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  • Katharyn Burczynski (law student)

The Actual Cost of Drinking and Driving

As we approach the end of the year, and with increasing festivities, we see an increase in police presence on our roads and an increase in the frequency and number of check stops. Many individuals have never been pulled over on the suspicion of driving while impaired, and many individuals will never face such a charge. However, knowing the process is something everyone should be informed about.

Let’s start from the beginning, you’ve been pulled over by the police on a suspicion of operating a motor vehicle while impaired. The police officer approaches you, and asks if you’ve been drinking. Regardless of your answer, if the police have a reason to believe you have been drinking, such as smelling alcohol on your breath, if you had been driving in an erratic manner, seeing alcohol in your vehicle, etc., they may request to have you undergo a breathalyzer test.

If you refuse to give a sample of your breath, you’ve just committed an offence. There are a multitude of ramifications that come with simply refusing a breathalyzer.

  1. Your license is immediately suspended for three months meaning you cannot drive your vehicle from the moment you are charged.

  2. Your vehicle may be towed and impounded until it can be released. It will be impounded for at least 60 days.

  3. You will be charged a $50 license reinstatement charge to reinstate your license.

  4. You will be charged a mandatory impairment drivers assessment conducted by the Addictions Foundations of Manitoba at $625.

These ramifications are imposed to ensure that police are able to conduct their investigation when they have reasonable grounds to believe an individual has been drinking.

Now, what if you have been drinking and have alcohol in your system. Most people know if you blow over a 0.08 you will be arrested, but what does that really mean? Blowing over a 0.08 means that you have 80 (or more) milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood. When you get pulled over by the police though, your reading won’t tell you what the specific milligrams per milliliters is though. The initial breathalyzer you blow into will have three results, “pass”, “warning”, or “fail”. If you blow and have no alcohol on your breath a green light will turn on and you’re awarded a “pass” and are free to go. If the light turns yellow, that means that you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 or higher. Red, is a fail, which means that the machine has detected at least 0.08 milligrams per milliliter.

If you get a “warn” on the screening device, a yellow light will indicate that you have between 0.05 and 0.08 milligrams per milliliters of alcohol in your system. From here, there are a few contingent facts to determine what repercussions will occur. If it is the first time you have ever received a warning and have no criminal driving record it is still at the discretion of the police officer if you will receive an infraction. If this is your first offence, you may receive a 3-day suspension of your license if you have your full license. If there is a minor under 16 years of age in the vehicle with you it will automatically become a 7-day suspension. If this is your second offense within a ten-year period, you will receive an automatic 15-day suspension. If it is your third offense in a ten-year period, you will receive a 30-day suspension. Finally, if this is the fourth time (or more) within a ten-year period it is an immediate 60-day suspension.

If you “fail” the screening device and a red light indicates such, you will be asked to take a different breathalyzer test that will indicate an actual number to prove how much alcohol is in your system. At this point you will have your license immediately suspended for 90 days and possibly impounded. At this point you face legal, perhaps criminal, repercussions and the costs will become quite arduous for most individuals.

The costs of having a driving over the legal limit charge can quite quickly become in the thousands. To begin, will likely have your car towed which can cost upwards of $550. You will also have to complete an Impaired Driver Assessment at the Addiction Foundation of Manitoba costing you $625. To get your license back after the suspension you will be charged $50 from Manitoba Public Insurance. The costs of a conviction will result in a minimum $1,000 fine up to a maximum of $5,000, with the average being around $1,500, plus a 30% victim surcharge. Getting a fine means that you have gotten a criminal conviction and MPI will deduct 10 points off your driver’s license. Your license could now cost you anywhere from a few hundred to thousands. Assuming you are an average driver with a +5 rating you would be paying $420 more for just your next license registration, not including all the subsequent registrations. After receiving a conviction for drinking and driving you will also have to participate in MPI’s Alcohol Interlock Ignition Program which will cost you $395 for administrative fees and installation, as well as $89 per month for anywhere from one year to a lifetime depending on how many previous convictions you have. Finally, there is a de-installation charge of $50. Assuming you are on your first conviction this will be a total of $1,513. Not including any car damage, your cost for your first DUI is approximately $5,058 (before taxes).




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