Update:

See the current penalties and the harsher penalties which will come into effect on September 20, 2010 (see comparison chart) regarding drinking and driving.

See the News Release from the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles and the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solictor General:

Impaired Driving

Impaired Driving is on the rise. In B.C., it kills over 100 people and injures more than 3,000 each year. Every one of these tragedies is entirely preventable.

In April 2010, the Province introduced changes to give B.C. the toughest provincial impaired driving legislation in the country. If you drink and drive after the new law comes into effect on September 20, 2010, you can count on penalties adding up to between $600 and $4,060 – even if it’s the first time you’re caught – and more time off the road. For more information on this announcement, see: July 28, 2010 News Release and April 27, 2010 News Release and Backgrounder.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) – a unit measuring the amount of alcohol in the body. E.g., 0.05 BAC = 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.


Penalties

Currently, a police officer may issue you an immediate, 24-hour driving suspension at the roadside and, at the officer’s discretion, impound the vehicle you are driving if you are found to be driving while impaired. To impose more severe sanctions, such as 90-day Administrative Driving Prohibitions [PDF] and possible criminal charges, an officer must take you to their station or detachment for additional testing.

Beginning in fall 2010 (September 20, 2010) more immediate and severe penalties will apply if:

  • You are caught driving with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) between 0.05 and 0.08 per cent, OR
  • Your BAC is above 0.08 per cent, OR
  • You refuse to provide a breath sample.

As well, the new penalties will become more severe for repeat offences.

If a police officer suspects you are driving impaired, they will ask you to provide a breath sample at the roadside, into a roadside screening device. Depending on the BAC in the sample, the device will either indicate Pass, Warn or Fail.

PASS means your breath sample contains a BAC below 0.05 per cent.

WARN means your breath sample is between 0.05 and 0.08 per cent BAC. If you are caught in this range:

The first time within a five-year period:

  • You will lose your driver’s licence for three days.
  • You may also lose your vehicle for three days. If you do, you will pay all related towing and storage fees.
  • You will pay a $200 administrative driving penalty and a $250 driver’s licence reinstatement fee.

The second time within a five-year period:

  • You will lose your driver’s licence immediately, for seven days.
  • You may also lose your vehicle for seven days. If you do, you will pay all related towing and storage fees.
  • You will pay a $300 penalty and a $250 driver’s licence reinstatement fee.

The third time within a five-year period:

  • You will lose your driver’s licence and your vehicle immediately, for 30 days.
  • You will pay all related towing and storage fees.
  • You will pay a $400 administrative driving penalty and a $250 driver’s licence reinstatement fee.
  • To regain your driving privileges, you will have to complete the Responsible Drivers Program [PDF] and have to use an Ignition Interlock Device [PDF] whenever you drive, for one full year, following your driving suspension.

FAIL means your BAC is above 0.08 per cent. If you fail or refuse to provide a breath sample:

  • You will immediately lose your driver’s licence for 90 days and your vehicle for 30 days.
  • You will pay all related towing and storage fees.
  • You will pay a $500 administrative driving penalty and a $250 driver’s licence reinstatement fee.
  • To regain your driving privileges, you will have to complete the Responsible Drivers Program [PDF] and have to use an Ignition Interlock Device [PDF] whenever you drive, for one full year, following your driving suspension.
  • In all, you will face administrative sanctions that will cost you about $4,060 before you can legally operate a motor vehicle again in B.C.
  • You may also face charges under the Criminal Code of Canada.

2 Responses to “Drinking and Driving Laws in British Columbia”
  1. Harry Veuger says:

    Incorrect Procedures by Police Agencies in BC.

    Please, as you read this, keep in mind my respect for the police and the job they have to do. My respect for the OSMV , who also has an important job in protecting the public while driving, is starting to falter though as they only have to answer to the Supreme Court of BC and this has allowed certain things to get out of control. NOR do I endorse drinking and driving by anyone,

    Let’s first go over why Section 215 of the MVA (Motor Vehicle Act), the 24 hour prohibition was legislated. The 24 hour prohibition was designed as a tool for police to use on the roadside to take drivers that have been drinking, but not impaired, off the road to protect the public. If an officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the drivers ability to drive is affected by alcohol, that officer can issue a 24 hour notice. This does not require a roadside test, and can be based on observation by the officer. Quite a bit of power, the officer now becomes judge and jury. Those that created Section 215 realized this and put a subsection (section 215(6)) that protects “civilians”. Subsection 6 allows the driver to ASK for a roadside test to prove that he/she is under the legal limit of .05 in BC. If it is proven that the driver is under the legal limit of .05, the prohibition is terminated and he/she is allowed to drive. Below is what is written on the reverse side of the 24 hour notice given to you by the officer:

    “If a blood alcohol test was NOT administered and was not a basis for serving this notice, you have the RIGHT to forthwith request a test to determine your blood level. In the event the test indicates that your blood alcohol level does not exceed 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, the prohibition from driving is terminated. The prohibition will not appear on your driving record and you will be allowed to drive.”

    This is a great “balance” and protects a driver from an unwarranted 24 hour prohibition that may occur resulting from an officers incorrect assumption. This section of the MVA works very well for the job it was intended to do. This section, in its entirety, also describes a driver that is ALLOWED to drive with a BAC of .01 to .049, which is NOT a novice driver in BC.

    A side note to this section. Police are NOT required to mention the fact that the driver can request a roadside test to prove innocence. I guess we are all supposed to know the MVA , as would a lawyer perhaps. Sure, it is written on the reverse side of the notice, but who reads the back of the ticket until the police officer has left? Who might have trouble reading the grey lettering on blue paper in low light? Who would read it while they are dealing with the officer? A pretty slick way of issuing a ticket that is uncontested at the “scene”. You know what is very ironic? Many officers I have talked to in my fact finding missions, didn’t even know section 90.3 existed, for whom it was designed and it application! Why is this ironic? These are the same officers that expect civilians to know the MVA and realize the right to ask for a roadside test!

    Now we introduce the Graduated License Program in BC. Within the GLP, we have a class of drivers called Novice drivers. These novice drivers are held to higher standards and lower penalization levels than “regular” drivers and as such, points, prohibitions etc result in harsh (so it should be) driver sanctions. License suspensions of 3 to 4 to 12 months are applied if certain conditions are met. When the GLP came into effect, legislation was also written to “accommodate” drivers within this program. One piece of legislation that was enacted is Section 90.3, the 12 hour suspension. This section was written to deal specifically with drivers that are prohibited of having ANY alcohol within their system while driving. Yes, this IS a description of a novice driver! Zero tolerance!

    When a police officer begins his investigation into the drinking and driving of a novice driver, they must begin with section 90.3! Section 90.3(2b) requires the officer to demand a breath sample to PROVE that there is alcohol within the novice drivers system before issuing the 12 hour suspension. PROVE! Why is this so important? Because of the penalties and ramifications that will occur to a novice driver, a possible 4 month license suspension for instance! With proof, these ramifications are justifiable, without proof, they are not. A 12 hour suspension cannot be issued by the police based on observation alone as with the 24 hour prohibition. Evidence is required, therefore the demanded breath sample.

    So why are police departments still giving 24 hour prohibitions to novice drivers as a first step in their investigation? Having gone over what the two sections were designed for, I will bring up some points that SHOULD make everyone question this.

    1) In its entirety, the 24 hour prohibition describes a driver that is allowed to drive with SOME alcohol in their system. This does NOT describe a novice driver. So, how can the 24 hour be issued to a novice driver?
    2) The 12 hour suspension carries the description of the novice driver, exactly!
    3) The 24 hour prohibition is designed to take a driver off the road for 24 hours. Remember, this can be based JUST on the officer “thinking” the driver has alcohol in their system. When it is applied to a novice driver, it does not just take the driver off the road for 24 hours. It will result in a license suspension of 1 month or longer, NOT what is the intent of this section!
    4) The 12 hour suspension WAS designed to penalize the novice driver IF it is PROVEN that the driver has alcohol within their system while driving. First with a roadside license suspension, then with a driver sanction applied by the OSMV.

    The Superintendent and our government are conveniently allowing this to slide under the radar. Appeals by novice drivers on their 24 hour prohibitions are denied by the OSMV with the following statements:

    ”Based on the evidence before me, I am satisfied that you had the right to request that the peace officer administer a test of your blood alcohol level”
    And
    “Based on the evidence before me, I am satisfied that you did not request the peace officer administer a test of your blood alcohol level.”

    First of all, how many people actually know they have that right? Did you? Secondly, if a novice driver does ask for the test, and blows below .05, is he/she allowed to drive? This is key….allowed to drive, as stated as a right on the 24 hour notice just handed to them. If the officer DOES let the driver go, it is in contradiction to BC legislation of zero alcohol tolerance and a novice driver. If he doesn’t let the driver go, and with volunteered evidence, now decides to issue a 12 hour suspension, three things come to mind. First of all, to me, it’s an admission to not using the correct charge to begin with. Secondly, evidence that a person voluntarily gave to prove innocence in one charge, is now being used against him in a second charge. Kind of a catch 22 isn’t it? Mmmm…..do I prove myself innocent in this charge, and possibly prove guilty in another? Isn’t this a constitutional issue? Section 11 of the Canadian Charter Rights and Freedoms does not permit us to self-incriminate ourselves. Thirdly, if that driver cannot be allowed to drive from that scene as a result of the investigation into drinking and driving, the right on the back of the 24 hour prohibition means “diddly squat”!

    Questions that I have and would like answers for:

    1) Why is the OSMV, part of OUR government, standing by police agencies giving 24 hour prohibitions to novice drivers when it appears to be unlawful or constitutional?
    2) Why don’t officers let the drivers know about the right to ask for a roadside test? Could it be that many of the 24 hour prohibitions, whether issued to a novice or regular driver, would not, or could not be completed? This right is VERY important in this situation, and should be told to the driver, and the police should make sure the driver understands this right as this is the same right that the OSMV uses against you as a denial for any appeal of the 24 hour prohibition.
    3) Can you ask for a roadside test 2 hours after the police have left, once you’ve read the ticket? Of course not, and it’s a little late…but that’s when most drivers would get a chance to read or find out about their right.
    4) How many unwarranted 24 hour prohibitions are given every year because of these incorrect procedures by the police? Both to regular and novice drivers?
    5) How much money does the OSMV bring in from appeal fees, which they conveniently rubber stamp as denied, in dealing with 24 hour prohibitions?
    6) How has it been allowed to let a section of the law, the 24 hour prohibition, morph into something that it isn’t, or was NOT intended for? It was intended to get a driver off the road for 24 hours, not to be used as a tool by the OSMV to suspend drivers for 4 months!
    7) Why is the only way of fighting the decisions of the OSMV by going to the Supreme Court of BC? This venture will cost you a minimum of $2500, a tough pill to swallow if you are innocent!
    8) A simple question….why was section 90.3 enacted in the first place then? Why not just continue to use section 215, the 24 hour prohibition? Was it because the 24 hour prohibition does not address the situation of the novice driver?

    You will hear it said many times that driving is a privilege. If a person fulfills the medical, capability and responsibility qualifications needed to be a driver, does not that person then have the right to drive? I believe that we do have the right to drive, as much as we have the right to walk in public. And as such, we must be protected of our rights. Nothing has to be re-written, only procedures changed. If the police would begin their investigation of a novice driver and drinking and driving with section 90.3 (as it is designed for) there would be no issues. If the police would be so kind as to remind the regular driver of their right to request a roadside test, there would be no issues. Then the OSMV can do their job with proper evidence.

    Harry Veuger

  2. Yvon says:

    I got an even craaaaaaazier one.

  3.  
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