British Columbia a Safe haven for Impaired Drivers?
British Columbia has recently been applauded for having the strongest administrative penalties in Canada for impaired driver’s. Without commenting on how these penalties violate the presumption of innocence, or how they are based on the results from fallible roadside devices, many citizens should be appalled at the real results of these penalties.
The problem is not that these people are punished, but in many instances, are not punished enough. Why do we say this? Police forces in British Columbia have stopped taking breath samples and charging people criminally for alleged offences. For example, if a person blows a fail on a roadside device, subsequent breath samples on an Approved Instrument should reveal that they are over the legal limit, and they should be charged criminally. But police in BC have stopped taking breath samples, and instead simply give administrative penalties to impaired drivers. No criminal conviction, no criminal record, no minimum one year licence suspension, no mininum $1000 fine.
What does happen? In BC, a fail on a roadside device will get you 90 days off the road and a required participation in an interlock program for one year. Total costs will amount to about $4000.00 (much lower than the cost of your average lawyer)…unless you’re not a BC resident…
Many individuals get these penalties while visiting BC, but the BC province has no authority to suspend the licence granted by another province. Even if the licencing province finds out about BC charges, they may not require you to participate in the interlock program. The result? An individual charged in BC will get 90 days off the road and avoid a criminal conviction, a far cry from the penalties contained in the Criminal Code.
This doesn’t even address the situations where an individual should be facing a second impaired driving charge, which has a penalty of 2 years off the road and a minimum 30 days in jail. Instead of charging these people, they are let off with 90 day licence suspensions. Does this sound fair, let alone responsible?
This is another example of short term ideas and solutions not benefitting the long term interests of Canadian citizens. Are other provinces going to follow suit? The potential is there, and it is being discussed. However, discussions have to understand the effect on all citizens. Our society wants to combat impaired drivers, but our punishments are being lowered, not increased. This is to the detriment of those that drink responsibly, yet pay the price for those that do not, sometimes with our lives.
These might seem like strong words coming from criminal defence lawyers, but we are also responsible citizens who want to see less crime, not more. The short term effect of the BC approach benefits no one, and is appalling in its lack of thought. All citizens need to be concerned, and diligent in speaking out against provincial governments that look to follow the BC model.
Posted on November 22nd, 2011