B.C. woman sues officer who issued driving penalty while her son gave her a ride home

Click to play video: 'B.C. family fights DUI charge for drunken passenger'
B.C. family fights DUI charge for drunken passenger
(Dec. 20, 2019) B.C. family fights DUI charge for drunken passenger. – Dec 20, 2019

CORRECTION: B.C. RCMP say while Const. Alan Therrien is a member of the West Kootenay Integrated Road Safety Unit, which includes RCMP officers, he is not a RCMP officer despite the lawsuit identifying him as such. Rather, he is a member of a municipal policing agency. This story has been updated to reflect that information.

A B.C. woman who was issued a roadside prohibition late last year after getting a ride from her son while she was impaired is launching a lawsuit against the police officer who wrote the ticket.

According to the lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court this month, Sarah Cogswell and her husband were at a Christmas party in Nelson the night of Dec. 13, 2019, when they called their 22-year-old son to pick them up, as both had been drinking.

The son was driving and the mother was sitting in the front passenger seat when they went through a holiday Counter Attack road check. When the officer — identified in the lawsuit as Const. Alan Therrien — asked if anyone had consumed any alcohol, the woman admitted she had.

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After failing a roadside test, Therrien issued a 90-day roadside prohibition to Cogswell, and the family vehicle was impounded.

The West Kootenay Integrated Road Safety Unit has told Global News the son had a learner’s licence at the time of the incident. Under the Motor Vehicle Act, that prohibited him from driving while his front-seat passenger, who is meant to be the driver’s supervisor, is intoxicated.

Police later reversed course and cancelled both the roadside prohibition and the vehicle impound. The lawsuit says police notified the family of the change a week after the incident, on Dec. 20. Cogswell got her licence back the next day.

Click to play video: 'Naming and shaming drunk drivers'
Naming and shaming drunk drivers

However, the lawsuit claims Therrien had “no objective basis” to believe Cogswell or anyone else in the vehicle was committing an offence and conducted a “negligent investigation” into impaired driving.

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It also claims Therrien “repeatedly admonish[ed]” Cogswell during the roadside test and the issuing of the ticket for her decision to get a ride from her son while intoxicated.

“Const. Therrien made comments about the Plaintiff being a bad mother and for failing her son by having him transport her while she was intoxicated,” the lawsuit reads.

“The Plaintiff felt that these comments were discriminatory in nature and singled her out as a woman and as a mother.”

The lawsuit claims those comments continued while Cogswell was detained by Therrien, which she says lasted for roughly 45 minutes.

“Throughout this time, Const. Therrien scolded the plaintiff multiple times, admonishing her that it was a “good thing [the Plaintiff] didn’t kill anyone tonight,” the lawsuit reads.

Police have argued that anyone in a supervisor position in a vehicle must be sober “and fully prepared to safely provide input at any time to the vehicle’s steering,” citing the Motor Vehicle Act.

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But the lawsuit argues Therrien’s argument that Cogswell “was in care or control of the vehicle was unreasonable and has no basis in law or statute.”

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“Const. Therrien lacked reasonable and probable grounds for concluding that the Plaintiff had committed an offence,” it reads.

The lawsuit is seeking various damages for mental stress, lost employment income, pain and suffering and “exemplary damages, to punish the defendant for conduct that falls far below acceptable in the execution of his duties as a member of the [police].”

Combined, the dollar amounts cited in the lawsuit total $33,200.

Sarah Leamon, Cogswell’s lawyer who filed the lawsuit, would not comment further on the case as it is before the courts.

The West Kootenay Integrated Road Safety Unit and the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, which is also named in the lawsuit, have yet to file a response.


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