Impaired Driving: What are the Legal Limits and Consequences of a DUI in Alberta

DUI charges in Alberta


As DUI lawyers in Calgary, many people ask us what the legal limits are before an impaired driving charge is laid. The limits in Alberta haven’t changed; only the penalties have. Drivers with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) exceeding 0.08 mg will be charged criminally and will receive an immediate licence suspension that lasts until the criminal charge is resolved. Their vehicle will also be seized for 3 days.
For drivers with a BAC of 0.05 to 0.08 as a first offence, there is an immediate 3-day licence suspension and a 3-day vehicle seizure. This is an administrative penalty, and the driver will not be subject to criminal prosecution. If you’re in a similar situation, keep reading to learn more.

Overview: Federal and Provincial Limits

The maximum legal BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) is 80 milligrams of alcohol or 0.08. This benchmark applies to all Canadian provinces. Operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or more is a federal offence, and severe penalties will be imposed; in Alberta, a BAC between 0.05 and 0.079 carries steep penalties as well.
For new drivers, those with a Graduated Drivers Licence (GDL), there is zero tolerance for blood alcohol. If a GDL has any blood alcohol level, there will be an immediate 30-day suspension and a 7-day vehicle seizure. You will have a permanent criminal record if you are found guilty of driving impaired with BAC 0.08 (or higher).
This criminal record can impact your current and future employment, compromise your ability to cross borders, and result in significant insurance increases. With respect to sentences, judges are at liberty to impose sizable fines with the possibility of incarceration depending upon the circumstances.

Factors that affect your Blood Alcohol Concentration

There are many variables that can impact your BAC. Here are a few basic factors you may want to consider:

  • Consumption speed and alcohol amount: The more alcohol you consume and the shorter period of time you consume it will increase your Blood Alcohol Content.
  • Gender: Men and women respond to alcohol differently. Typically, women are smaller than men and, as a result, become inebriated quicker. Also, women usually have a higher body fat percentage, meaning they have a lower lean body mass needed to distribute the alcohol concentration.
  • Stomach content: Food in the stomach slows alcohol absorption into the bloodstream, delaying intoxication. The larger the meals, and the closer you consume them to the time of drinking, may reduce your peak BAC.
  • Dehydration: Alcohol within your bloodstream results in the brain’s pituitary gland halting the production of vasopressin. Consequently, the kidneys deliver water to the bladder instead of reabsorbing it into the bloodstream; this can eventually result in dehydration.

Immediate Roadside Sanctions Program

Alberta has an Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS) program. It applies to drunk drivers under the Traffic Safety Act. Moreover, police officers can lay charges under the Criminal Code of Canada, which can bring more court-imposed penalties. The drivers licence suspension begins immediately once law enforcement issues the Notice of Administration Penalty. A Suspension confirmation is sent to the address listed on your vehicle file.
Repeat DUIs exhibit a pattern that displays high-risk driving behaviour. And each penalty increases in severity with every transgression.

The New Drinking and Driving Law in Alberta

Alberta’s new drunk driving legislation uses enforcement combined with education and monitoring to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel. The goal is to ensure Alberta roadways remain safe for families and communities. The legislation is aimed at high‐risk groups such as repeat offenders; it includes progressive punishments for motorists in the .05 to .08 range. Those who drink responsibly at social events, after work, etc., will not be impacted by the legislation.

The most significant change is drunk drivers guilty of being legally intoxicated (a BAC above .08) is they’ll immediately have their licence suspended. Moreover, their license will only be reissued when the criminal offence is resolved.

Mandatory Alcohol Screening

Federal law authorizes police officers to request mandatory alcohol screening for drivers they legally stop. Law enforcement can request preliminary breath samples for alcohol testing. Such demands can be made without suspicion of the driver being under the influence. Sober or not, a motorist refusing to comply with the officer’s request to provide a breath sample can be charged for their refusal.

Next Step: Contact us if you need a DUI Lawyer in Calgary

When you are charged with impaired driving, the stakes are high. And when the stakes are high, it’s essential you have quality representation. At Batting, Wyman, we are your trusted DUI lawyers in Calgary. And with years of experience and hundreds of clients successfully represented, we’re here to help you. So contact us today to learn more.

Blog posts from Batting, Wyman Barristers are for general information only. The content should not be considered legal advice. If you are in need of professional legal advice, please Book a free 30-minute consultation.