New legislation makes remedial programs mandatory for repeat offenders

B.C.’s justice minister admits the government’s contentious drunk driving penalties may again be challenged as unconstitutional after proposed changes this week.

New legislation will make it mandatory for repeat offenders to be referred to remedial programs, including the ignition interlock system that requires a person to blow into a breathalyzer before a vehicle starts.

Currently, the government’s superintendent of motor vehicles has discretion on referring a person to penalty programs, depending on their driving record and other circumstances.

“Yes, it may very well be challenged,” Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said Tuesday of the changes. “But we have great confidence in the program, and in the good that the program does for safety on British Columbia highways.”

Anton said the changes are meant to help people who continue to drink and drive, despite penalties.

The province’s drunk driving regime, introduced in 2010, has been challenged numerous times in court. In 2011, the legislation was partly struck down by the B.C. Supreme Court as unconstitutional for not providing a robust enough appeal process. The government later bolstered the law.

The program is also facing two challenges to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Drivers who blow a blood-alcohol content of .05 or over are considered in the “warn” range and given a three-day driving suspension, as well as possible three-day vehicle impoundment and $200 fine. The prohibition rises to seven days, and 30 days, upon repeat offences.

Drivers who blow a blood-alcohol content of over .08 receive a 90-day driving prohibition, 30-day vehicle impoundment, $500 penalty and “possible” referral to remedial programs.

It can cost more than $4,000 for the impoundment, towing and storage of a vehicle, as well as the installation of the ignition interlock system.

Vancouver lawyer Paul Doroshenko, who has spearheaded past legal challenges to the law, said he thinks government is trying to eliminate the review process for immediate roadside prohibitions.

“This changes the landscape of what the court had when it decided,” said Doroshenko.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement it will reveal “any potential reconsideration process” for the repeat offender cases that are sent for mandatory penalties over the next year as it develops specific regulations to complement the proposed new law.

Doroshenko pledged to challenge government in court over parts of the new legislation.

The new legislation also allows the superintendent of motor vehicles to toss out drunk driving penalties if a police officer doesn’t produce a sworn report within seven days, while shifting the onus onto the accused driver to prove they weren’t impaired once police have filed all their evidence.

Source: The Vancouver Sun


Last updated on: 2015-03-28 | Link to this post