Accused drunk drivers expected to file class action
Lawyers are predicting the B.C. government could be hit with a class action lawsuit to recover millions of dollars paid by suspected drunk drivers based on part of a law that has been declared unconstitutional.
Earlier this month, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that the immediate roadside licence suspensions and fines issued to drivers who register a blood alcohol level above .08 constitute an infringement of Charter rights.
Jeremy Carr, one of the lawyers leading the constitutional challenge, says a class action lawsuit will almost certainly be filed on behalf of those punished under that section of the law.
"I definitely think that's going to be the case, and I'm quite sure that's where it's going to go," he told CTV News.
Carr is already fighting for the government to refund the money paid by his clients under the law, and says he would likely be involved in the class action.
Beginning last September, when B.C. introduced its tough new law, 15,000 drivers failed the roadside breath test and paid millions of dollars in penalties.
That includes people like Navi Tagger, who blew a fail after he was pulled over on Nov. 19. Tagger was the designated driver that night, and says he had only consumed a single beer.
"I was in shock," he told CTV News.
His licence was immediately taken away, and his father's car was impounded. He appealed the penalty with the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, but that didn't work out the way it was supposed to.
"After 21 days, if a decision hasn't been rendered, they have to return that licence to you and the vehicle has to be released from impoundment, but in my case that did not happen," Tagger said.
His lawyer Sarah Leamon says she's getting mixed messages from the government when it comes to getting drivers back on the road.
"It seems that there's a great deal of inconsistency," she said.
She agrees that drivers punished under the tough law deserve some sort of recourse.
"People should get some kind of a remedy at the very least, whether that's having all of their money refunded to them, having their licence granted back to them or having the ignition interlock removed from their vehicle," Leamon said.
The government hasn't said what its position will be on refunding the fines.
But the province says that more than 200 people who registered a "fail" under the impugned legislation have had their driving bans lifted on a temporary basis since the judge issued his ruling. Two hundred more are challenging their bans through the Motor Vehicles Branch and are expected to get their licences back.
Both sides in the constitutional challenge will be back in court Monday to discuss what should be done about the law.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Mi-Jung Lee