliably serve as proof that someone is driving under the influence.

What are the Penalties For Driving Impaired in British Columbia?

Impaired drivers pose a serious threat to themselves and others on the road, and the British Columbia government takes penalties for driving impaired seriously. Being over the legal limit for alcohol in your bloodstream is an offence with multiple tiers of penalties. They vary in severity depending on whether it’s your first offence, if you have had multiple charges, and if your actions caused bodily harm or death.

Penalties for impaired driving with a BAC over 80 mg range from a $1,000 fine to 10 years in prison.

Penalties For impaired Driving Over 80mg

The Criminal Code imposes harsher punishments for drivers whose BAC is higher than 80mg, as the law views it as a more serious offence:

  • First offence with a BAC of 80 to 119 mg: $1,000 fine
  • First offence with a BAC of 120 to 159 mg: $1,500 fine
  • First offence with a BAC of 160 mg or higher: $2,000 fine

Subsequent offences of driving impaired with a BAC higher than 80 mg may have higher fines and mandatory jail time. Offenders may also have to relinquish their driver’s license for a stipulated period of time and take a defensive driving course. 

You may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your car, which will only allow you to operate the vehicle if you have a blood alcohol reading below the prohibited blood alcohol concentration. Many people may have to pay an increased driver risk premium for car insurance, too.

Furthermore, if you are drinking and driving, and cause an accident, hit a pedestrian or cyclist with your car, or cause serious injury or death to another person, then you may face much more serious consequences. A conviction would form  part of your permanent criminal record. Legal representation can help protect you as you navigate the British Columbia legal system, and your attorney can help defend you in court.

The penalties for alcohol impaired driving that caused bodily harm include:

  • Summary conviction: a potential maximum jail sentence up to two years. 
  • Indictment: maximum of 14 years in prison

If your actions while impaired caused the death of another person, then a conviction could mean  a life sentence in prison.

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