Do New BC DUI Laws Violate Rights?

Given the fact that Whatcom County is on the BC/Canada border, BC’s new DUI penalties should be of some interest to Whatcom County citizens. Regardless of how you feel about DUI, the rights of citizens should never succumb to the zeal of interests groups. These new laws have that appearance. The new “laws” are not really laws, but rather administrative sanctions that are imposed on the roadside without judge, jury, or representation. The introduction of BC’s new administrative procedures is...


Given the fact that Whatcom County is on the BC/Canada border, BC’s new DUI penalties should be of some interest to Whatcom County citizens. Regardless of how you feel about DUI, the rights of citizens should never succumb to the zeal of interests groups. These new laws have that appearance. The new “laws” are not really laws, but rather administrative sanctions that are imposed on the roadside without judge, jury, or representation.

The introduction of BC’s new administrative procedures is Canada’s toughest yet. Furthermore, after the officer makes contact and submits a report, these sanctions will be imposed in secret, and with no public record of the offence. These penalties for impaired driving will not show up in any court records and are shielded from public scrutiny. While the practice is defended and rationalized as “a person’s driving record, is considered personal and confidential,” as stated by superintendent Steve Martin, consider the old saying “out of sight, out of mind.” The more secretive, and the more hidden the “punishment” the easier it is to forget about citizen rights. This is not intended to “defend” the act of DUI in a county where there is zero tolerance, but rather simply a comment on the slippery slope of eroding citizen’s rights.

The Motor Vehicle Act’s new sanctions before a citizen ever get to see the inside of a court room to face a DUI charge are:

Drivers who provide a failing breath sample above 0.08 or refuse to provide a breath sample at the roadside will face an immediate, 90-day driving ban and a $500 fine. They will also have their vehicle impounded for 30 days.

Drivers caught once in the “warn” range (roadside reading between 0.05 and 0.08 BAC) in a five-year period will face an immediate, three-day driving ban and a $200 fine; a second time roadside test with a “warn,” a seven-day ban and a $300 fine; and a third roadside “warn” BAC, a 30-day ban and a $400 fine.

Any driver who blows once in the “fail” range, or three times within five years in the “warn” range, will be required to participate in the rehabilitative responsible driver program and they must also use an ignition interlock device, for one year. This means that you may never have been above a .08, but suffer loss of license and vehicle.

The new, roadside-issued, 90-day bans mean officers will no longer need to take drivers to the station for a full breath analysis in order to impose a driving ban longer than 24 hours. The changes to B.C.’s impaired driving laws are expected to come into effect in fall 2010.

While these new laws are thought to “help all law enforcement officers apprehend and reduce the number of impaired drivers in the province,” according to the RCMP’s B.C. Traffic Services, it will come at a considerable cost to citizen’s rights and privileges.

Here in the state of Washington, a roadside breath test is voluntary and there is no penalty for providing a sample, or not. These devices are fairly unreliable as far as proof of a DUI goes, which is why drivers are taken to another location and offered a more reliable breath test. This instrument is the same breath test instrument as that used in BC. Once a citizen provides a breath sample 2 times, both being above a .08 (.02 for a minor) or refuses, then sanctions are triggered, as well as the right to challenge the evidence presented.

As a DUI focused attorney I have seen many mistakes in police reports that have saved a citizen from wrongful suspension/revocation of a very important privilege. These mistakes are after the arresting officer has had hours and sometimes days to create a very detailed report. Think about the errors that can be made on the side of the road with no one checking accuracy? We are all human and make mistakes and while swift and certain punishment is an admirable goal, it should not come at such a high cost in the form of citizen rights and a simple “second look” by impartial eyes.