The RCMP is once again enforcing immediate roadside prohibition laws for impaired drivers, after changing the system last year to comply with a B.C. Supreme Court ruling.
As reported in the Lakes District News edition of Dec. 5, 2011, Supreme Court Judge Justice Jon Sigurdson ruled that the province’s newly instated impaired driving laws were unconstitutional, because they applied penalties without any appeal process.
In the Nov. 30, 2011 ruling, Justice Sigurdson decided that under the new law, RCMP had unreasonable powers of search and seizure when it came to drunk drivers whose blood alcohol level is 0.08 per cent or higher. He said the new law results in criminal like consequences for the driver and it leaves them without an option to appeal the decision, which violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
British Columbia’s immediate roadside prohibition law was introduced in September 2010 and is the toughest in Canada.
Under the law, fines of $600 to $4,000 can be applied, vehicles can be impounded for up to 30 days and 90 day driving bans can be enforced.
There is also a $500 fine for any motorist that refuses a breathalyzer test or for anyone that has over 0.08 blood alcohol level, and a cost of $1,420 to take a mandatory responsible driver course.
As a result of the ruling, RCMP temporarily stopped enforcing the immediate roadside prohibition laws, instead, returning to the previous system where drivers suspected of being impaired are brought back to the detachment for testing and charged if they are deemed to be above the legal limit of 0.08 per cent blood alcohol content (BAC).
Following the ruling, the immediate roadside prohibition laws did not change for drivers testing in the warn range of between 0.06 and 0.08 per cent BAC. These drivers are imposed with a three day driving ban, a $200 administrative penalty and another $250 fee to have their driver’s license reinstated.
After the law was deemed unconstitutional, some drivers who were fined for impaired driving under the law filed lawsuits seeking reimbursement of the thousands of dollars in fees and fines, however in a July 12, 2012, ruling Justice Sigurdson ruled the B.C. government will not have to pay back fines and fees to people convicted under the unconstitutional impaired driving law.
Under the B.C. Supreme Court ruling, Justice Sigurdson said the government did not engage in any misconduct or bad faith actions when it enacted the law.
He also ruled that anyone with outstanding fees and penalties will have to pay them.
The immediate roadside prohibition law for drivers that exceed 0.08 was reinstated June 15, 2012, but with a change that requires RCMP to let all drivers that provide breath samples above the warning level know about their right to a second breathalyzer test. The lower of the two readings will be taken into consideration.
The immediate roadside prohibition law still results in an impaired driver losing their license for 90 days and paying a 30 day vehicle impound fee.
They will also have to pay to install an interlock device in their vehicles that requires them to provide breath samples to start and operate the vehicle, plus a $500 fine, a $250 fee to reinstate their licence and $600 for an education program, resulting in fines and charges of more than $4,500 for the driver.
Minister of Justice Shirley Bond said, “We certainly believe that the amendments that were brought through the legislature and passed into law meet the concerns in that BC Supreme Court ruling, so in fact we’ve added new elements that improve the appeal process.”
She said that since the law was introduced, alcohol-related deaths on the road have dropped by 44 per cent compared to the previous five years.