Police in B.C. can now issue 90-day immediate roadside prohibitions if a driver fails or refuses to take a breathalyzer. (Black Press file photo)

Supreme court upholds B.C.’s drunk driving laws

Constitutional challenge on 90-day prohibitions dismissed

The B.C. Supreme Court has upheld the law that allow police to take drunk drivers off the road for 90 days, following a constitutional challenge.

In a ruling Monday, Justice Jennifer Duncan said the 90-day immediate roadside prohibitions are “a measured response to the societal danger of drunk driving.”

B.C. brought in some of the strictest impaired driving laws in 2010, two years after four-year-old Alexa Middelaer was killed by a drunk driver on a Delta road in 2008.

The immediate roadside prohibition for 24 hours was increased to 90 days for drivers who failed the roadside breathalyzer test by blowing above a 0.08 blood alcohol level, or refusing to provide a breath sample.

The laws have been challenged twice before: A 2011 challenge led to the laws being amended, while a 2014 challenge was dismissed.

In this case filed last December, three of the four complainants had failed a breathalyzer test and one had refused to take one. All four were denied a review of their cases.

They claimed the immediate roadside prohibitions, given out by police roadside and before they could talk to a lawyer, violated their charter rights “to retain and instruct counsel without delay.”

However, Duncan said the positive effects of the prohibitions negated any perceived breach the drunk drivers’ rights.

“It is a powerful tool which sees the immediate suspension of drivers who have been drinking alcohol from our roads, yet enables a meaningful review of the suspension as well as avenues for further judicial review.”


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