Sunday, June 17, 2012

BC's New and Improved DUI Laws Take Effect

Last year, we noted the success story of British Columbia, Canada in reducing DUI fatalities by over 40% in a single year.  This notable achievement, which nonetheless occured without raising the drinking age one iota, was most likely due to the province adopting (and enforcing) tougher DUI laws that provided for immediate roadside suspensions and impoundment of vehicles of alcohol-impaired drivers.  To wit, if a driver is stopped by police and blows:

0.05-0.08 BAC, 1st offense = 3 day license suspension, 3 day impoundment
0.05-0.08 BAC, 2nd offense = 7 day license suspension, up to 7 day impoundment
0.05-0.08 BAC, 3rd offense = 30 day license suspension, up to 30 day impoundment

0.08+ BAC, any offense = 90 day license suspension, up to 30 day impoundment

There are also stiff fines and towing and storage costs, and an ignition interlock device must be installed (at the driver's expense) when the impoundment ends. Thus, total costs can range from $600 to $4060 (OUCH!!!) depending on the severity and number of offenses, and that alone can be a strong deterrent in itself for many people.  And all of this is in addition to the possibility of criminal charges (and jail time) for those who blow above 0.08 BAC.  Thus, it's not at all surprising that DUI deaths went down dramatically.

However, despite its apparent success this law was not without its detractors.  In November 2011, part of the law was struck down as unconstitutional due to the lack of an adequate appeals process.  In addition, there were also concerns about the accuracy of roadside breathalyzers.  The province was given six months to fix these flaws or else the law would effectively become a dead letter. 

And fix it they did.  The new and improved version of the law, which is now in effect, now requires that the police offer drivers the option of being tested on a second breathalyzer if they fail the first, and the lower of the two readings is what will stand.  Also, the accuracy of breathalyzers used by police must now be confirmed by sworn reports from the officers, and drivers retain the right to challenge their suspensions and impoundments via an administrative review.  Thus, all of the tough penalties from before are officially back on the menu, so drunk drivers beware.

In addition, the neighboring province of Alberta has already adopted similar laws to BC, and those laws will go into effect on July 1 and September 1 of this year following a massive publicity campaign over the summer.  And there is really no good reason why laws like this would be unconstitutional in the USA either--in fact, many states already have administrative license suspension (ALS) laws, with varying degrees of enforcement.

The truth is in.  Swift justice works.  So what are we waiting for?