Since British Columbia impaired driving laws changed to give police more authority during roadside stops, there have been numerous challenges to those laws. People have taken cases dealing with the Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP) program to the courts, and there have also been numerous cases that question the legality of police requesting a breath sample.
One case, involving a BC judgement over a breathalyzer request, has been held up by the Supreme Court of Canada, and the Court decided that Crown prosecutors don’t need to prove that a police officer was legally justified in asking someone they suspect of drunk driving for a breathalyzer sample.
The case was based on a BC man who was convicted of drunk driving, but the provincial court found that the police officer didn’t have grounds to ask the man for a breath sample. He took his case to the BC Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeal before moving on to the Supreme Court of Canada.
It was a split decision for the Supreme Court of Canada, and according to a Vancouver defense lawyer, that means that this might not be the last discussion on the topic. She feels as though there still could be a Charter of Rights Challenge on this matter, because any accused drunk driver has the option of filing a Charter challenge before they go to trial.
This may open the door to a change in British Columbia impaired driving laws too. Although the province’s laws aren’t the harshest in the country, with Saskatchewan now holding that distinction, they are still considered too harsh in the minds of most BC drivers. The IRP, where a driver can be given an immediate roadside driver’s license suspension and have their vehicle towed if he or she has been drinking, met numerous challenges before it was changed slightly to make it acceptable to most drivers.
For now the Supreme Court of Canada has handed a victory to BC law enforcement, but you can guarantee that more challenges will come in the future.