EDITORIAL: Shifting the cost of drunk driving

The onus is on the individual to defend wrongful drinking and driving charges

When B.C. launched Canada’s toughest drinking and driving laws in 2010, not everyone embraced the initiative with open arms.

A year after police were given powers to suspend a licence for 90 days on the spot and impound the vehicle for 30 days, with little recourse for appeal, a judge ruled the laws went too far and violated the Charter of Rights.

Last May, the provincial government eased up on those regulations, slightly, and gave people a better chance to fight what are significant financial penalties for drinking and driving.

The Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles is reviewing 1,200 cases of people caught under the immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) system just prior to the laws being thrown out in 2011.

But for everyone else, the tough rules are the law of the land (at least until another constitutional challenge) – blow a “fail” and you’ll lose your licence for 90 days, your car for 30, be forced to install an ignition interlock system, take a driver education program, and face fines. All told, the fines and fees add up to about $4,040 at minimum.

An IRP appears punitive on the driver, and to a large degree it is. But the crux of the system, besides acting as a deterrent, is that it removes drinking and driving from the criminal justice system.

The courts in B.C. had to deal with thousands fewer drinking and driving cases last year. Instead of those criminal cases gumming up an already calcified court system and costing taxpayer money, the financial burden has been downloaded to the accused drunk driver.

Being criminally prosecuted for drinking and driving certainly comes with financial penalties, the potential for jail time and a criminal record, but due to the overwhelming caseloads in many jurisdictions, there is always a chance that the case could drag out and eventually be thrown out of court due to a lack of a speedy trial.

The IRP process, “immediate” being the key word, provides a summary punishment and puts the onus on the accused drunk driver to appeal the fines and penalties.

The pendulum of law, it seems, has distinctly swung to the side of law and order rather than the assumption of innocence, in terms of drinking and driving. Statistics over the past decade show that drivers in B.C. weren’t getting the message. Perhaps they will now.

Just Posted

Highlands celebrating 25 years of incorporation

Event features a video look at the District’s history

Third rink needed immediately at Pearkes, say users

Only four ice pads for Saanich, Victoria groups

City of Victoria looks for emergency shelter options amidst bed shortage

My Place considered for tier-2 shelter during harsh weather

B.C. historian helped Viola Desmond make it on the $10 bill

Merna Forster of Oak Bay petitioned for years for a Canadian woman to be honoured on currency

Algae bloom at Elk Lake prompts CRD advisory notice

Reappearance of blue-green algae lethal to dogs a constant concern for water quality

Victoria Grizzlies partner with Military Family Resource Centre for military appreciation

The Grizzlies met with children at the centre’s daycare Tuesday

Good Food Summit plants seeds for food security

The Good Food Summit runs Nov. 22 and 23

POLL: Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?

The Christmas lights are twinkling and holiday music is playing in local… Continue reading

Trial: Witness describes encounter with accused murderer while tending to fatally injured Descoteau

Wright said he was working in his yard when he heard a woman screaming.

Former NHL player and coach Dan Maloney dies at 68

Maloney coached the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

Most Read