B.C.’s drunk driving penalties upheld

Handed down twin judgments that back key elements of the provincial government’s policy after it was challenged by motorists.

Jeff NagelBlack Press

Canada’s top court has upheld B.C.’s tough system of roadside penalties for impaired drivers, including vehicle impoundments, stiff fines and immediate 90-day licence suspensions.

The Supreme Court of Canada handed down twin judgments Friday that back key elements of the provincial government’s policy after it was challenged by motorists.

Justices said there was “no doubt” automatic roadside prohibitions are within the province’s jurisdiction and a valid regulatory measure.

They rejected the argument of opponents that the penalties effectively create an offence that requires a right to a fair trial, not an instant decision by police after a failed blood-alcohol reading on a portable device.

The court found the province’s “pressing and substantial” goal of enacting the scheme “was not to oust the criminal law, but rather to prevent death and serious injury on public roads by removing drunk drivers and deterring impaired driving.”

Roadside penalties have largely supplanted criminal investigations and prosecutions for impaired driving in B.C. The amount of time and money expended on drunk driving cases in the courts and by police is down because of the nearly 70 per cent drop in impaired charges.

Police still pursue criminal charges in cases of injury or death due to drunk driving.

Defence lawyers have criticized the immediate roadside prohibitions as a de facto decriminalization of most cases of impaired driving.

Although drivers who are caught and punished at roadside face stiff sanctions, they do not usually risk an impaired driving conviction and criminal record.

Also before the courts was the constitutionality of the compulsory demand to provide a breath sample or face roadside penalties.

A majority of Supreme Court justices said the original 2010 provision did violate the Charter of Rights protection against unlawful search and seizure.

The province amended its law in 2012 to allow drivers who fail a roadside breath test to take a second test – the lowest of the two readings is used – and created a process for them to appeal driving prohibitions.

“Our belief is that the amendments our government made in June 2012 already address the constitutional issues noted in the court’s decision,” B.C. Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said.

It’s not yet clear if drivers penalized in the first two years of the program could be compensated.

Anton welcomed the ruling, adding immediate roadside prohibitions have been “very effective” and have saved an estimated 260 lives over the past five years.

“People are learning from them, they’re not drinking and driving as much,” Anton said.

“As soon as you blow that warn or that fail you will be penalized. And that is what deters people from drinking and driving. That’s what keeps our roads safe.”

 

Just Posted

Volunteers take down after another successful Ladysmith Festival of Lights

Good crowd comes out for a sunny Sunday volunteer session of taking down decorations

Blood moon over Ladysmith

Gerry Beltgens shook off cold fingers this weekend to capture this image… Continue reading

Reflections of Ladysmith: The Art of Michael Dean

Work, place and people are inseparable for Vancouver Island painter

Ladysmith business recognized for supporting diversity in the workplace

Ladysmith Home Hardware, Ladysmith Pharmasave, LRCA, and Maya Norte saluted

Editorial: Looking back at windstorm helps us prepare for next time

BC Hydro says it was the most destructive storm in its history

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, expenses

Speaker Darryl Plecas’ report details ‘flagrant overspending’

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

Vancouver Island senior dies after medical emergency and rollover crash

Incident happened Saturday in Nanaimo on Poplar Street

MARS seeing influx of sick, injured eagles from north part of Vancouver Island

Factors for increase in eagle cases can be anything from lead poisoning to vehicle strikes

Suspect allegedly armed with handgun robs Island gas station

Incident occurred Sunday night in Nanaimo

Most Read