First Offence DUI in Alberta

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offence that can have significant repercussions for individuals in Alberta. If you’re a first time offender, you’re likely unsure of what these repercussions will lead to. Knowing the intricacies of Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) penalties and defence strategies for a first offence DUI in Alberta is essential to protect your rights and minimize the impact on your life.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about DUIs in Alberta as a first offender. Whether you’re seeking clarity on the consequences of a DUI conviction or guidance on how to navigate the legal process in appealing an IRS administrative penalty, this blog aims to provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions and take the necessary steps to protect yourself.

As a first time offender for a DUI, you only have SEVEN DAYS to appeal your IRS Penalty.

Understanding DUIs in Alberta

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offence in Alberta, with severe consequences for those found guilty or subject to the Administrative Penalty. Understanding the laws and penalties associated with DUIs is crucial for all drivers to ensure they avoid legal trouble. In Alberta, DUI laws are governed primarily by the Criminal Code of Canada and the Traffic Safety Act. Under these laws, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while your ability to do so is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. Impairment can be established through various means, including breathalyzer tests, blood tests, and observations by law enforcement officers. In Alberta, you can be given an Immediate IRS if an officer believes that you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits

The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in Alberta is 0.08%, which means that if your BAC exceeds this limit while operating a motor vehicle, you can be charged with a criminal DUI in addition to the IRS. Additionally, Alberta has a zero tolerance policy for novice drivers (those with a learner’s or graduated driver’s licence) and commercial drivers, meaning any detectable amount of alcohol in their system can result in penalties.

Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS)

Alberta has implemented Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS) for most impaired driving offences instead of criminal charges. However, if you are given an IRS: FAIL administrative penalty, you may also face criminal charges for impaired driving. IRS allows law enforcement officers to impose immediate penalties, such as licence suspensions and vehicle seizures, on drivers who police believe are driving under the influence, fail or refuse roadside sobriety tests, or have a BAC between 0.05% and 0.08% and above. IRS is aimed at deterring impaired driving and providing swift consequences for offenders.

Ignition Interlock Program

For some DUI offenders, participation in Alberta’s Ignition Interlock Program may be required as part of their penalty. This program allows individuals to continue driving during a portion of their licence suspension period provided they install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. The device requires the driver to provide a breath sample before starting the vehicle and periodically while driving to ensure sobriety. 

first offence DUI alberta

What are the Penalties for a First Offence DUI in Alberta

If you’ve been charged with a first offence DUI in Alberta, or received an IRS, it’s essential to understand the potential penalties you may face. The penalties for DUI in Alberta vary depending on the circumstances of the offence, but they can include fines, licence suspensions, mandatory education programs, and even jail time. Let’s take a closer look at the penalties for first-time DUI offenders in Alberta:

  • IRS: 24-Hour

Each of these penalties carries its own implications and consequences, so it’s vital to understand what you might be facing if you receive the IRS Administrative Penalty in Alberta.

First Offence DUI: IRS: FAIL

If your BAC is 0.08 or higher, or if you fail or refuse drug and alcohol testing, you’ll face IRS FAIL penalties. For a first occurrence, these penalties include:

  • Immediate 2-stage, fixed-term driver’s licence suspension:
    • 90 days where you cannot drive under any circumstances.
    • Further 12-month driver’s licence suspension, during which you must participate in Alberta’s IRS: FAIL Ignition Interlock Program.
  • 30-day vehicle seizure.
  • $1,000 fine plus 20% victim surcharge.

These penalties escalate for subsequent occurrences, emphasizing the severity of repeat offences.

First Offence DUI: IRS: WARN

The WARN penalties come into effect when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) falls between 0.05 and 0.079, or possibly if you fail drug and alcohol sobriety tests. For a first occurrence, you can expect:

  • Immediate 3-day driver’s licence suspension.
  • 3-day vehicle seizure.
  • $300 fine plus victim surcharge of 20%.

First Offence DUI: IRS: ZERO

Special programs exist for novice drivers and commercial vehicle operators with a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol and drugs. For first occurrences, penalties include immediate driver’s licence suspension, vehicle seizure, and fines.

Commercial drivers face:

  • An immediate 3-day driver’s licence suspension
  • $300 fine plus a 20% victim surcharge

Novice drivers (those with a learner’s licence or Class 5 GDL):

  • An immediate 30-day driver’s licence suspension
  • 7-day vehicle seizure
  • $200 fine plus a 20% victim surcharge

First Offence DUI: IRS: 24-Hour

If you’re suspected of being impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a medical condition affecting your ability to drive safely, you may face a 24-hour driver’s licence suspension. This suspension is immediate and prohibits you from driving under any circumstances for the specified period. If the suspension arises from medical reasons, you have the option to have your file reviewed by Driver Fitness and Monitoring to assess your fitness to drive.

What are the Legal Defences for a First Offence DUI in Alberta?

If you are a first time offender for a DUI in Alberta, you’re likely scared, stressed, and wondering how this will impact your life. Don’t worry, if you’ve been given an administrative penalty as a first-time offender, you have seven days to appeal your IRS DUI. There are many different defences that can help you appeal your first IRS DUI. 

Here are some of the most common defences against Immediate Roadside Sanctions:

1. Failure to Provide a Second Test

Individuals subjected to roadside or intoxilyzer (breathalyzer) tests have the right to request a second test to confirm the accuracy of the initial results. Failure to provide this opportunity, or properly advise of the reasons for the opportunity, and at the right time, can be considered a violation of proper procedure and may provide grounds to cancel the Administrative Penalty.

2. Failure to Properly Identify the Driver, Time of Driving, or Operation of Motor Vehicle

One defence against IRS charges is to challenge the accuracy or reliability of the information provided by law enforcement regarding the identification of the driver, the time of driving, or the operation of the motor vehicle. Discrepancies or inconsistencies in the evidence presented by the police can undermine the case against you.

3. Failure to Inform You of Your Right to a Roadside Appeal in Writing

Individuals subjected to IRS should be informed of their right to a roadside appeal in writing. Failure to provide this information violates proper procedure and can be grounds for challenging the validity of the IRS.

5. Failure to Make the Breath Demand or Take the Breath Test Properly

Proper administration of breathalyzer tests is crucial for obtaining accurate results. If law enforcement officers fail to adhere to the prescribed procedures for making the breath demand or conducting the breath test, it can invalidate the test results and provide grounds to challend the Administrative Penalty.

7. Failure to Serve the Notice of Administrative Penalty

Individuals subjected to IRS should be served with a notice of administrative penalty detailing the sanctions imposed. Failure to serve this notice properly can be grounds for challenging the IRS.

8. Failure to Conduct the Correct Roadside Appeal

If law enforcement officers fail to conduct the roadside appeal process correctly, it can compromise the integrity of the IRS and provide grounds for challenging its validity.

9. Failure to Provide Complete Records

Individuals accused of driving under the influence have the right to access specified records pertaining to their case. Failure to provide these records can hinder your ability to mount an effective defence and can provide grounds to cancel.

10. Failure to Use the Lowest Readings to Determine the Applicable IRS

The IRS penalties are based on the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) readings obtained from breathalyzer tests. If law enforcement officers fail to use the lowest readings to determine the applicable IRS, it can lead to grounds to cancel.

first time DUI

How Does a DUI Impact Your Driving Record?

A DUI conviction can have long-lasting consequences beyond just the immediate penalties imposed by the court. In Alberta, a DUI conviction will result in a criminal record, which can affect your ability to travel, obtain employment, and even secure housing. Additionally, a DUI conviction will usually result in increased insurance rates and potential licence suspension.  Both an IRS Notice of Administrative Penalty as well as a Criminal conviction will affect your insurance rates.

DUI Lawyer for First Offenders

If you’ve been charged with a first offence DUI or and IRS Notice of Administrative Penalty in Alberta, seeking legal representation is essential to ensure the best possible outcome for your case. A qualified DUI lawyer can help you understand your rights, navigate the legal process, and develop a defence strategy tailored to your specific circumstances. With the right lawyer by your side, you can increase your chances of a favorable outcome and minimize the impact of a DUI conviction on your life.

Trust Brian McGlashan if you’ve been charged with a DUI!

Contact Brian McGlashan for First Offence DUI Defence

If you’re facing charges for a first offence DUI in Alberta or an IRS Administrative Penalty, don’t hesitate to contact Brian McGlashan for legal representation. With 30 years of experience defending clients against DUI charges, Brian McGlashan has what it takes to help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards protecting your rights and securing your future.

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Brian McGlashan
Brian McGlashan, co-founder of McGlashan & Company was called to the Alberta Bar in 1995. Brian has appeared in all levels of Alberta Courts. Brian practices criminal law with a primary focus on Impaired Driving charges (DUI). Brian is a member of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association.

McGlashan & Company is an Edmonton Criminal Law Firm located just south of Edmonton’s historic Whyte Avenue.

Brian McGlashan has been defending DUI/Impaired Driving charges in Edmonton for over 20+ years.