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Highest court upholds BC's tough drinking and driving law

(iStock Photo)

The challenge dealt with the initial law that came into effect in BC back in 2010

The aspect of search and seizure has been deemed unconstitutional by the country's highest court

OTTAWA, ON. (NEWS 1130) – The tougher drunk driving laws implemented by our province in 2010 have largely survived a Supreme Court challenge.

This challenge dealt with the initial law that came into effect five years ago, which imposed heavy fines, tougher penalties and immediate roadside prohibitions for drunk drivers.

Those parts all stood up in court, but an aspect on search and seizure has been deemed unconstitutional — a part of the law the province has already changed after concerns were raised.

“It doesn’t really impact the system in place in British Columbia right now as the provincial government made changes in 2012,” says NEWS 1130 Legal Analyst Michael Shapray, who adds the decision means the law is unlikely to be struck down in future.

BC amended the law to deal with that issue, allowing drivers who failed a roadside breathalyzer to ask for a second test and apply for a review of their driving prohibition.

“If you’re pulled over now, you’re going to be certainly subject to the roadside regime that the province has now passed, unless there’s something serious that happens or a past record of drinking and driving — it’s unlikely the police are going to take you back to the police station for a test on the breathalyzer.”

“If you’re caught with a blood alcohol level that registers a ‘fail’ on the roadside screening device you are going to have the penalty imposed on you which includes a 90-day driving prohibition which is immediate as well as the likelihood of having to take an alcohol responsible driver’s course,” adds Shapray.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton issued a statement in response to the decisions.

“Our government believes strongly in our immediate roadside prohibition law, and we know it saves lives — 260 since September 2010, in fact.”

“Our belief is that the amendments our government made in June 2012 already address the constitutional issues noted in the court’s decision, and our intention is that the IRP program continue without interruption.”

“That is our plan — to continue to have one of the toughest drinking driving laws in the country and to continue to protect public safety by getting these drivers off our roads.”

Today’s Supreme Court ruling deals only with law as it stood in 2010.

The high court handed down a pair of judgments, a 6-1 decision and a unanimous 7-0 ruling.