Police conducting a roadside check for impaired drivers.

Court reprieve restores full arsenal of roadside penalties against drunks

Follow-up ruling gives province six months to revise impaired driving punishments to comply with law

The courts have temporarily restored the power of police officers to issue stiff 90-day suspensions to impaired drivers caught with a blood-alcohol level over 0.08.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jon Sigurdson, who previously struck down that part of the roadside penalty system, issued a follow-up ruling Friday that suspends the implementation of his decision until June 30.

That effectively gives the provincial government six months to pass new legislation to ensure the roadside penalties and process to appeal them comply with the law.

Justice Sigurdson noted the government considers the automatic roadside penalties more effective than criminal prosecutions in fighting impaired driving.

“I have concluded that an immediate declaration of invalidity of part of the (administrative penalty) regime may pose a danger to the public,” he found.

Sigurdson’s original Nov. 30 ruling fanned fears that police powers to battle impaired drivers would be seriously eroded just as the holiday CounterAttack campaign was getting underway.

For three weeks since the Nov. 30 judgment, police had been unable to issue the 90-day suspensions and related penalties and fees that add up to $3,750 for drivers who blow in the “fail” range over 0.08.

Instead, officers at roadblocks faced a choice: arrest the driver and proceed with a time-consuming criminal impaired investigation or else issue only a 24-hour suspension.

A roadblock that caught two impaired drivers would lose its investigating officers to the criminal procedure and might have to halt enforcement early that night as a result.

For roadside readings of 0.08 per cent or higher, police had previously 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.

To comply with the court rulings, the province must ensure those drivers get a chance to challenge the decision.

“We will work to introduce changes to the Motor Vehicle Act as soon as possible in the spring legislative session,” Solicitor General Shirley Bond said in a statement Friday. “We continue to analyze Justice Sigurdson’s comprehensive decision to determine what those changes will consist of.”

Justice Sigurdson also found 90-day suspensions are constitutional for drivers who refuse to provide a breath sample upon request.

He also upheld the use of the immediate roadside prohibitions for drivers who blow in the “warn” range between 0.05 and 0.08.

Bond noted the roadside penalties resulted in a 40 per cent drop in alcohol-related deaths in the first year.

“The statistics speak for themselves,” she said. “Forty-five more people are alive to enjoy the holidays this year because police stopped impaired drivers, people who would not be with their families today without this legislation.

“We are not going to give up our fight to remove impaired drivers from B.C.’s roads, and we will continue to use every responsible tool at our disposal to combat drinking and driving,” Bond said.

“We want the public to know police will be out in full force over Christmas as part of their CounterAttack program to protect the public from people who are drinking and driving.”

Sigurdson has yet to rule on whether B.C. drivers who were punished without sufficient right to appeal are entitled to compensation.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Minus two-degree weather a warm welcome following cold snap in Chilliwack

People flocked to the hills Saturday, sleds in hand, to take in some snowy fun in Chilliwack

VIDEO: Highway 1 to look like winter war zone until owners retrieve wrecked vehicles

Tow-truck driver says 30 vehicles still dot snowy landscape, including one rolled-over dairy truck

Charity Clothes2U ready to hand out free items to people in need in Chilliwack

The Clothes2U Winter Giveaway event will be in Chilliwack at Cooke’s Presbyterian Church

Pickup truck motorist drives up vehicle ramp and onto parked trailer on Chilliwack road

The incident happened on Young Road after Chilliwack was handed another dump of snow Friday night

5 to 10 cm of snow still coming to Fraser Valley: Environment Canada

Hard to say when the freezing rain will turn to regular rainfall, Environment Canada says

VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Midnight at the Chilliwack SPCA

Due to out-of-date information on his microchip, Midnight’s owners could not be contacted

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Canada Post driver in hospital after ice smashes windshield at Massey Tunnel

Incident happened on Richmond side of the Massey Tunnel

Most Read