Overturned drunk-driving decisions lack detail: lawyer 0
B.C. government’s release of 66 decisions to overturn roadside prohibitions isn’t sitting well with a Richmond lawyer, who said the cases don’t provide enough detail to educate the public on how to fight the penalties.
According to documents from a freedom-of-information request, about 31% of 214 appealed immediate roadside prohibitions heard in June were overturned, and the government is expected to foot the towing and storage bills of the successful appellants.
In 31 of the cases, the adjudicator decided the breathalyser was either unreliable or couldn’t be proven as reliable. Another 15 cases were overturned because the person cited couldn’t be proven as the driver.
Lawyer Kevin Filkow said it’s “frustrating,” however, as adjudicators release few additional details on why the prohibitions were overturned. Usually, decisions are summed up in one sentence, he said, offering little opportunity for the public or lawyers to do their own research.
In the recent documents, for example, only one decision further elaborates that a camper had a prohibition overturned after sitting in a car, intoxicated, at a campsite charging cell phones.
Several decisions do point out that officers’ screening devices weren’t properly calibrated, or officers didn’t submit a certificate of calibration with the prohibition.
“When they rule against the driver they give you some detailed reasons. When they rule in favour of the driver they provide only the decision,” Filkow said.
“You want to understand the reason, one way or the other. That would add some transparency, (and) would help people understand what would be grounds for a successful review or not.”
Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said last week about 1,500 prohibitions are issued monthly and only 2% of them are successfully appealed. In a B.C. Supreme Court decision last week, a report that set out guidelines for using breathalysers was ruled inadmissible.
The recent documents found 4.25% of 1,552 prohibition recipients in June had their decisions overturned.
According to Acumen Law Corporation lawyer Sarah Leamon, the ruling sets the grounds for potentially “thousands” of cases that could now be appealed.
“What we’re doing is manually going through our files one by one. It’s a painful process but necessary,” she said.
“We’re going through all our closed but still active files … letting them know this (appeal) option is open to them.”
Leamon’s law firm, which submitted the FOI request, has been monitoring the appeal trends for years and finds, typically, 18 to 24% of appellants are successful.