Province’s strictest roadside penalties suspended

Police in British Columbia can no longer impose immediate roadside prohibition to a driver.

Police in British Columbia can no longer impose immediate roadside prohibition to a driver.

Adjusted in Sept. 10, 2010, British Columbia’s drinking and driving laws under the Motor Vehicle Act are under scrutiny.

Justice Jon Sigurdson declared that the new roadside penalties are an infringement to people’s constitutional rights to a fair trial.

Though the increased roadside penalties for blowing in the “warn” range of blood alcohol, from 0.05 to 0.08 per cent, are permissible, drivers above 0.08 should be allowed the opportunity to challenge the decision if faced with vehicle impoundment and fines in administrative penalties.

B.C. is still able to impose “warn” penalties, ruled Sigurdson, which includes a three-day driving ban, a $200 administrative penalty and another $250 fee to reinstate a driver’s license.

“We will still be issuing immediate roadside prohibition to those people who blow a ‘warn’, which is anything over 0.05,” explained Grand Forks RCMP Staff Sgt. Jim Harrison. “The court action did not strike down that part of the legislation.”

Police are also able to have a driver’s car impounded for three days and the driver will be billed for towing and storage.

At the moment, for roadside readings of 0.08 per cent or higher, police have been imposing a 90-day driving ban, a $500 fine and impoundment for 30 days.

Sigurdson, who asked for submissions from the province and drivers who challenged the penalties, did not immediately dismiss the new penalties.

“We will proceed in the normal old fashion way with criminal charges,” stated Harrison. “We’re basically going back to the way we did things before, so it’s not like we’ve lost all our tools to stop impaired drivers.”

Harrison said it will be business as usual in terms of road blocks and checks.

“The main thing here is, a refusal will not end with an immediate roadside prohibition. It’ll end up with a criminal charge,” he said.

This ruling comes as B.C. launches its annual CounterAttack campaign.

Introduced more than three decades ago, the winter CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign includes increased roadblocks across the province.

The CounterAttack program involves increased road checks to strengthen public awareness on road safety and to remove impaired drivers from our roadways.

According to the RCMP B.C. website, on average, there are approximately 5,600 impaired-related crashes each year, resulting in 133 lives lost and 3,400 injured.

In conjunction with RCMP, B.C. Liquor Stores and ICBC will have signs and posters placed in their facilities to remind people not to drink or drive.