B.C. drunk driving laws found to be constitutional: Supreme Court

Dec 19 2017, 6:01 pm

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that current drunk driving laws in B.C. are constitutional and don’t violate basic rights.

The ruling stems from two cases where drivers were given roadside suspensions following either failed or refused breathalyzer samples.

In the first case, Lee Michael Wilson was pulled over in 2012 and the two breath samples he provided registered in the “warning” range. He was given a three-day driving suspension as a result.

Wilson argued that the breathalyzer samples alone weren’t enough to constitute the suspension and impounding of his vehicle. He said that he’d also need to be showing evidence of intoxication, such as slurred speech or erratic driving to justify the suspension. He also said the laws were “ambiguous” and violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The B.C. Supreme Court initially ruled in his favour, but the B.C. Court of Appeals overturned that decision.

The other case involved several plaintiffs who either failed the roadside breathalyzer test or refused to take it entirely. Refusal to take a breathalyzer results in a 90 day driving suspension and a 30 day vehicle impoundment under the Automatic Roadside Prohibition scheme, which was created in 2010.

The plaintiffs argued it was unconstitutional to get a roadside suspension for blowing over 0.08, the legal limit.

One of the plaintiffs, Richard Goodwin, “failed to provide an adequate breath sample,” and was issued a 90 day driving suspension, according to court documents. The courts found his punishment didn’t violate his basic rights as he had argued.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said in a statement that the court ruling was the right choice and B.C.’s drinking and driving laws save lives.

“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,” said Anton.

Anton said 260 lives have been saved since the roadside prohibition law was enacted in 2010.