Hoback introduces Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Blood Alcohol Content) in Parliament

April 10, 2014

Yesterday, I introduced my Private Members Bill, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Blood Alcohol Content) in the House of Commons.  A copy of the legislation can be downloaded here.

The Act amends Section 255 of the Criminal Code to establish more severe penalties for offenders who have a blood alcohol content that exceeds twice the legal limit.

Such offenders will be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.  Penalties for a first offence conviction will now result in a minimum fine of $2,000 and a minimum 60 day prison term. In the case of a second or subsequent offence, the minimum imprisonment term will be 240 days.

Those with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit who harm or kill someone, will be additionally penalized: (a) a minimum fine of $5,000 and a minimum 120 day prison term (first offence); and (b) a minimum 12 month prison term (second or subsequent offence).

According to Statistics Canada, almost half of fatally injured drivers had a blood alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit.  This level of impairment has had a devastating impact on our youth, as they make up 31% of alcohol related deaths.


A June 2009 report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on alcohol use among fatally injured drivers[1] indicates that the bulk of the impaired driving problem lies with those drivers having blood alcohol content (BAC) over the current Criminal Code BAC limit of 0.08.  Among the tested drivers in Canada, 62.9% showed no evidence of alcohol — 37.1% had been drinking, 4.3% had BACs below 0.05, 2.6% had BACs from 0.05 to 0.08, 9.4% had BACs from 0.081 to 0.160 and 20.8% had BACs over 0.160. In other words, 81.5% of fatally injured drinking drivers had BACs over the current limit of 0.08.16 High-BAC drivers (i.e. those with BACs over 160 mg/100 ml of blood) represent a disproportionate number of fatally injured drinking drivers.

High-BAC drivers represent about one percent of the cars on the road at night and on weekends yet they account for nearly half of all drivers killed at those times. Limited resources would seem to be best deployed to target the 81.5% of the fatally injured drinking drivers that are already above the 0.08 threshold. The worst offenders are already driving with BACs two or three times the current limit. Drivers with the highest BACs constitute the most significant danger on the roads and they are still the priority.

Section 255.1 of the Criminal Code states that if an impaired driving offence is committed by someone who’s BAC exceeded 0.16 at the time the offence was committed; this will be an aggravating factor on sentencing. This reflects the fact that driving with a high level of impairment (over 0.16 BAC or double the current legal limit) is generally indicative of serious problems. Even if a driver with this level of impairment is being detected for the first time, it is likely that this is a hard-core impaired driver. This is due to the fact that it is rarely the first time they have driven while impaired by alcohol — it is simply the first time they have been arrested for it.

Act to amend the Criminal Code (Blood Alcohol Content) targets drivers with high BACs by increasing specific penalties for such drivers. The goal is to prevent these drivers from re-offending, since high risk offenders cause a greater number of collisions with higher fatality rates and are more likely to be repeat offenders.

[1] http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/hoc/Committee/402/JUST/Reports/RP4004073/justrp10/justrp10-e.pdf


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