A common misconception in Saskatchewan is that when people refer to ‘driving over the legal limit,’ it is typically a reference to exceeding .08 blood alcohol content (BAC).
While exceeding a BAC of .08 will result in criminal charges, consequences for driving under the influence start before that, explained Media Relations Manager, Tyler McMurchy.
“There are actually rules and laws provincially, and sanctions that result if you as a driver, are flagged by a police officer having a blood alcohol concentration of .04 or higher,” he elaborated. “These are provincial sanctions, and they include: license suspensions, vehicle impoundments, there's mandatory driver education, and demerits as well.
“That's for experienced drivers, for new drivers, you're not allowed to have any alcohol in your system whatsoever. So, when you want to talk about the real legal limits in Saskatchewan, it's .04 for experienced drivers and .0 for new drivers.”
McMurchy noted that these misconceptions come from the seriousness of facing criminal charges.
“We often do focus on the more serious impaired driving or the substantial Criminal Code charges, because that's something that might be more of a deterrent to people,” he stated. But when you tell people, hey, you're going to get your license suspended for three days, you're going to get your vehicle impounded for three days, you're going to spend a full weekend taking a DWI course, and you're also going to lose merits as well.
“People will find that quite discouraging, I think. We want people to understand that there are consequences that happen even if you don't get a criminal charge.”
Driving under the influence can also be extremely costly, resulting in impound and towing fees, tickets, and registration for the DUI program.
Demerits off your license can also increase the insurance rate on your vehicle.
Consequences may vary based on driver experience, number of offences, if there were passengers under the age of 16 in the vehicle, however, a driver caught driving with a BAC between .04 and .08 or with drugs in their system will face:
- Immediate roadside licence suspension (starting at three days for an experienced driver and 60 days for a new driver)
- Immediate vehicle impoundment, a minimum of three days;
- Mandatory impaired driving education program (a weekend-long “Driving Without Impairment” [DWI] course for a first offence)
- Four Driver Recognition demerit points
- Mandatory Ignition Interlock for a third or subsequent offence.
In 2022, police issued 1,968 short-term licence suspensions to drivers for exceeding provincial limits for alcohol or drugs.