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What is BAC (blood alcohol concentration) ?

Region: Ontario Answer # 7701

What is BAC?

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is used to measure intoxication by determining the amount of alcohol present in a person’s bloodstream. In Canada, BAC limits are an essential component of impaired driving laws.

What are BAC limits?

In all Canadian provinces, the maximum legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for fully licensed drivers is 0.08 or 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. Driving with a BAC of 0.08 or more is a criminal (federal) offence and the penalties are severe. Penalties include fines, license suspensions, and even criminal charges. If you have been charged with a criminal driving offence such as impaired driving, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.

In most Canadian jurisdictions, if your BAC is between 0.05 and 0.079, commonly known as the “warn range”, you will also face provincial impaired driving penalties, such as further fines and license suspensions.

All provinces and territories have a zero-tolerance policy for young drivers (21 and under) or those driving on a probationary, learner’s permit or graduated driver’s license. This means that any amount of alcohol (or drugs) in their system while driving is a criminal offense and can lead to immediate license suspension and other penalties.

How is BAC measured?

The process of measuring BAC typically involves the following:

  • a breathalyzer, usually done at a roadside stop, it measures the alcohol content on a person’s breath
  • a blood test, typically done at a hospital or medical facility, and most often done when the driver is suspected of being significantly impaired or if they refuse to take a breathalyzer test

Mandatory alcohol screening

Mandatory alcohol screening under section 320.27(1) of the Criminal Code authorizes police officers to demand that a driver provide a roadside breath sample on an approved screening device without reasonable suspicion that the driver has alcohol in their body. This is only allowed after the person has been lawfully stopped, for example if an officer stops a driver under provincial highway traffic law to check for a valid licence or for vehicle fitness.

However, to demand an oral fluid sample to test for drugs, police must have a reasonable suspicion that the driver has drugs in their body, for instance because the driver has red eyes or muscle tremors or appears agitated.

Three-hour limit for conducting a breath test

Police officers are allowed to demand a breath test for anyone who has operated a motor vehicle within three hours of the test. A driver who refuses to provide a breath sample can be criminally charged with refusal to provide a sample – a criminal offence that could result in a criminal charge which carries significant penalties.

Get help

To erase your criminal record, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

If you have been charged with a driving offence, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. Contact our preferred criminal defence expert, Calvin Barry Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation at 416-938-5858 .


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