BC drivers fined under drunk driving laws can’t be reimbursed

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Jul 13, 2012 – British Columbia’s impaired driving laws were ruled, in part, to be unconstitutional in November 2011, more than a year after they were first introduced. Four drivers who were fined or processed under the impaired driving laws had petitioned to the Court to be repaid for monetary losses they said were incurred as a result of “the operation of an unconstitutional law.”

The B.C. Supreme Court has ruled that the government does not have to reimburse those who were convicted under the original law.

In a ruling released on July 12, Justice Jon Sigurdson rejected the petitioners” claims that the fines were collected under “an invalid law enacted in bad faith” and that they should be refunded on the “principle of unjust enrichments.”

“I have found that the doctrine of qualified immunity provides a complete defence to both of these claims,” Justice Sigurdson wrote in his judgment.

Petitioners sought recovery on a number of items, including the license fee of $250 for reinstatement of a driver’s license paid to ICBC and a hearing fee of $100 for a review of an Automatic Roadside Prohibition (ARP). One of the petitioners, Carol Beam, paid nearly $7,000 to deal with her prohibition. She allegedly registered a “fail” on a roadside screening device and was prohibited from driving for 90 days. Her vehicle was towed and impounded for 34 days, amounting to a bill of $714.88. She requested a review of her prohibition, at a cost of $100. As part of her prohibition, she was required to participate in the Interlock Program and the Responsible Driver Program. The cost to install an interlock device cost about $1,730. The registration fee for the Responsible Driver Program was $985.60. She paid the $500 penalty and to reinstate her license was required to pay $250. She deposed that she missed six days of work with her employer at a total loss of $584.28. As a result of being prohibited from driving for 90 days, she hired a driver in order to go to work at a cost of $1,020 for his time and gas expenses. She claims she has suffered professional embarrassment and anxiety and that the total cost, including towing, the Superintendent review, monetary penalty, driving license reinstatement, loss of income, and a hired driver, totaled $6,869.16. This includes legal fees of $3,700 (including $440 filing fees) and does not include the possible referral to remedial programs.

“Today’s ruling is welcome news. The judge concluded that all consequences assessed under the law will stand,” said B.C.’s Justice Minister and Attorney General Shirley Bond in a statement.

“I can assure all British Columbians that we remain steadfast in our fight to quickly remove drinking drivers from B.C.’s roads. We know our groundbreaking approach deters people from drinking and driving and enables police to remove alcohol-impaired drivers from our roads immediately, thereby enhancing public safety.”

In May 2012, the B.C. government announced that it had introduced changes to the impaired driving laws, after Justice Sigurdson ordered a review.

The full decision can be read online.