News Local

B.C. court backs drunk-driving bans 0

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

B.C. Civil Liberties Association lawyer Raji Mangat speaks to reporters outside the B.C. Court of Appeal on Monday. (JASON LANG/24 HOURS)

B.C. Civil Liberties Association lawyer Raji Mangat speaks to reporters outside the B.C. Court of Appeal on Monday. (JASON LANG/24 HOURS)

"No one is for drinking and driving, but the justice here for people accused for this is limited at best." — Sarah Leamon, lawyer

The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld the province’s ability to impose immediate roadside prohibitions for drunk driving. The ruling means police can still ban anyone from driving for up to 90 days if they “fail” a roadside screening.

In her decision Monday, Justice Catherine Anne Ryan ruled police could continue enforcing roadside prohibitions, which also include three-to-30-day bans for those who blow in the “warn” range of 50 to 80 milligrams.

In a recent statement, the Justice Ministry said drinking driving deaths had declined 52% since tougher rules were implemented in 2010 — exceeding expectations and saving nearly 200 lives.

B.C. Civil Liberties Association lawyer Raji Mangat, however, said the decision means people are “presumed guilty” at the roadside until they can prove otherwise.

“It’s not, sort of criminal law enough to attract all the protections people get in the criminal process,” she said.

“In kind of an ironic way. You’d almost rather wish you were charged under criminal law, perhaps, because then you’d have the presumption of innocence and that sort of thing.”

Mangat, whose organization intervened in the case, said the court found the “review mechanism” to challenge roadside prohibitions insufficient, despite government having amended the law in 2012 to allow requests for second roadside tests.

It’s unclear what the new ruling’s impacts are on those mechanisms, she added.

Sarah Leamon, a defence lawyer specializing in drinking-driving cases, said fighting the roadside prohibitions mostly takes place over the phone. She added it’s tough for the accused to gain access to evidence used against them.

“There’s better ways to address this issue. No one is for drinking and driving, but the justice here for people accused for this is limited at best.”

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