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Canada: Toughest Drunk Driving Laws in Nation Go into Effect in British Columbia

(Sept. 22, 2010) On September 20, 2010, new statutory provisions came into force in the province of British Columbia that provide for the imposition of the stiffest penalties for driving while impaired in Canada. (The Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C., ch. 318 (1996), available at
, as amended by the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 2010, Bill 14, 39th Parl. 2nd Sess. Bill, available at The amended law creates a 90-day driving ban for persons convicted of drunk driving and a 30-day impoundment of their vehicles used in the commission of their offenses. The law also allows the police to impose 24-hour roadside driving bans and the courts to impose up to approximately US$4,000 in penalties.

The threshold for the above penalties is having a blood alcohol level in excess of .08. However, the new law also strengthens the rules pertaining to persons driving with a blood alcohol level of between .05 and .08. Persons found to have driven with a blood alcohol level in this “warning zone” face up to a three-day driving ban and a fine of up to approximately US$200 for a first offense. Third-time offenders face a 30-day driving ban and a fine of almost US$400.

British Columbia has also extended its provisions for the impoundment of vehicles to persons found to have driven in excess of 40 kilometers per hour over the speed limit, street racers, and tailgaters. British Columbia's Solicitor-General, Mike de Jong, has said that the new rules “will impose the toughest sanction in the land” and their “biggest impact is the immediacy of the penalty.” (John Bermingham, B.C. Introduces Toughest Drunk-Driving Laws in the Country in Honor of Alexa Middelaer, THE PROVINCE (Sept. 20, 2010),

British Columbia is one of Canada's provinces that have supplemented the provisions of the federal Criminal Code, enacted under Parliament's exclusive jurisdiction to enact criminal laws, with “quasi-criminal” rules that fall under their jurisdiction to license and impose conditions on drivers. The federal laws are uniform throughout the country, but the supplemental provincial laws vary considerably from province to province. British Columbia's government reportedly decided to move that province's laws to the forefront due to “an upward trend in B.C.'s drunk-driving deaths.” (Id.)

The Criminal Code's prohibitions on impaired driving are contained in the Criminal Code, R.S.C. ch. C-46, ss. 253-261 (1985), as amended, and are available online at