Impaired Driving in British Columbia

British Columbia has one of Canada's strictest impaired driving laws, with license suspensions associated with a BAC level of above 0.05.

Minimum Criminal Penalties

Impaired driving is a criminal offence codified in Criminal Code of Canada, Section 253. A BAC of above 0.08 is necessary for federal charges. It carries the following federal minimums if convicted:

  • 1st offence – Fine of $1000 and 1 – 3 years driving prohibition
  • 2nd offence – 30 days in jail and 2 – 5 years driving prohibition
  • 3rd or more offence – 120 days in jail and not less than 3 year driving prohibition

Furthermore, drivers convicted of impaired driving/driving under influence under the Criminal Code of Canada may not operate a vehicle for the following minimum periods:

  • 1st offence - 3 months after the day on which sentence is imposed
  • 2nd offence - 6 months after the day on which sentence is imposed
  • each subsequent offence - 12 months after the day on which sentence is imposed

In additional to the federal minimums, impaired driving in British Columbia also carries administrative (provincial) penalties in the forms of license suspensions and impoundment.

License Suspensions and Administrative Penalties

If the BC driver's BAC level is over 0.08, the following administrative penalties apply (in addition to any criminal convictions):

  • Immediate 90 day license suspension
  • 30 day vehicle impoundment, a $500 fine
  • possible referral to Responsible Driver Program course & ignition interlock program

If the BC driver's BAC is between 0.05 and 0.08, the following penalties apply regardless of driver experience:

  • First Offense: Immediate 3 day license suspension, discretionary vehicle impoundment
  • Second Offense: Immediate 7 day license suspension, discretionary vehicle impoundment
  • Third Offense: Immediate 30 day license suspension, 30 day vehicle impoundment, possible referral to Responsible Driver Program course & ignition interlock program

The following administrative penalties apply if the BC driver's BAC is between 0.00 and 0.05 and the driver is a "notice driver" with a graduated license:

  • Immediate 12 hour license suspension
  • Restart of the current stage of the graduated license

Refusal to provide a sample

Refusing to provide a blood sample will lead to the same administrative penalties as being an impaired driver with a BAC level of above 0.08 in British Columbia. In addition, according to Section 254 (5) of the Criminal Code of Canada it is a criminal office to refuse to comply with a police officer's request for a breath sample.

Responsible Driver Program

The Responsible Driver program in British Columbia costs impaired drivers $880. Participants undergo a screening interview, after which they are placed into one of two programs:

  • An 8-hour education session in a classroom setting; or
  • A 16-hour group counselling program, scheduled over a three-month period.

Upon completing the program component, a final report will be sent to the Superintendent for review. Some drivers will be able to re-apply for a full drivers license, while others will be required to (or continue to be required to) drive with an ignition interlock device.

Ignition Interlock Device

The ignition interlock device requires the driver to provide a breath sample before starting the vehicle. While driving, the device will also require the driver to provide his/her breath sample at regular intervals. The device must be installed in any vehicle a driver in the ignition interlock program drives.

Drivers may be referred to the ignition interlock program in British Columbia for the following reasons:

  • One alcohol-related impaired driving conviction under the Criminal Code of Canada or the Motor Vehicle Act;
  • One Administrative Driving Prohibition;
  • One 90-day driving license suspension - resulting from a BAC level of above 0.08;
  • One 90-day driving license suspension - resulting from a BAC level of above 0.05;
  • Three alcohol-related 24-hour Prohibitions (within 5 years);
  • A combination of any three of the following (within 5 years): Alcohol-related 24-hour prohibition, 3-day license suspension or 7-day license suspension.

Towing and impoundment and License Reinstatement

License reinstatement fees are $250. Drivers are responsible for the towing and impoundment of their vehicles. Towing and impoundment fees in BC are roughly $150 for three days, $250 for seven days and $700 for 30 days.

Driving with a suspended license

It is a criminal offense to drive while prohibited or with a suspended license. If caught, the driver will be prohibited from driving for at least twelve month. In addition, the following penalties apply:

  • First Offense: a fine from $500 to $2,000, 7 days of vehicle impoundment, and the possibility of imprisonment for up to six months, or both (court ordered).
  • Second Offense: a fine from $500 to $2,000, 30 days of vehicle impoundment, and 14 days to one year of imprisonment (court ordered).
  • Third and Subsequent Offense: a fine from $500 to $2,000, 60 days of vehicle impoundment, and 14 days to one year of imprisonment (court ordered).

For more information on impaired driving in British Columbia, visit the provincial website Alcohol & Drug Related Prohibitions and Suspensions.