BC: Fourteen Out of 174 Roadside Suspensions Issued by Port Moody Police in 2011 To Be Overturned

Update: see previous post – January 16, 2013 BC: 1,200 Impaired Driving Files Under Review by the Ministry of Justice

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A report has found that Port Moody police used improperly calibrated breathalyzers for 14 roadside suspensions in 2011.

Fourteen out of 174 roadside suspensions issued by Port Moody police in 2011 will be overturned after an independent investigation found the suspensions were based on readings of improperly calibrated breathalyzers.

The findings, announced Thursday, were forwarded to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, which said it will be contacting the 14 drivers to cancel their immediate roadside prohibitions and penalties, and work with Port Moody police to reimburse them.

“A mistake was made by Port Moody Police and we are now working to rectify the situation as quickly as possible,” said superintendent of motor vehicles Steve Martin in a written statement.

But the Vancouver lawyer who first called attention to the faulty machines in October 2011 criticized police for taking more than a year to take action, while some drivers who may be innocent have suffered, were levied more than $4,000 in fines and fees, and lost driving privileges and jobs.

“They’re trying to reduce the damage to themselves,” said Paul Doroshenko. “I think they know the lawsuit is coming.”

The investigation began last fall after the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner determined the Port Moody police’s breathalyzers were being incorrectly calibrated, resulting in faulty readings.

The force initiated the probe to determine which immediate roadside prohibitions were issued using an invalid machine.

Doroshenko questioned the accuracy of the findings.

Based on documents he obtained on the device’s calibration and maintenance, “we don’t think there is a way they can identify who the people are,” he said.

“Maybe they have some magical information that’ll let them connect the miscalibration to certain [breathalyzers.] We’re going to keep on investigating until we’re certain of our position.”

Tougher drunk-driving rules enacted in 2010 mean drivers who blow over the legal limit can face an automatic 90-day driving suspension and fines.

In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court struck down part of the law as unconstitutional. Last year, the provincial government changed regulations, allowing drivers to challenge roadside breathalyzer results and requiring police to submit documents on the device’s calibration.

Martin said police agencies across B.C. have been reminded to make sure their machines are calibrated properly. He said standardized forms are now in place, with “ongoing police monitoring and feedback to the respective police agencies to ensure accurate, complete documentation.”

Doroshenko maintains his criticism of the immediate roadside prohibitions, calling it “punishment without trial.”

“It’s horrendous. It’s a terrible system we’ve adopted that says someone is guilty until they’re proven innocent.”

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