Courts strike down some drunk-driving penalties

Automatic suspensions, fines unconstitutional without right of appeal, judge rules.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that parts of B.C.'s new drunk-driving laws go so far that they're just plain unconstitutional.

Punishments imposed on drivers who fail roadside breathalizer tests voilates the "innocent until proven guilty" assumption, the court ruled.

The updated B.C. Motor Vehicle Act came into effect on Sept. 20, 2011 and aimed to toughen punishment for drunk driving. It has been described as one of the strictest in Canada.

The Canadian Press has the story:

 VANCOUVER -- The B.C. Supreme Court says the high costs and lengthy roadside suspensions imposed on some drivers who fail a blood-alcohol test are unconstitutional.

Justice Jon Sigurdson found British Columbia's new laws aimed at cracking down on drunk driving go too far by allowing an automatic 90-day driving suspension when someone blows over .08 on a breathalyzer test.

The law also allows for penalties that could cost the suspended driver over $4,000 and Sigurdson says those are significant without any opportunity for a driver to appeal.

He says the province could have easily provided a way for drivers to challenge the results of the screening device.

However, Sigurdson upheld provisions of the law that allow for suspension of up to 30 days for anyone that blows between .05 and .08.

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