In British Columbia, it is not uncommon for a driver to face jail time for a DUI; in fact, in certain cases it is mandatory. Penalties for driving over the legal limit range from fines and license suspensions to lifetime driving prohibitions, light prison sentences, or worse. Although mandatory prison sentences are only for extreme cases, it is still a very real possibility. This blog will explain BC DUI laws and jail time in greater detail.

 British Columbia’s drunk driving laws are some of the toughest in the nation, and the government rightfully takes enforcement of these laws seriously. If you are facing a DUI charge, here is what you need to know:

Enforcement Begins at .05

If a police officer suspects you of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, or having done so within the previous three hours, you will be directed to give a breath sample into an approved screening device (ASD). This is colloquially known as a breathalyzer test. If your blood/alcohol level is below .05, you will register a “pass”. BC’s stringent driving laws take effect above this threshold.

If your reading is above .05 but no more than .08, your grade will be a “warn”. The penalties for offences within a five-year period are as follows:

  • First offence: a three-day driving prohibition, a $200 fine, and you must apply to have your license reinstated including paying all outstanding debts to the government.
  • Second offence: a seven-day driving prohibition, possible vehicle impoundment for seven days, a $300 fine, possible referral to the Responsible Driver Program, the same license reinstatement penalty.
  • Third offence: a 30-day driving prohibition, possible vehicle impoundment for 30 days, a $400 fine, possible referral to the Responsible Driver program and Ignition Interlock Program, and the license reinstatement penalty.

Fail or Refusal

If your reading registers above .08 or you fail to provide a sample, a different set of penalties take effect. First, an officer may issue you a 90-day roadside prohibition at their discretion. This will also include a $500 fine and towing fees as well as further penalties.

Jail Time for Criminal Convictions

Driving over .08 is considered a criminal offence, and if you are convicted of impaired driving in British Columbia, the consequences are as follows:

  • First offence: $1,000 fine.
  • Second offence: minimum 30 days imprisonment.
  • Third or subsequent offence: minimum 120 days imprisonment.

It’s important to note that refusal is also considered a criminal offence.

This does not take into account further criminal charges. If you are charged under the Criminal Code of Canada and convicted (for example, for a crime that resulted from your impaired driving), you face criminal charges in a court of law that may require more jail time. Please speak with an attorney to understand the charges you could be facing.

Drunk driving is a serious offence that comes with penalties ranging from fines to mandatory prison sentences. We in no way condone operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, but we are fully committed to defending your rights in court. Speak to a DUI criminal defence attorney in Surrey today to better understand how we can defend your rights from Crown charges.