Province introduces changes to BC's tough drinking laws
Friday marks a return to tough drinking and driving laws according to BC’s justice minister.
The procedural changes comes after a judge deemed the review process unfair for drivers who fail a breathalyzer test.
Police now have to let drivers know their right to a second test and also must issue sworn reports and submit documentation with a “warning” or “fail” result.
“This legislation has always been about public safety, and its life-saving value is clear,” Justice Minister Shirley Bond said on the province’s website.
“Today, I want to ensure all British Columbians — especially those who’ve lost a loved one to impaired driving — that our tough stance on impaired driving has not changed,” Bond added.
“We have not undermined the deterrent value of our law, which is so critical to the life-saving gains we’ve seen.
“We’ve made changes to satisfy the court ruling. In fact, we’ve gone even further than the court directed because we want the public to believe in both the fairness and effectiveness of our approach.”
The B.C. government’s goal of reducing impaired driving fatalities by 35 per cent by the end of 2013 has already been surpassed.
Bond claims since the law was introduced, alcohol-related deaths on the road have dropped by 44 per cent compared to the previous five years
The amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act respond to a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that the original administrative review process did not provide a driver with the ability to meaningfully challenge the “fail” result of a roadside breath test.
The amendments also enhance the fairness of both roadside and appeal processes. The following conditions now apply, regardless of whether a driver provides either a “warn” or “fail” breath sample at the roadside:
- Police must advise drivers of their right to a second breath test on a second approved screening device (ASD). In the past, officers were not legally required to inform drivers of this right.
- Police must tell drivers that the lower of the two readings will prevail. Previously, the results of a second test prevailed, whether higher or lower.
- Grounds for administrative review now 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 breath test on a second ASD, and whether the IRP was issued on the basis of the lowest reading. These grounds reflect the expanded requirements of police officers at the roadside.
- Police officers must provide sworn reports to the superintendent of motor vehicles for every immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) they issue – increasing the evidentiary standard of the officers’ submissions.
- Police officers must also submit documentation attesting to the calibration accuracy of the ASD device or devices that were used.
These changes mean, effective June 15, IRPs resume as an alternative to the full Criminal Code process for drivers found in excess of the legal limit of .08 per cent blood-alcohol content at the roadside- the default approach for police since the court ruling last November.