There are many reasons why people drink while impaired, or more specifically, with a blood alcohol content (BAC) that exceeds 0.08, which is the legal limit prescribed by the Criminal Code of Canada. Many simply don’t realize that their BAC is over the limit, because they are not educated about how little alcohol it takes to become impaired and how long it takes to sober up. Others feel inconvenienced or unwilling to spend money on a taxi to get home from a party, and believe that they are still in control despite being over the legal limit. Still others are dependent on alcohol, and are used to going about life’s activities in an impaired state. Underlying all of these “reasons” is the fact that drinking alcohol affects one’s decision-making process.
Unfortunately, a lack of education is not a viable defence when it comes to being charged with impaired driving. For policy reasons, impaired driving is one of the few criminal offences that requires no specific intent.
All Provinces Governed by the Criminal Code
Regarding criminal penalties for driving while intoxicated, all provinces are governed by the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code makes it an offence for a person to be “in care and control” of a motor vehicle, (a) with a BAC of 0.08 or above, or (b) while impaired. The reason for this distinction is that if a person refuses a blood test to determine his or her BAC, or the person may be impaired by a drug other than alcohol. However, in those situations, a person’s behaviour and manner of driving may be used as evidence to support that he or she was driving in an impaired condition.
Driving with a BAC above 0.08, or while otherwise impaired, can result in a minimum fine of $1000 on a first offence, a minimum imprisonment of 30 days on a second offence, a minimum imprisonment of 120 days on a third offence. Whether it is the first, second, or third offence, the offender may be fined up to and imprisoned up to five years if the Crown proceeds by indictment.
Where impaired driving causes bodily harm, the offender may be imprisoned up to 10 years. Where the impaired driving causes death, the offender may imprisoned for a life sentence.
Additional Regulations in Manitoba
Although the Criminal Code dictates what criminal offences relate to impaired driving, each province has the authority to create regulations that allow the province to suspend drivers’ licences and impose fines, even where they have not been convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code. In Manitoba, and in many other provinces, a driver may be penalized even where he or she is found to have a BAC lower than that required to convict under the Criminal Code.
Penalties in Manitoba have become increasingly stiffer, with changes having been made as recently as 2015. Where a driver is found to have a BAC of 0.05 to 0.08, his or her licence may be immediately suspended for the following lengths:
72-hour suspension for a first occurrence
7-day suspension for a first occurrence with a person under the age of 16 in the vehicle
15-day suspension for a second occurrence
30-day suspension for a third occurrence
60-day suspension for a fourth and subsequent occurrences
Lastly, where a driver is found with a BAC over 0.08, refuses to provide a breath or blood sample to police, or refuses to perform a physical coordination test, his or her licence may be administratively suspended for three months. These penalties are in addition to penalties imposed under the Criminal Code. A comprehensive guide on impaired driving is available from Manitoba Public Insurance as to the possible penalties faced by Manitoba drivers found with a BAC above 0.05 but below 0.08. Driving with a BAC of 0.05 is considered to be unsafe and unacceptable, even if it does not attract consequences as severe as imprisonment. Contact Saheel Zaman Law Corporation for a DUI lawyer in Winnipeg If you or a loved one have been charged with an impaired driving offence, it is important to obtain legal counsel as soon as possible. At Saheel Zaman Law Corporation, an impaired driving lawyer in Winnipeg can assist you right away. Contact our Winnipeg lawyers at 204-943-9922.