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Laws Regarding Impaired Driving

Every year, thousands of people in British Columbia operate their vehicles while either intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. In 2008, for example, nearly 40 per cent of fatal crashes involved the driver consuming some amount of alcohol. The percentage of people who had alcohol levels above 80mg% was also about 35 per cent.

Alcohol and drugs significantly inhibit your ability to drive effectively and can lead to collisions, injuries, and fatalities. Both Canada and B.C. have laws that strictly prohibit drinking and driving or other forms of impaired driving.

Federal and BC Law Regarding Impaired Driving

Generally, only B.C. laws will apply in cases of impaired driving, but this is not always the case. The federal law may apply in addition to B.C. laws as well. While it is not technically a crime to drive with some amount of alcohol in your system, it becomes illegal if your blood alcohol level is above a specified limit. The federal law regarding blood alcohol content begins at 0.08. In BC, the unlawful blood alcohol level starts at 0.05.

It is a criminal offence to refuse to comply with requested testing, including a blood or breath sample. An officer can require a test if he or she has reason to believe that a person is engaging or has engaged in illegal impaired driving.

Road-Side Testing

The police can request that you take the following tests if you had care or control over a vehicle, even if you were not driving it, and they suspect you of engaging in impaired driving.

  1. Roadside Screening Device or ASD

A roadside screening device or Approved Screening Device (ASD) is used to provide an estimate of your blood alcohol content. You blow into this instrument, and the alcohol on your breath is measured. They must request this test immediately, or it may not be used at a criminal trial. However, delay in administering this examination does not affect the police officer’s ability to promptly prohibit your driving—an IRP or Immediate Roadside Prohibition.

  1. Evidentiary Breathalyzer Test

Like an ASD, an evidentiary breathalyzer test will examine your alcohol exposure based on your breath. It will determine whether you have a blood alcohol content higher than the federal legal limit of 0.08. The police will only request that you take this test if they reasonably believe that you were operating a vehicle (or have care or control of it) while your ability is impaired or you have already committed the offence of alcohol-impaired driving within the past three hours. Undergoing this test generally requires that you either provide breath samples or go to the local police station where the Approved Instrument is located.

Drug Impaired Driving

Testing for drug-impaired driving is not as stringent or standardized as alcohol-impaired driving. However, police can still perform field sobriety tests to determine if you are impaired from another substance other than alcohol. Failing a field sobriety tests can result in sanctions, including a 24-hour prohibition from driving.

An officer can also request that you undergo a drug recognition evaluation by an expert. The assessment is extremely detailed and thorough, much more so than the field sobriety test. It can be used as evidence to assist in convicting you for impaired driving charges under federal law.

Impaired Driving Accidents

Diamond & Diamond Lawyers LLP are there to help with your claim for compensation if you are injured in a vehicle accident caused by an impaired driver. Our 24/7 injury hotline is available at 1-800-567-HURT or you can visit our website to speak to someone now about your claim. Consultations are free throughout British Columbia.


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