A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has ruled that the roadside spot check program the province has been running for the past year is unconstitutional, because it violates Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms by not (if I've got this right...) allowing an alleged perp proper opportunity to defend himself or to appeal the case.
Justice Jon Sigurdson said, "Although I am fully satisfied of the importance of the objective of reducing harms [sic] caused by impaired driving...the impugned legislation infringes the rights of individuals to be free from unreasonable search and seizure."
"Fully satisfied" about the 'harms' caused by drunk driving?
Apparently he's not quite satisfied enough.
What about the rights of the rest of us to be free from being run into and injured or killed by drunk drivers?
While Justice Sigurdson's ruling is binding only in British Columbia, various legal experts believe other provinces which have similar legislation (such as Ontario now or Alberta soon) will face similar challenges.
The B.C. legislation, among other things, allows police officers to issue immediate licence suspensions, impound cars on the spot, and issue heavy fines.
You bet. Ontario cops can do that now for doing 50 over the limit.
That law was challenged on Charter provisions and was found to be constitutional.
I argued against that decision, but decry this one.
There isn't a lick of evidence that exceeding the speed limit by ANY amount is per se dangerous.
But nobody - not even Justice Sigurdson - argues that driving drunk isn't dangerous. Apart from failure to wear a seat belt, it is probably the single most dangerous driving behaviour there is.
B.C. officials say the now-illegal program was instrumental in reducing drunk driving deaths this year by 40 percent compared to the average of the previous five years.
So, statistically, people are going to die because of Justice Sigurdson's ruling.
Way to go, Judge.
Representatives of the drinking establishment business welcomed the ruling because they said the spot check program had reduced their business.
Well, boo hoo.
Bar profits versus dead citizens?
Give me a break.
All laws restrict our rights and freedoms to some degree. It is up to Supreme Court judges to determine how far the laws should go.
In my view, Justice Sigurdson got this one wrong.
In the longer term, the B.C. government may appeal.
In the shorter term, it will re-design the provisions of the spot check procedure to comply with Justice Sigurdson's misguided view of this situation.
The safety of your friends and relatives (and complete strangers) in that province and possibly elsewhere in Canada depends on it.