VICTORIA - The Province is introducing changes to the review process for immediate roadside prohibitions (IRPs), to safeguard the life-saving benefits of its impaired driving law while addressing a recent court ruling.
The proposed Motor Vehicle Act amendments will enhance fairness and strengthen public confidence in the process for drivers whose roadside breath samples yield either "warn" or "fail" readings on an approved screening device (ASD). The amendments are critical to sustain the public safety benefits and justice reform facilitated by providing police with tough, immediate roadside prohibitions, as an alternative to pursuing the full criminal process for those who provide a failing breath sample.
The proposed changes are designed to address the court's concerns about providing failing drivers with a way to meaningfully challenge the roadside breath-test results:
* Making it mandatory for police to advise drivers of their right to challenge the first test result by completing a second test. Currently, officers are not legally required to inform drivers of this right.
* Requiring police to advise drivers that the lower of the two readings will prevail. Under the existing law, when a driver opts to take a second test, its result prevails - higher or lower.
Other amendments are designed to improve administrative fairness and provide drivers with the opportunity for a more rigorous review through the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles:
* Expanding the grounds for administrative review to include the reliability of the ASD results, whether police advised the driver of his or her right to a second test, whether police conducted that second test on a second ASD, and whether the IRP was issued on the basis of the lowest reading. These grounds relate to the expanded requirements of police officers at the roadside under the amendments.
* Requiring sworn reports from police to the superintendent. This new requirement will support the reliability of evidence officers submit to support IRPs.
* Requiring police to submit documentation about the calibration of the ASD device or devices used. This new requirement will support the reliability of the ASD readings under review.
The amendments are designed to fully address the B.C. Supreme Court ruling of Nov. 30, 2011, concerning the constitutionality of part of the existing IRP law. The court found the current legislation infringes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as the existing administrative review process does not provide a driver the ability to meaningfully challenge the "fail" result of a roadside breath test. The court granted government's request that the declaration of unconstitutionality be suspended until June 30, 2012, to allow time to amend the law.
The amendments will see IRPs resume as an alternative to the Criminal Code process for drivers found in excess of the legal limit of .08 per cent blood-alcohol content (BAC). This alternative can save police and the courts considerable time and resources. Police will retain the right to pursue the Criminal Code process, which has been the default approach since the B.C. Supreme Court ruling.
B.C. brought Canada's toughest provincial sanctions for drinking and driving into force on Sept. 20, 2010. The first full year with these rules saw a 40 per cent drop in alcohol-related traffic deaths, compared to the average over the previous five years.
Shirley Bond, Minister of Justice and Attorney General -
"This is about maintaining the proven, life-saving value of our impaired driving law while ensuring that we fully comply with the requirements of the Charter. We want police, drivers and judges to have utmost confidence in the reliability of the roadside procedure and the fairness of reviews to those who dispute the results.
"B.C.'s tough, immediate roadside prohibitions will continue to deter people from drinking and driving, and continue to enable police to immediately remove alcohol-impaired drivers from our roads, enhancing public safety."
Chief Const. Peter Lepine, president, B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police -
"These amendments should clear up any misunderstanding by drinking drivers who misinterpreted the Supreme Court ruling as a way to escape the consequences of their dangerous decisions. The fact is, police officers remain steadfast in enforcing the law, whether you blow a 'warn' or a 'fail' - and we applaud the Province for responding to the court's ruling in a fulsome, timely manner."
* When the Province introduced its IRP legislation in 2010, it set a goal to reduce impaired driving fatalities by 35 per cent by the end of 2013. This goal was exceeded in the first year after implementation.
* From Oct. 1, 2010, to Sept. 30, 2011, the total number of alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths across B.C. was 68. This represents a decrease of 40 per cent from the 113 such deaths on average in the previous five years.
* If passed, the proposed amendments will apply to all cases involving "fail" or "warn" breath samples.
* The B.C. Supreme Court ruled as constitutional the existing IRPs for drivers who provide a breath sample in the "warn" range (between .05 and .08 per cent blood alcohol content) or refuse or fail to provide a breath sample. Nevertheless, to ensure a fair, consistent approach for police and drivers alike, the proposed amendments will apply from the day they come into force, for all drivers.
* The Province will work to pass the proposed amendments during the spring 2012 legislative session and bring them into force on June 15, 2012.
* Under the original IRP law, drivers impaired by alcohol faced immediate penalties that may take away their vehicle and their licence, and cost them anywhere from $600 to about $4,060 in administrative sanctions and remedial program costs. The proposed amendments would not change this cost structure for IRPs that are upheld.
Read about the first-year effectiveness of IRPs:
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice