Since the introduction of the random breath testing provisions, an old article has been making the rounds once again. It’s an important story, because it gets at the very heart of what the problems are with random breath testing and how it can railroad otherwise good people.
Many people are sympathetic to the story of Margaret MacDonald, a woman in her eighties who was given a roadside prohibition, while completely sober, after she was alleged to have refused a breathalyzer test. However, Ms. MacDonald did not refuse; due to her age, the cold weather, and the rough treatment by the police in that case, she was incapable of blowing properly.
What many do not know, however, is the rest of the story. And the rest of the story is just as important.
In last week's episode of Driving Law with Kyla Lee, I sat down with Roy Ho of Acumen Law Corporation to talk about ICBC and insurance breach investigations. In particular, Roy and I discussed how your insurance is affected by impaired driving charges and how ICBC will breach insurance coverage after an impaired driving incident. For anyone affected by an impaired driving case involving an accident, this episode is a must-listen to know whether ICBC will provide coverage in a DUI accident.
In the second half of the episode, Roy and I also discuss the changes to British Columbia's Insurance Vehicle Act and coverage for minor injury claims.
Don't forget as well to vote for me in Canadian Lawyer Magazine's Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers survey.
Episode two of the Driving Law with Kyla Lee podcast is here. On this episode, I speak with former British Columbia Solicitor General and West Vancouver Police Department Chief of Police Kash Heed about impaired driving investigations, how we got the Immediate Roadside Prohibition scheme, and the pitfalls of rewarding police for issuing driving prohibitions.
You can find the podcast on SoundCloud at this link.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the Alco-Sensor FST manual was changed to support a certain unscientific and inaccurate belief about mouth temperature. My concern with any of this is, of course, the fairness of the Immediate Roadside Prohibition review process and whether drivers are given a reasonable opportunity to challenge the apparent results of their breath tests.
Sadly, today I learned of yet another change the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles has made to make the review process less effective and fair to drivers. I have to say, sometimes participating in this review process is like attempting to play a chess match with Death, except Death can change the rules of the game at any point.
A few months ago, I wrote about the awful amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act that allow the Superintendent to prepare their own material, under the guise of “technical materials” to determine cases. This material, pursuant to the legislation, is only to be used for the purpose of determining issues raised by the applicant.
The problem with the Superintendent being able to do this was that the Superintendent is then presumed to be an expert on issues which he is, frankly, not. At the time, I predicted that the Superintendent would simply rewrite science in order to advance the goal of upholding IRPs. And, unfortunately, I was right.
Today, I received word on an IRP hearing that the Superintendent would be relying on Technical Materials, including a new version of the ASD manual that was posted on their site today. I dropped everything to read this new version of the manual, and I saw something I expected to see.
It almost feels like a bad joke at this point. Just when we adjust to a ridiculous policy change made by RoadSafetyBC and the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, they roll out another one. The frequency with which their policy changes happen really does make it seem as though the Government actors at RoadSafetyBC are slowly trying to eliminate all of your procedural rights. The plan being that if each right is chipped away at one at a time, they won't suffer the same blow they did when the courts declared the IRP law unconstitutional after it was first introduced.
And so now we have another disturbing policy change to deal with.
I’ve written before about the process of appealing an unsuccessful Immediate Roadside Prohibition review decision. I conduct countless judicial review hearings in BC Supreme Court, and file innumerable Petitions to the Court. The majority of my appeal cases are resolved without having to make arguments in court, and in favour of my clients.
While plenty of the cases I take to court deal with routine issues, such as how an adjudicator resolves a credibility issue or their interpretation of the evidence there are a significant number of judicial reviews that I advance that deal with far more significant issues.
You may have read my recent post about my success rate in these types of cases. Part of the reason I won so many hearings in summer 2015 related to finding certain pieces of evidence that called into question numerous breathalyser calibration certificates. In order to respond to this, the police amended a standard form that was submitted for every hearing with declarative information indicating that what they said was correct.
What happened next was very interesting.
As mentioned in two previous posts, there have been significant issues with delay in deciding Immediate Roadside Prohibition review cases.
This has resulted in substantial problems for drivers who are affected by the delay, as the prohibition remains on the driving record during this time. The drivers have been made to pay the towing and storage costs, and there are consequences that are specific to many individuals like increased life insurance premiums or termination from employment.
So what is the Government doing to address the problem?
Today, the BC Court of Appeal released its ruling in Jaswal v. British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles). This case was the appeal of whether drivers who were issued an Immediate Roadside Prohibition that was unconstitutional are entitled to have the IRP removed from their driving record, and to have their fines and penalties reimbursed.
The Court has upheld Justice Sigurdson's initial ruling that despite the fact that the IRP law was unconstitutional from September 2010 to November 2011, there will be no remedy for those affected by it. Many drivers are out thousands of dollars, have lost their employment, and have their driving records permanently marred by an unconstitutional law that continues to affect them to this day. The judge found -- and the Court of Appeal confirmed -- that the ruling represented a substantial change in the law and did not entitle drivers to a remedy.
One of the biggest concerns that the public has when it comes to impaired driving is the problem with repeat or chronic offenders. You probably remember the story of the Victoria woman with 19 drunk driving prohibitions, who was recently found guilty of another offence related to impaired driving. The public was, rightly, outraged that this person can still drive and is still driving drunk.
The Government, for its part, has touted the success of the Immediate Roadside Prohibition legislation as the mechanism to reduce the carnage caused by impaired drivers on the road. It frequently points to the reduction in drunk driving deaths as evidence of the success of their anti-drunk driving legislation. But what they've been keeping mum about since the introduction of the scheme is whether there is any reduction in repeat offenders for impaired driving.
In short, do the swift and severe sanctions prevent people from making the same mistake twice? The answer might surprise you.
Vancouver Criminal Lawyer with a focus on impaired driving, cannabis legalization and related issues, and immediate roadside prohibition defence.