The Facts on Impaired Driving in Alberta: What You Need to Know
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The Facts on Impaired Driving in Alberta: What You Need to Know

The facts

There’s no denying that being charged with an impaired driving offence is one of the easiest ways to find yourself tripped up by the law, with people commonly underestimating the influence of an extra glass of wine or overestimating their ability to stomach alcohol. This is no surprise, considering that many different factors can affect how individuals react to alcoholic drinks, including weight, gender, and an empty stomach; given the potential for individual variation, it is only natural that the general practice of limiting yourself to one or two drinks can still lead to a blood alcohol content in certain people that is technically classified as criminal.


With a recent crackdown on impaired driving laws in Alberta, it’s become increasingly risky when it comes to consuming alcohol before getting behind the wheel. To maximize your chances of enjoying yourself while avoiding the nasty surprise of a criminal charge, it is worth familiarizing yourself with the developments, and considering the influence that these legislative changes can have upon lives.


A Crackdown for Public Safety


Given that Alberta has experienced a stream of alcohol-related collisions in recent years, it is only understandable that the authorities seek to penalize impaired driving severely. With the most recent update to Impaired Driving Penalties implemented on July 1, 2012, the most important change means that drivers with a blood alcohol content of .05 to .08 can now also face significant penalties if they are caught.


Penalties for those with BAC .05-.08


While these individuals only used to face a 24-hour licence suspension, they can now expect the following:


  • 1st offence: immediate 3-day licence suspension and 3-day vehicle seizure;
  • 2nd offence within a 10-year period: immediate 15-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, “Crossroads” or “Planning Ahead” course;
  • 3rd offence within a 10-year period: immediate 30-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, and “Impact” course.



Given that it can be very easy to end up at 0.05-blood alcohol content, these penalties are understandably less severe than those for individuals with blood alcohol at .08 or over. However, it’s also important to take into account that just because these penalties are relatively lenient, it doesn’t mean that their consequences aren’t still highly inconvenient and have the potential to escalate into a greater issue. By offending the law – no matter what your precise situation – you put yourself at risk of gaining a criminal record, which has the potential to limit both your personal life and your professional opportunities. In these situations, it is often important to enlist the help of a knowledgeable defence lawyer to minimize the impact upon your future.


When it comes to drivers with Criminal Code charges, i.e. with a blood alcohol content over .08, there have also been significant changes to the penalties:


Penalties for those with BAC .08 or over


  • 1st offence: while the licence suspension only used to be for 24 hours, this is now sustained until the criminal charge is resolved. The individual’s vehicle is also seized for 3 days;


  • 2nd offence & any subsequent offences: the immediate licence suspension is sustained until the criminal charge is resolved, and the individual’s vehicle is seized for 7 days.


An additions assessment may be required, and mandatory use of an ignition interlock device is necessary for the duration of 1 to 5 years, depending on how many times the individual has offended.


New drivers are also being targeted by these laws, which aim to take into account the importance of developing good driving habits from the outset. New drivers with any alcohol whatsoever in their blood are liable for a penalty:


For new (GDL) drivers with blood alcohol over .00


  • Immediate 30-day suspension and 7-day vehicle seizure


This develops in severity from the previous penalty of a 24-hour licence suspension, in a bid to discourage new drivers from developing dangerous tendencies.


Although this crackdown might seem harsh, we must always remember that this progression in the law has only been designed to prevent more people from becoming victims of road traffic accidents. However, as careful as we are, it still sometimes remains the fact that we find ourselves with an unexpected impaired driving charge. In these situations, it is always best to seek the advice of a professional defence lawyer to maximize your chances of a positive outcome. AIDD can offer advice on your situation and a preliminary way of moving forward, working to defend your case and protect your rights.