Do new drunk driving laws give police too much power?
Published Tuesday, September 21, 2010 9:39AM PDT
B.C.'s harsh new drunk driving laws give every police officer the power to take away driver's licences, impound cars and impose fines – and some are worried they go too far.
Suspected drunk drivers no longer have the right to argue their case in front of an impartial judge, giving police the sole responsibility to determine if motorists are within the legal blood alcohol limit.
Robert Holmes, president of the BC Civil Liberties Association, says officers are now "judge, jury and executioner."
It's an especially alarming development to those who say there are still major flaws with breathalyzer science.
Criminal lawyer Paul Doroshenko says it's a simple fact that any electro-mechanical device can potentially fail. He also says breathalyzer results can be skewed by something as simple as mouthwash, which he demonstrated for CTV News using the same kind of breathalyzer B.C. police use at road blocks.
Immediately after gargling mouthwash he registered a .295 blood alcohol content. Ten minutes later he blew again.
"Thirty-two milligrams, still alcohol in my mouth," he said. The results were below the .05 warning level, but still registered on the machine.
The laws are also hard on anyone who refuses to give a sample. They can be given a 90-day driving prohibition, have their cars seized, be forced to install an interlock device in their vehicle and get enrolled in a mandatory driver education program.
"By the time you are done, you can be out $4,000 and have done nothing wrong," Doroshenko said.
Holmes and Doroshenko argue that if the government wants to stop drunk drivers, it should invest in more enforcement.
They say the biggest deterrent to impaired driving is knowing a road block is waiting on the way home.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Leah Hendry