BC’s Solictor General May Water Down Drinking & Driving Laws in Spring

Update: see previous posts – September 4, 2010 BC Government Announces Harsh Speeding Laws & Penaltie$, July 28, 2010 New Laws Come Into Effect on September 20, 2010 – Drinking and Driving Laws in British Columbia

British Columbia's Coat of Arms

First the Premier of British Columbia announces his resignation (due to his poor ratings (9%) in the polls and his own party members suggesting that for the sake of the party, he had to go) and now the Solictor General is flip flopping so strongly, even the BC Salmon swimming upstream would be proud.

Weary and aware of those same numbers, the Solictor General, Mr. Rich Coleman is now backtracking on the very drinking and driving laws that his party implemented on September 20, 2010.

After looking at the unpopularity of the Provincial Liberals in the latest polls (due in a large part to the Hated Sales Tax (HST) ) and being lobbied by the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association who say that their sales are down 15-20% since these tough drinking and driving laws came into force on September 20, 2010, the Solictor General is going to conduct a review of these laws and their unintended consequences.

Solictor General Rich Coleman may take steps to soften the legislation in the spring session, 2011.

see the source of this story in The Globe & Mail

British Columbia’s tough new drunk-driving laws are considered so onerous, the province is preparing an advertising campaign to tell people it is okay to drink a bit.

But Mr. Coleman said the message proved to be too effective. He has told government agencies to work together on a new education campaign to combat the “urban myth” that people cannot have a drink or two with dinner and legally drive.

“I think it’s a big education piece. I think they don’t understand they can go in and have a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and still leave and be okay. The fear hit in such a way that they said they can’t have a drink at all. That wasn’t the intent.”

Mr. Coleman said police have told him the law has had a significant impact on reducing drunk driving, which kills 130 British Columbians each year. But he stressed that there are no statistics available yet to measure how effective the law has been.

The law gives police the authority to impose tough roadside penalties for drivers who refuse a breath sample or are found with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit of .08 per cent. Drivers face an immediate 90-day driving ban and a $500 fine and their vehicle can be impounded for 30 days. They may also face criminal charges.

Mr. Coleman said police have been too quick to impound vehicles, which is happening in 90 per cent of cases under the new rules.

Here is the information meant for public consumption with regard to the tough drinking and driving laws implemented in British Columbia on September 20, 2010 on the Minister of Public Safety and Solictor General’s website:

Important Messages

Impaired Driving

Impaired Driving is on the rise. In B.C., it kills over 100 people and injures more than 3,000 each year. Every one of these tragedies is entirely preventable.

B.C. has the toughest provincial impaired driving legislation in the country. If you drink and drive you can count on administrative sanctions adding up to between $600 and $4,060 – even if it’s the first time you’re caught – and more time off the road.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) – a unit measuring the amount of alcohol in the body. E.g., 0.05 BAC = 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. For more information on BAC and alcohol and drug effects on the body see, Alcohol, Drugs and Impaired Driving [PDF].

Administrative Sanctions

Immediate Roadside Prohibitions (IRPs)

Administrative sanctions will apply if:

  • You are caught driving with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) between 0.05 and 0.08, or
  • Your BAC is above 0.08, or
  • You refuse to provide a breath sample.

If a police officer suspects you are driving impaired, he or she will ask you to provide a breath sample at the roadside, into a roadside screening device. Depending on the BAC in the sample, the device will either indicate Pass, Warn or Fail.

PASS means your breath sample contains a BAC below 0.05

WARN means your breath sample is between 0.05 and 0.08 BAC. If you are caught in this range:

The first time within a five-year period:

  • You will lose your driver’s licence immediately, for three days.
  • You may also lose your vehicle for three days. If you do, you will pay all related towing and storage fees.
  • You will pay a $200 monetary penalty and a $250 driver’s licence reinstatement fee.

The second time within a five-year period:

  • You will lose your driver’s licence immediately, for seven days.
  • You may also lose your vehicle for seven days. If you do, you will pay all related towing and storage fees.
  • You will pay a $300 monetary penalty and a $250 driver’s licence reinstatement fee.

The third time within a five-year period:

  • You will lose your driver’s licence and your vehicle immediately, for 30 days.
  • You will pay all related towing and storage fees.
  • You will pay a $400 monetary penalty and a $250 driver’s licence reinstatement fee.
  • To regain your driving privileges, you will have to complete the Responsible Drivers Program [PDF] and have to use an Ignition Interlock Device [PDF] whenever you drive, for one full year, following your driving suspension.

FAIL means your BAC is above 0.08. If you fail or refuse to provide a breath sample:

  • You will immediately lose your driver’s licence for 90 days and your vehicle for 30 days.
  • You will pay all related towing and storage fees.
  • You will pay a $500 monetary penalty and a $250 driver’s licence reinstatement fee.
  • To regain your driving privileges, you will have to complete the Responsible Drivers Program [PDF] and have to use an Ignition Interlock Device [PDF] whenever you drive, for one full year, following your driving suspension.
  • In all, you will face administrative consequences that will cost you about $4,060 before you can legally operate a motor vehicle again in B.C.
  • You may also face charges under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Other Sanctions . . .Under some circumstances, police may issue other sanctions.

24-hour Prohibitions
When a police officer has reasonable and probable grounds to suspect driver impairment, he or she may issue an immediate 24-hour driving prohibition. Additionally, at their discretion, an officer may also impound the vehicle for 24 hours. 24-Hour prohibitions will usually be applied in cases of either drug impairment or a combination of drug and alcohol impairment. These sanctions to not require a breath test.

Administrative Driving Prohibitions (ADPs)
ADPs are 90-day driving prohibitions. ADPs can be served to individuals suspected of impaired driving who either refuse a breath test or provide a sample on an Approved Instrument (AI) that demonstrates a BAC greater than 0.08 (either while driving, or up to three hours after driving). After serving an ADP, applying to renew driving privileges includes paying a license reinstatement fee of $250. ADPs are separate from any court-ordered sanctions resulting from criminal charges arising from the same incident.

Remedial Programs

For circumstances that trigger referral into remedial programs, see:

Criminal Code Charges

It is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada to drive while impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. The criminal threshold is 0.08 BAC. Police can demand that suspected impaired drivers provide a breath sample into an ASD and/or perform a physical coordination test. Failure or refusal to comply is also a criminal offence.

Upon criminal conviction of impaired driving charges in B.C., drivers are subject to court-ordered consequences, which include a $1000 fine, a driving prohibition independent from any administrative prohibitions, and possible jail time

Table – Criminal Code Consequences

First ConvictionSecond ConvictionSubsequent Convictions
Court-ordered Driving Prohibition1 – 3 years2 – 5 years3 – 5 years
Minimum Fine / Imprisonment$1,00030 days imprisonment120 days imprisonment

NOTE: offenders convicted under section 224 of the Motor Vehicle Act face punishment of a $100 – $2000 fine, or seven days to six months imprisonment, or both.

Additionally, criminally convicted drivers face referral into B.C.’s Indefinite Licence Suspension Program [PDF – Factsheet].

If they do regain their driving privileges, they will be required to participate in remedial programming as well as face increased insurance premiums.

Graduated Licensing Program (‘L’ and ‘N’ drivers) – Driver Consequences

Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) drivers who demonstrate BAC levels greater than zero but less than 0.05, or who police suspect have any level of alcohol or drugs in their system face the following consequences:

  • 12-hour immediate roadside Licence Suspension (24-hour for drugs).
  • Automatic driving record review by the OSMV and further driving prohibitions according to the Driver Improvement Program (DIP) guidelines.
  • Driver’s Licence Reinstatement Fee of $250 following any DIP prohibitions.

GLP drivers who blow a WARN or FAIL are subject to the regular impaired driving sanctions, in addition to their GLP-specific consequences and reviews.

Support for Strong Enforcement

In B.C., municipal police departments and RCMP detachments are responsible for determining local enforcement priorities. However, B.C.’s Immediate Roadside Prohibitions (IRPs) enable police to enforce stronger impaired driving penalties right at the roadside.

Police officers are able to focus their impaired driving enforcement efforts on removing impaired and dangerous drivers from the road immediately.

Enforcement Starts at 0.05

Driving with BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 seven times more likely to be in a fatal car crash.One of the goals of B.C.’s clear, swift and severe penalties for impaired driving is to deter people from driving with a blood-alcohol content between 0.05 and 0.08. BACs in this range present a significant danger to others on B.C. roads. When your blood-alcohol content reaches 0.05, your coordination, sensitivity to brightness, and depth perception may be compromised. If you are driving, your reaction time will be slower and your responses less precise. You are more dangerous on the road. For more detailed information, read the Alcohol, Drugs and Impaired Driving [PDF].

Appealing an Impaired Driving Prohibition

Drivers who receive an impaired driving prohibition can request to have the prohibition reviewed by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles.

To seek a review, a driver will need to file an application within seven days of a prohibition notice. The Superintendent will then consider all available information – including from police, the driver and Crown counsel – and complete the review within 21 days.

Review fees are generally $100 for a written review and $200 for an oral review to help offset the administration costs. Review instructions appear on the Notice of Prohibition served to the driver. Attend your nearest ICBC Drivers Centre to make an application and schedule your hearing.

Note: oral reviews are only available for 30 and 90 day prohibitions.

All information to be considered in the review is disclosed to the driver prior to the hearing and the driver has the opportunity to provide additional evidence to dispute the facts of the case.

Applying for review does not stay a prohibition. In other words, this means that you are still prohibited from driving during the review process. In the case of shorter prohibitions, this may mean that you have finished serving it by the time a decision is made.

If a review is successful, the prohibition is revoked. This means the record is removed from your driving history, any associated impoundments are revoked, the vehicle is immediately released and all penalties – including impoundment fees – are waived or refunded (except in cases where the car was impounded for multiple reasons).

Drivers dissatisfied with the outcome of their review may also make an application under the Judicial Review Procedures Act to have the decision reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Drug-impaired Drivers

Impairment by drugs is a dangerous driving behaviour – be they prescription and/or illicit narcotics. Research suggests impairment by drugs can be as common as alcohol-impaired driving. Impairment by a combination of drugs and alcohol has been shown to be significantly more dangerous than the sum of each separately.

If a police officer reasonably suspects that a driver is impaired by drugs, the officer may submit the driver to an evaluation, issue a 24 hour roadside prohibition, and/or take the driver to a police station or detachment to test for drug impairment. Police may also pursue criminal charges.

Legislation and Resources

The Coleman lamp couldn’t shine bright enough to illuminate the real motivating factors behind his party’s change of heart with regard to these drinking & driving laws.

Effective December 1, 2010 in Ontario (Changes that may have Unintended Consequences):

The McGuinty Government has made some considerable changes to the Highway Traffic Act, under Bill 126 (Ontario Road Safety Act) which comes into effect on December 1, 2010.

Some of the highlights of the December 1, 2010 amendments:

Permanently Increased Penalties

(the permanent penalties cited below, do not include the victim fine surcharges or court costs, which is added on top of the fine and increases the total payable amount):

  • seat belt charges now carry a minimum fine of $200.00
  • careless driving charges now carry a minimum fine of $400.00
  • proceeding through a red light charge, carries a minimum fine of $200.00 (under sections 144 & 146 of the Highway Traffic Act “HTA”)
  • failing to remain, to return or to assist charges (under section 200 of the HTA), now carry a minimum fine of $400.00
  • On a $200 fine or a $400 fine (on any fine), you would have to add the victim fine surcharge (vfs) and the court cost:
    Example $200 fine + $35.00 vfs + $5.00 court cost = $240.00 Total Payable
    Example $400 fine + $85.00 vfs + $5.00 court cost = $490.00 Total Payable

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