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A sober B.C. man gave his impaired mother a drive home. Police still issued a penalty

Click to play video 'B.C. family fights DUI charge for drunken passenger' B.C. family fights DUI charge for drunken passenger
A B.C. family has a cautionary tale about who you choose to be your designated driver. They thought they were doing everything right, until they went through a counterattack roadblock. Jill Bennett reports. – Dec 20, 2019

A B.C. family got a harsh lesson in designated driving after police impounded their vehicle and issued a roadside prohibition — even though the driver was sober and his impaired passenger was the one penalized.

The passenger, who lives in Nelson and whose name was not provided, was at a Christmas party with her husband the night of Dec. 13 when they called their 22-year-old son to pick them up, as both had been drinking.

The mother was sitting in the front passenger seat while her son drove his parents home when they went though a holiday Counter Attack road check. When police asked if anyone had consumed any alcohol, the woman admitted she had.

READ MORE: ‘100% preventable’: B.C. police launch CounterAttack against impaired holiday drivers

“[The officer] then asked her to exit the vehicle and she was given a roadside test,” the woman’s lawyer Sarah Leamon said.
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“She failed that, and she was given a 90-day [Immediate Roadside Prohibition] and the family vehicle was impounded for 30 days.”

According to the ticket issued by police, the son had a learner’s licence.

Under the Motor Vehicle Act, drivers with “L” licences “must be accompanied by a qualified supervisor who is at least 25 years of age.” Police considered the driver’s mother to be that supervisor, as she was in the front passenger seat.

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The officer also determined the vehicle in question, a Pontiac Vibe, was small enough that the mother could have reached over and grabbed the steering wheel or interfered with her son’s driving.

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Leamon says that’s a stretch.

“The officer could have issued a ticket for driving contrary to the restrictions of that person’s licence,” she said.

“I think it’s troubling, it’s disturbing, and it’s certainly not the way we want to see our impaired driving laws being enforced in this province.”

READ MORE: Victoria senior who failed performing breathalyzer for medical reasons gets prohibition rescinded

In a statement, West Kootenay Traffic Services confirmed the incident took place, but said it was now reversing course.

“Earlier this week a full review was conducted of the file by police and a decision was made to recommend the cancellation of the 90-day Immediate Roadside Prohibition issued to the passenger,” Sgt. Chad Badry said.

The vehicle impound was also cancelled.

RCMP are still recommending anyone “who chooses to provide oversight and guidance to any driver” with a learner’s licence to be sober “and fully prepared to safely provide input at any time to the vehicle’s steering.”

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Those who routinely drive impaired passengers around during the holiday season, like drivers with Operation Red Nose, say the unusual case is a reminder of the risks that designated drivers can avoid.

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“You want to make sure there are as few distractions as possible,” Operation Red Nose spokesperson Chris Wilson said, “so if someone is intoxicated, it’s best to have them in the back seat.”

Leamon is just hopeful police think twice before issuing costly impound and prohibition tickets in cases she feels doesn’t warrant them.

“This was a combination of overreaching and a fundamental misunderstanding of the law,” she said.