Police conducting a roadside check for impaired drivers.

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.

Just Posted

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Surrey Fire Service battled a dock fire along the Fraser River late Friday night (June 18). It was on Musqueam Drive, near Industrial Road, around 10:45 p.m. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Fire engulfs pier on Surrey side of the Fraser River

Dock has reportedly been unused for a long time

People in Metro Vancouver can expect to experience a short wave of heat just in time for Father’s Day, according to Environment Canada. (Black Press Media files)
Short-lived heatwave headed for Metro Vancouver this weekend

Temperatures are expected to be up to 10 degrees higher than average Sunday and Monday

Most Read