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New drinking and driving laws make it easier for offenders in court: Lawyer

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A Vancouver lawyer who deals with a lot of impaired driving cases says penalties under the Motor Vehicle Act brought in 2010 are making his job easier when he represents the most serious offenders. The new powers for police which allow them to issue immediate roadside suspensions are leading to more criminal investigations being botched.

Procedures for how police officers conduct criminal impaired and Motor Vehicle Act investigations are different. According to lawyer Paul Doroshenko, if an officer starts out processing a driver under the motor vehicle act, they could end up doing something that would botch a criminal investigation if it turned out later one was warranted.

Doroshenko gives the example of an officer starting an impaired investigation under the Motor Vehicle Act. The standard procedure there is to offer the driver the opportunity to blow into a second screening device. “So they blow twice there and then the police officer realizes ‘Oh my goodness, this guy hit somebody down the road’ or ‘this is a car I should’ve been investigating for a hit and run.’ Or they realize the person’s got a previous drunk driving conviction or five previous drunk driving convictions and they’ve already botched the criminal investigation right there because they’ve them blow into two different approved screening devices which is not something you’re permitted to do in a criminal investigation. You can’t have them blow twice.”

Doroshenko says the number of botched investigations he’s been seeing has climbed since 2010. “Looking back, you might get one out of ten cases before this scheme came out that were criminal cases that were really fatally flawed by something that the police officer did where they made a mistake in their investigation. Now I think it’s probably about three-four times that.”

The President of the BC Police Association has a different take. Tom Stamatakis says it’s possible more improperly investigated cases are showing up in the courts now from when the Motor Vehicle Act changes were new. “The new processes have been in place for a number of years. Whether you agree with them or not, the government introduced these new guidelines for a specific purpose and the reality is they have achieved that purpose… The effect of these new regulations is that police are able to take action where they feel that someone’s ability to drive a motor vehicle is impaired by alcohol and while they’re doing that the administrative processes that have been created ensure that police officers remain on the street and don’t get tied up for hours and hours at a time dealing with paperwork.”

He is confident police are well trained to know when to use each procedure.