UPDATE: B.C. suspends its strictest roadside penalties

The toughest of B.C.'s new impaired driving penalties infringe people's constitutional rights, a judge has ruled.

Police in B.C. have broad powers to impound vehicles for 30 days and impose steep penalties on drivers who fail a roadside breath test for alcohol.

VICTORIA – Police in B.C. won’t be imposing their toughest roadside penalties for impaired driving  until they give accused drivers a way to appeal results of a failed breath test.

Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond announced the change Wednesday after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that the most severe of B.C.’s new impaired driving penalties infringe people’s constitutional right to a fair trial.

Ruling on a challenge to the new roadside penalties, Justice Jon Sigurdson said the increased roadside penalties for blowing in the “warn” range of blood alcohol, from 0.05 to 0.08 per cent, are permissible.

But drivers who who blow in the “fail” range above 0.08 should have a chance to challenge the decision if their vehicles are impounded for 30 days and they face thousands of dollars in administrative penalties.

Bond said the court ruling means the B.C. government needs to amend its year-old impaired law to give drivers who exceed 0.08 on the roadside screening device a chance to appeal that reading.

Until that is done, “the circumstances for those in the ‘fail’ range will revert to what was previously in place,” Bond said. “Police will have the option of determining whether or not a criminal charge is warranted, and in that case you could face criminal charges and a 90-day administrative driving prohibition.”

Sigurdson ruled that B.C. is within its rights to impose the “warn” penalties. A blood alcohol reading in the “warn” range can result in a three-day driving ban, a $200 administrative penalty and another $250 fee to have a driver’s licence reinstated. Drivers may also have their car impounded for three days and be billed for towing and storage.

For roadside readings of 0.08 per cent or higher, police have been imposing a 90-day driving ban, a $500 fine and impounding the vehicle for 30 days. That suspension can cost a driver $3,750, including $700 for towing and storage and $1,420 to take a mandatory “responsible driver” course.

Sigurdson did not immediately strike down the new penalties, but asked for submissions from the province and the driver who challenged the penalties to determine what comes next.

Last week Premier Christy Clark and Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond celebrated the results of the new roadside penalties, a 40 per cent decline in alcohol-related deaths in the first year.

The ruling comes as B.C. launches its annual Christmas CounterAttack campaign, with increased roadblocks across the province to look for impaired drivers.

Just Posted

PHOTO GALLERY: Malicous Monster Truck Tour

The Malicious Monster Truck Tour sold out to crowds of 2,500 people… Continue reading

North Coast fishing grounds key to orca recovery: DFO

Plan marks waters from Langara to Rose Spit as critical habitat for northern resident killer whales

Chris Green, mother of scouts, passes away

Green, who was born near Kitimat, spent more than 60 years volunteering with Scouts Canada

Intertidal Music Festival back for round two

More than 20 performances throughout the day at the North Pacific Cannery on July 21

Alberta man missing on Kitimat River found dead

Body found on July 11 after going missing on July 7

VIDEO: Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

Justin Trudeau shuffles his front bench Wednesday to install the roster of ministers that will be entrusted with leading the Liberal team into next year’s election.

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Evacuation alert issued due to Dog Creek Trail Wildfire

An evacuation alert has been issued by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako… Continue reading

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

B.C. poet shines a bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo July 21.

Ontario police say attack on Muslim man was motivated by hate

Two men, aged 27 and 19, have been charged with assault in the incident

Canadian Tire delivers toys to ease kids’ street play pain in B.C. neighbourhood

It’s like Christmas for 11 kids who are supposed to be confined to their yards by strata bylaw

City orders largest Kinder Morgan protest camp to leave

Residents of Camp Cloud near the Trans Mountain work site have 72 hours to leave

Most Read