October 16, 2015 10:41 am
Updated: October 16, 2015 10:59 pm

Supreme Court rules B.C.’s drunk driving laws are constitutional

WATCH: The Supreme Court of Canada is upholding British Columbia's tough rules on drunk driving. But as Jennifer Palma explains, both sides are claiming victory.

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Canada’s Supreme Court has made a decision on B.C.’s drunk driving laws. The court has ruled automatic driving bans for those who test over the legal alcohol limit are constitutional.

This ruling also supports the province’s use of roadside checks.

B.C.’s Supreme Court has heard cases in recent years challenging the roadside prohibitions.

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Today’s ruling only deals with the law as it stood in 2010. In 2012, B.C. amended the law to allow drivers who failed a roadside breath test to ask for a second test and apply for a review of their driving prohibition.

Those who say the law saves lives are rejoicing.

“This is a great thing for B.C. families,” said Andrew Muir from MADD Canada. “For those who choose to drink and drive and put families at risk, this is a good decision as well, so hopefully they’ll curb their behaviour in this respect and let’s get these numbers even further down.”

However, a majority of the court said the law violated the charter prohibition against unlawful search and seizure. The ruling states the 2010 version of the law needs balance between police powers and drivers’ rights.

“For a lot of people who have been waiting and all of the people, over 80,000 people I think now who have received immediate roadside prohibitions, it’s not going to change much for them retroactively,” said lawyer Paul Doroshenko. “There’s probably a few thousand people who still have arguments on the merits of their case, that they can still run, but a lot of people are past that point now.”

 

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said “our belief is that the amendments our government made in June 2012 already address the constitutional issues noted in the court’s decision and our intention is that the IPR program continue without interruption.”

WATCH: Justice Minister Susan Anton speaks to the media about the Supreme Court decision.

In an unexpected twist, Doroshenko found out through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request that both the province and RCMP had to cancel 72 driving bands as a result of uncertified gas in breathalyzers. The drivers were from Tofino, Vernon, Agassiz and Williams Lake.

The Ministry of Justice says while the situation is not ideal, this case “shows our system is robust — the RCMP suspected a calibration was not met, conducted an investigation, and deemed a small number Immediate Roadside Prohibitions (IPR) to be invalidly issued. The RCMP notified RoadSafetyBC of this procedural error, and RoadSafetyBC contacted or will contact affected drivers, cancelling their prohibitions and penalties. B.C. continues to have one of the toughest drinking driving laws in the country and will continue to protect public safety by getting these drivers off our roads.”

-With files from The Canadian Press

© 2015 Shaw Media

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