The B.C. Supreme Court ruling this week that found the toughest of B.C.’s new impaired-driving penalties infringe on the constitutional right to a fair trial cannot be surprising to many.
When the provincial government created the law that, in effect, gave police the power to be officer, jury and judge, more than a few people cried foul. At issue is the law that permits police to impose 90-day driving bans, impound vehicles for 30 days and levy significant fines that can climb into the thousands.
Those penalties are issued to drivers who have a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or higher. The problem with this tough new penalty, Justice Jon Sigurdson found, is that it offers drivers no recourse to go to court and challenge the charges.
Sigurdson’s finding is dead-on and follows in much criticism when the B.C. Liberals introduced the new penalties that have indeed infringed on Charter rights. While Sigurdson found permissible the tougher penalties connected to blood-alcohol content in the “warn” range of 0.05 and 0.08, the confusion and fear the new penalties invoked in British Columbians cry out for the B.C. Liberals to cut to the chase and make a bold decision. It is either legal to drink or drive or it isn’t.
Forcing the public to engage in a dangerous and potentially costly guessing game while out having dinner is ridiculous.
If the B.C. Liberals are adamant that drinking and driving do not mix in any quantity, then let’s have a zero-tolerance law and dispense with the confusion now associated with what can only be interpreted as conflicting messages on drinking and driving.
If that is not the B.C. Liberals’ intent, if they believe there is room for some amount of alcohol in the bloodstream of drivers, then let’s have rigid enforcement of the 0.08 law and stop criminalizing those whose only crime is not drunk driving, but having been caught in the Twilight Zone of 0.05 to 0.08.
— Campbell River Mirror/Black Press