Legal challenges could cost millions
Problems with B.C.'s aggressive new anti-drunk driving policy could cost the province millions in lawsuits, says one lawyer.
The government in B.C. had planned to crack down on impaired drivers and free up the courts by handing out immediate roadside prohibitions to those found driving with a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit.
Legal challenges alleging such measures are unconstitutional – along with possibly faulty equipment that's led to false convictions – may instead tie up the courts for months, the Vancouver Sun reports.
Police in Port Moody may have to compensate 14 drivers who were incorrectly deemed "impaired" by officer's roadside screening devices.
And 1,137 drivers who were penalized before a ruling found the new law constitutionally flawed are being pardoned by the justice ministry, the Sun reports.
The problem hinges on a provision in the new law that forces drunk drivers to install an ignition interlock and take a responsible driving course at their own expense, some $2,700.
The penalty was supposed to apply only to those whose driving records justified it, but it was instead handed to a majority of drivers pulled over and deemed "impaired" under the immediate roadside prohibition law.
Of 1,200 drivers issued prohibitions in the weeks before the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, 1,137, or 90 percent, were unjustifiably asked to install the interlock and take the course, the Sun reports.
"If 90 percent of [the 35,000 drivers issued roadside prohibitons so far] deserve their money back, that's 30,000 at $2,700 a piece," explains lawyer Paul Doroshenko, who's helped expose the flaws in the new law. "Who pays for it? You and me. That's $81 million."
The other major problem is with apparent inconsistencies in the calibration and maintenance of the hand-held breathalyzers police were using when dishing out prohibitions.
The B.C. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles has determined 14 of the 174 driving suspensions handed out in 2011 should be rescinded due to faults in that equipment.
The B.C. government last summer amended the legislation so that prohibitions could no longer be issued immediately at the roadside by a police officer.
Despite its problems, the government says the new approach has led to a 44-percent drop in drunk driving fatalities and saved some 71 lives.
(Vancouver Sun via Driving.ca)